MD Business Enterprise Program for the Blind

​The Maryland Business Enterprise for the Blind (MDBEP) provides opportunities for individuals who are legally blind to operate retail concession, gift, or food service businesses in public facilities. MDBEP operates under the Randolph-Sheppard Act.

MDBEP is continually seeking qualified individuals who are blind, and who have the desire and drive, to become small business entrepreneurs.


Who is eligible for BEP?
To be eligible for the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) Training Program, a candidate must:
  • Be a legally-blind U.S. Citizen
  • Minimum of high school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Have an aptitude for business management
  • Receive a referral and recommendation from the  Division of Rehabilitation Service, Office of Blindness and Vision Services (OBVS) counselor
  • Have practical skills and meet legal criteria for operating a business supported by federal law
What can BEP do for me?
If you qualify and have a desire to become an entrepreneur in the food and retail service industry, we can provide:
  • Required training to become a BEP licensee for operating and managing a food and retail  facility.
  • The essential pieces of equipment and operating cash for the operation of a BEP facility.
  • Assistance to the new operator in opening up the facility.
  • Ongoing management assistance and guidance.
What does it mean to become a BEP licensee?
A licensee of the program can apply for the program's facilities as they become available.  A licensee is selected for an operation based on established facility criteria for facility opportunity and seniority.
Once a licensee receives the awarded location, he/she, as a small business entrepreneur becomes responsible for the success of the business.
How many BEP Locations and Managers operate in Maryland?
Currently, BEP participants operate approximately 70 snack/gift shops, espresso stands, delis, convenience stores and cafeterias with combined annual sales in excess of $18,000,000 . Presently there are 55 licensed managers in the BEP.
Where does BEP training occur?
BEP utilizes business courses offered by the Hadley School for the Blind (, classroom and food service training at the Division of Rehabilitation Services, Workforce Technology Center in Baltimore, MD. Additionally, trainees receive hands-on experiences in selected BEP facilities through extensive internship training with experienced facility managers.
When does training begin?
We never know when we will have enough applicants ready to schedule a class.  We, therefore, schedule a training class when we know we have at least two applicants ready for BEP.  We try to have at least one class per year.
What assistance is provided for training and subsequent employment?
DORS provides the trainee with transportation and housing at the WTC during training. BEP does not provide any relocation assistance for training or subsequent employment. This issue may be brought up with the consumer's OBVS counselor.
What past skills or education would make me a good candidate for referral to BEP?
A past work  history in food service operation especially with managerial experience; past small business experience as an owner; managerial expertise in any career field; strong leadership skills; good money management skills; and a willingness to work long hours and invest yourself in your business.
What courses and/or training would you recommend to better prepare for the BEP Training Program?
  • Computer classes in Microsoft Excel, Word and Google 
  • Business Management, especially Personnel Management
  • General Math and Reading (8th Grade Level) and Business Accounting
  • Writing and Speech courses

What equipment/supplies are needed by trainees prior to starting the BEP training program? Individuals do not need any equipment or supplies prior to training. Any equipment or supplies needed will be authorized and purchased by the OBVS counselor, such as; a computer, printer, scanner, digital recorder, talking calculator, and suitable clothing for working in a food service operation.
If I complete the BEP Training Program, will there be a location for me to begin my business?
No guarantee exists that there will be a BEP site available for a trainee after they have completed the BEP Training Program.  In most cases, a licensee must be willing to move to where the BEP opportunities exist.
A man and a woman holding a trophy.

Long-time MBEPB professional, Melba Taylor, who has managed a large military food service operation at the Freedom Inn Dining Facility at Fort Meade for more than eleven years, received the Philip A. Connelly Award for Excellence in Army Food Service. Ms. Taylor and teaming partner Son’s Quality Food Company are pictured here with their trophy.

A woman standing in a store, opening a refrigerator case door.

Maya Redfearn lost her vision in 2004 when a stroke left her completely blind. She had previously been employed as a manager for McDonald’s wanted to go back to work. She participated in training at the DORS Workforce & Technology Center where she became somewhat famous because of her large and unusual collection of sunglasses. Maya got involved with MBEPB in 2010, eventually taking over her first facility, the Pratt Marketplace at 100 East Pratt Street in Baltimore. “I am a totally blind person and I can do this…BEP gives you everything…there’s no reason I can’t be successful."

A man ladles soup behind the counter of a cafeteria

Martin Smutek had worked for the Maryland Transit Administration, but his low vision prevented him from furthering that career. At 27, Martin felt he was too young to retire: “I just want to work.” He completed the BEP interview and training process and went on to take college-level management and business classes. He then completed a BEP internship, a work-based learning experience, and training in the BEP facilities in Baltimore. He now runs the cafe at the United States Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay. “It’s a great opportunity,” said Martin, “if you are willing to put in the work you can be successful.”

Maryland Business Enterprise
Program for the Blind
2301 Argonne  Drive
Baltimore, MD 21218