Entrepreneurs’ use of linguistic practices, such as storytelling, in building legitimacy with customers and others is well documented. Yet, not all entrepreneurs may equally use or benefit from such practices in their legitimacy-building efforts. For those with stigmatized social identities, like disability, embodied properties and practices of non-linguistic, more visual kind, may be salient despite being under-explored in the entrepreneurial legitimacy studies. To address this knowledge gap, this article examines how disabled entrepreneurs gain legitimacy with customers and, more specifically, how impairment visibility shapes their capacity to do so. Drawing primarily on in-depth interviews with UK-based entrepreneurs, the article extends Suchman’s work by reconceptualizing his legitimacy-building strategies considering impairment visibility. It is argued that impairment visibility can both enable and constrain legitimacy depending on the product offering and the target market. Disabled entrepreneurs are found to adopt four embodied legitimacy-building strategies in the marketplace, each with specific implications for their micro-level interactions with customers.
Bibliographical note© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
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