Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

What is the name of your organization?

Synergies Work

Is your organization registered as 501(c)(3) status with the IRS?


Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Atlanta, GA, USA

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

  • Connecting small business owners and key stakeholders such as investors, local policymakers, and mentors with the relevant experience to improve coordination, collaboration, and knowledge bases within the small business ecosystem
  • Supporting and fostering growth to scale through comprehensive and relevant technical support assistance such as legal aid, fiscal management for sustainability, marketing, and procurement

What is the name of your solution?

Synergies Work

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

A framework of end-to-end support for entrepreneurs with disabilities focusing on financial capital, social capital, education, & mentorship to bridge gaps between the business & disability community

What is your solution?

Since launching, Synergies Work has worked with 200+ entrepreneurs with disabilities and launched 50+ startups owned/led by entrepreneurs with disabilities.

The core of our services is the i2i (Idea to Innovation) Entrepreneurship Program. This program consists of a 10-week incubator followed by access to our accelerator for a minimum of 2-years.

During the incubator stage of our program, our entrepreneurs benefit from the following services:

Learning Labs: Weekly, interactive and virtual workshops led by experts in their field. Participants learn practical and tangible skills on how to launch, grow, or manage a sustainable business.

Individual Coaching: Each participant receives 2-6 hours of individual coaching per week to develop their business plan, identify opportunities for growth, navigate obstacles, and create a support network for long-term sustainability.

Business Plan & Pitch Development: Through the incubator, our entrepreneurs build a comprehensive business plan which culminates in our Demo Day where they each pitch their businesses to more than 20 leaders from the business community with the goal of building social capital with the larger business community and creating opportunities.

Financial Capital: Upon completing the incubator, entrepreneurs are eligible to receive seed grants of $500-2500 which can be used to launch or grow their business. Grants are awarded based on quality of their business plan, use of funds, and proposed impact.

During the accelerator stage, entrepreneurs receive monthly one-on-one coaching, access to workshops, networking events, and mentorship from business and disability leaders.

What specific problem are you solving?

As of 2019, 68.9m adults - 1 in 4 Americans - identify as having a disability. People with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the USA - cutting across race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic class.

Compared to other minority group, they experience the highest rates of poverty and unemployment. The employment rate for people with disabilities has stagnated near 16-18% for more than 30 years (compared to 60-70% for general population). Poverty and disability reinforce each other, contributing to increased vulnerability and exclusion.

Evidence shows that for every 1% increase in entrepreneurship, there is a
2% decline in poverty rate among a population. Individuals with disabilities in-fact are twice as likely to be self-employed compared to the general population (11% vs 6%). There are an estimated 7.3-million micro-businesses owned by individuals with disabilities - comprising 28% of all micro-businesses in the United States.

However, these individuals lack access to essential resources that are available to traditional entrepreneurs. While a traditional entrepreneur may be able to access financial capital, networks, and mentorship, people with disabilities are cut-off from the same supports and instead face systemic, programmatic, and psychological barriers to growth/success.

The soft bigotry of low expectations has led the larger community viewing entrepreneurship as a last resort for the disabled community- a model that kicks in when wage employment and all else fails. People with disabilities are not expected to succeed and therefore are not provided the tools they need to do so.

Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Many individuals that we serve live at the intersection of disability, race, gender and poverty. These factors compound to create significant barriers to econmoic success.

Research shows that minority groups are up to 50% more likely to have a disability compared to the general population while women are 23% more likely to have a severe disability compared to men. For example 3 in 10 Native Americans have a disability, 1 in 4 African-Americans have a disability, 1 in 6 Hispanic-Americans have a disability, and more than half of all Americans experiencing long-term poverty have a disability.

These statistics align with the individuals we've served through our program. Over the last two years, 62% of our entrepreneurs have been women while 54% have been from minority groups (32% African American, 16% Asian, 6% Latino).

We specifically align with the Challenges posed by the Truist foundation by:

  • Bridging the gap between small business owners and key stakeholders in the larger business community through our mentorship program, workshops led by business leaders, networking opportunities, and our Demo Day
  • Hosting workshops focused on professional development for entrepreneurs in our i2i program. 
  • Offering non-diluted funds to small business owners through our Impact Grant program while also providing financial education through workshops
  • Fostering growth through a long-term commitment (2-years+) to success through our accelerator program, one-on-one coaching, and mentoring

Who does your solution serve, including demographics, and how does the solution impact their lives?

With each passing year, an estimated 120,000 individuals with disabilities launch their own business without the tools and resources they need to succeed. Synergies Work is committed to supporting these entrepreneurs at each stage of their journey and helping them change the trajectory of their businesses.

On average, 20% of businesses will fail within their first two years of operation. Based on the 50+ startups we've helped launch, our current failure rate is only 4% within that same amount of time.

This aligns with projects conducted by the Department of Labor in 2018 which found a 65% success rate for entrepreneurs with disabilities who had a framework of support - this is what we provide.

There are two worlds that exist - one for people with disabilities and one for those without. In one world, a framework of support exists and yet failure is considered to still be a stepping stone towards success. In the other, people are expected to fend for themselves and yet failures prompts criticism and harsh judgement.

By interrupting these biases and building a sustainable framework of support, we can create one world - where people with disabilities belong.

Is the solution already being implemented in at least one of the Truist Foundation’s target geographies: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Indiana, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Delaware?


If your solution is already being implemented, list which of the above US state(s) you currently operate and include those states not listed

We are an Atlanta-based organization that primarily operates in Georgia - 80% of our entrepreneurs are Georgians - but we also serve individuals in the following Truist Foundation target geographies: North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, and Florida.

Is your organization’s mission to help launch small businesses and/or to sustain small businesses?

Synergies Work's mission is to unleash the power of small business growth and ensure sustainability by providing opportunities, leveling the playing field for equal talent, and bridging the gap between the business & the disability community.

Our programs aim to touch entrepreneurs at each stage of their journey and help them not only launch and grow but also build sustainability and resilience. Our Incubator targets businesses who are pre-launch and helps them launch over the course of 10-weeks while our Accelerator helps sustain small businesses who have already launched.

What is your theory of change?

Our theory of changed is based on the belief that every person has a gift to offer to the world - a gift of hand, a gift of head, or a gift of heart. For people with disabilities, these gifts often go unnoticed and un-nurtured due to systemic obstacles erected over centuries.

These barriers to success exist not because they are insurmountable but because of the soft bigotry of low expectations that has been imposed on people with disabilities. In order to change this, we have to create a new narrative - one rooted in dignity, respect, and self-worth.

This is our logical framework for how our services are going to achieve that:

What We Do

  • Incubator Program: An environment to nurture/grow micro-businesses to the point of launch or sustained growth through weekly workshops, one-on-one coaching, and seed funding - using the same methods as the top incubators in the country.
  • Accelerator: A long-term system of support for entrepreneurs who have launched their business which helps them navigate challenges, build on their skills, and grow their networks.
  • New Initiatives: Two programs (Learning Hub and Marketplace) aiming to democratize the entrepreneurship process among individuals with disabilities by creating online platforms for them to learn, launch, market, and grow their businesses.

The Impact

  • Incubator Program: Individuals with disabilities are able to gain the tools needed to launch their business while those who have already launched are able to overcome stagnation and create a strategy for growth.
  • Accelerator: Small business owners have support and guidance during the years where their businesses are most likely to fail.
  • New Initiatives: Individuals are able to safely explore entrepreneurship on accessible platforms with minimum investment and technical knowledge.


  • Incubator Program: Disabled entrepreneurs form high-growth, high-value businesses that rival mainstream startups and redefine the image of an entrepreneur.
  • Accelerator: The failure rate for entrepreneurs with disabilities within the first two years decreases significantly and a community of disabled entrepreneurs who can support each other forms.
  • New Initiatives: Micro-entrepreneurship among people with disabilities becomes accessible, democratized, and normalized - leading to more small businesses launched/owned by people with disabilities.

Our solution's stage of development:

Scale: a sustainable product, service or business model that is active in multiple communities, which is capable of continuous scaling, focusing on increased efficiency.

Film your elevator pitch.

What is your organization’s stage of development?

Scale: A sustainable organization actively working in several communities that is capable of continuous scaling. Organizations at the Scale Stage have a proven track record, earn revenue, and are focused on increased efficiency within their operations.
More About Your Solution

How many small businesses does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?


  • Incubator: 36
  • Accelerator: 90
  • Learning Hub: 10,000
  • Marketplace: 100


  • Incubator: 50
  • Accelerator: 175
  • Learning Hub: 20,000
  • Marketplace: 200


  • Incubator: 100
  • Accelerator: 350
  • Learning Hub: 730,200
  • Marketplace: 1000

How do you define the community you serve, and who are its stakeholders?

We serve the disability community - any individual who self-identifies as having a physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health disability. We specifically target micro-entrepreneurs within that community.

We work closely with state organizations, charitable foundations, and other non-profits who align with our mission of building an equitable world where people with disabilities are recognized as important, contributing members to society. This includes:

  • Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • Georgia Advocacy Office
  • Association of University Centers on Disability
  • National Federation for the Blind
  • Atlanta CEO Council
  • National Down Syndrome Society

How do you work with the community and your stakeholders to create community-based and place-based solutions?

Synergies Work is a personal mission that stems from my own life experiences as a parent of a child with Down Syndrome.

My younger son was born in India and diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth. At that time there were not many resources in India to support people with intellectual disabilities. I made a promise, to myself that I will provide the same opportunities to him to grow, flourish, and succeed as my older son. This is the promise that has guided much of my journey and led me to create Synergies Work.

After after experiencing the obstacles and barriers that the disability
community faced first hand, I left my role as an advertising executive
of more than 15 years and joined the Georgia Council on Developmental
Disabilities - leading programs on building inclusive communities and
workforce strategies for individuals with disabilities for the last 17 years.

After seeing the substantial need for entrepreneurship in the community and not finding the funding nor the tools to address it, I launched Synergies Work with the goal of empowering individuals with disabilities through entrepreneurship. Since launching, we have worked closely with the disability community through our partnerships listed in the previous question and the relationships that I developed during my role at the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.

I am currently, the President of GA APSE (Association of People Supporting Employment First) and I’m on the board of State Rehabilitation Council. I also serve on the advisory board of Georgia’s Supported Decision-Making Project, Georgia Advocacy Office.

How do you build trust within the community your organization serves and among small business owners?

Our work builds the trust within our community. Since launching, we've touched more than 200 entrepreneurs and launched more than 50 businesses. This work creates tangible impacts on their lives creates organic growth for our programs. We work with national organizations that serve people with disabilities. 

We track a wide range KPIs for our entrepreneurs to track business success and can use that data to track our impact. For non-quantitative impact, we rely on the testimonials of the entrepreneurs to see the impact we've had on their mental health, goals, and life-trajectory.

We have also been strong advocates for the disability community to the larger business community and investors. We have worked with several Fortune 500 companies including Coca Cola and Fiserv to include disability in their DEI conversations, 

We bring the disability and business community together, to build one world where people with disabilities belong and both groups thrive. 

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and -- importantly -- how will you achieve them?

2023 Goals:

Over the next year, we plan on expanding our impact on the disability community by growing our i2i Entrepreneurship Program and launching two new initiatives - the Learning Hub and Marketplace.

We plan on increasing the number of entrepreneurs in our i2i program in 2023 to a total of 50. We have already begun the process of launching our two new initiatives. Our Learning Hub is scheduled to launch in July 2022 while our Marketplace is scheduled to launch in late fall 2022.

2027 Goals:

Over the next five years, we plan to expand our program across the country by adding regional Synergies Work hubs that allow us to effectively build local partnerships with the disability community, other non-profits, and businesses while offering a more robust set of services for entrepreneurs with disabilities.

We are in the process of building a program in Austin, TX through a local corporation. We are also connecting with the Atlanta Mayor's Office to propose a new disability entrepreneurship initiative. These are the projects we hope to embark on across the country.

For our Learning Hub, we expect long-term growth and aim to reach over 700,000 entrepreneurs with disabilities per year by 2028 with a library of 1000+ articles and 100+ videos. We are also planning on offering courses/certificate programs.

For our E-Commerce Platform, we plan on having 1000 vendors on it and reaching a targeted $500,000 in sales facilitated by the platform by 2028.

More About Your Team

Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Aarti Sahgal, founder and CEO of Synergies Work is a parent of a child with Down syndrome and is constantly challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations that excludes people with disabilities from living their true potential. She has worked in the disability field for the past 17 years and more and is deeply involved as the president of Georgia Chapter of APSE (Association of people supporting Emplyment First) and board member of State Rehabilitation Council.

Partnership & Award Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Truist Foundation Inspire Awards?

To acess the network of resources and mentors across industries. 

To better monitor and evaluate long term impact of our work so that we are benchmark in the industry. 

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and national media)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

Solution Team

  • Ms. Aarti Sahgal Founder & CEO, Synergies Work/ Synergies Seed Fund
to Top