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.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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 (Hadley.edu), 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.

Steve and Clayton Coe from the MD Office of General Services, at the counter in the Eutaw Cafe. 
 

BEP Begins Opening Up - Post COVID Emergency

Because of COVID-19, BEP manager, Steve B. had to close down his Eutaw Café in the Maryland Department of  Labor (DOL) building.

So, he is grateful to be open again and was featured in an article in the September issue of the DOL newsletter: We're All In!
[The Eutaw Café manager] is happy to be welcoming Labor employees back to his kitchen after a long hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. The Café, located in the basement of 1100 N. Eutaw St., serves breakfast and lunch fare from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM (kitchen closes at 1:30). In addition to meals, customers can also select from the same delectable assortment of nuts, chips, cookies and sodas they enjoyed before the world temporarily turned upside down.

Steve has always loved to cook, so the Café is a good fit. He says he’s the Chief Cook at home, too. But his favorite part of the job is meeting people and building relationships. On any given day you can find him chatting and joking with customers as they pay for a cup of fresh coffee, wait for their order to be prepared or stare blankly at the wall of snack food choices, struggling with their conscience over which bag of chips will do the least damage to their diet.

From 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., a steady stream of hungry Labor employees cycle through to pick up a hearty classic breakfast of eggs and their choice of meat and bread, or maybe a breakfast sandwich to start the day right. The second rush starts when the lunch menu opens at 11:00 AM. The lunch crowd can satisfy their inner-carnivore with a quarter-pound angus burger or a variety of deli sandwich options and fresh salads.

Steve wants to get the word out that he has plans for a grand opening event for some time in the coming weeks, to celebrate the Café’s return. Stay tuned for more on this exciting event as details become available!

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

Anna.Kim@Maryland.gov
410-554-9447

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