June 01, 2020

Through his drive for creating an inclusive world, Peter DeHaas ’92 founded the San Francisco Disability Business Alliance, a one-of-a-kind initiative that supports entrepreneurs with disabilities.

DeHaas was inspired to pursue this project because of the lack of support for entrepreneurial individuals with disabilities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I have been engaged with the business community here, and I wanted to ensure that folks with disabilities had the same opportunity to connect to mentoring opportunities and people who run businesses themselves,” he says.

The SFDBA will create a community for business owners with disabilities to help them grow and develop their businesses — by communicating with each other, increasing the supply chain for corporations to support small business, and providing advocacy, education and a directory for everyone to stay connected.

With the idea of inclusion trending in today’s society, DeHaas says that it’s important to realize that people with disabilities are still often excluded from the inclusion equation. “Now is our opportunity to educate [people], as the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act is on the horizon,” he says. “The disability chapter of the civil rights movement … needs elevated representation.”

DeHaas attributes his passion for people to his Susquehanna beginnings, where he learned how to develop real, lasting relationships. “The relationships that I made at Susquehanna have been some of the strongest, longest-lasting genuine friendships I have made,” he says. “In life and in business, it is all about making connections and cultivating relationships to help each other advance in the world.”

DeHaas recalls that information technology instructor Ken Kopf and English professor Susan Albertine were his biggest mentors. Both guided and pushed DeHaas to be the most genuine version of himself. “[Kopf] was a sage as he mentored me to make good decisions and make an impact in the world,” DeHaas explains. “[Similarly, Albertine] pushed me to dig deeper with what I was trying to convey on paper but also being spirited and authentic in the world, not being afraid to express your authentic self.”

The business alliance has been endorsed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is also an entrepreneur diagnosed with severe dyslexia. —Samantha Carpentiere ’20