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Getting Started in Iowa BEP

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      Four operators of the Iowa Department for the Blind Business Enterprises Program are shown on the job, stocking machines, counting cash, and doing bookwork on the computer.Home  |  Getting Started in BEP  |  Vending Sites   |  Obtaining BEP Food Services  |  Contact

      A Path to Success

      The Business Enterprises Program (BEP) provides opportunities for legally blind vocational rehabilitation clients of the Iowa Department for the Blind to manage their own businesses -- vending machine operations, roadside vending sites, or snack bar/catering services. These businesses can be found in federal, state, county, municipal, and private locations throughout Iowa. BEP operators are dependable, professional, and adaptable. If you are considering a new career path, BEP provides solid options for those who complete the required training and become licensed in the state of Iowa.

      Pre-Requirements

      To qualify for Iowa’s BEP program, a person must:

      • Be legally blind
      • Be a U.S. citizen and resident of the state of Iowa
      • Be a current Vocational Rehabilitation client of the Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB)
      • Have attended the Orientation Center at IDB
      • Be prepared to complete the program application, undergo background and credit checks, and embark on the training program to learn how to be a business operator
      • Attend an interview with the Elected Committee of Blind Managers to determine if the candidate may proceed with training

      On-the-Job Training

      BEP management training involves a combination of on-the-job training and independent study. The on-the-job training component allows an individual to learn about the day-to-day operations of vending, food service, and cafeteria operations. Trainees fully participate in the operation of these facilities and learn about all aspects of running a business, including:

      • Bookkeeping
      • Marketing
      • Maintaining a schedule
      • Ordering product and supplies
      • Working with product vendors
      • Inventory control
      • Loading, cleaning, and repairing vending machines
      • Maintenance and cleaning of the business site
      • Planning menus
      • Preparing, cooking, and serving food
      • Operating a cash register
      • Managing employees
      • Knowledge of business rules and regulations

      On-the-job training is done with a variety of current facility operators, exposing the trainee to different management styles to aid them in formulating their own. Training is individualized with no set amount of time required before the trainee earns a license.

      Becoming Licensed

      BEP licenses are awarded when an individual has passed all of the written exams and has demonstrated minimum skill levels in all areas of training. Program newcomers enter a one-year grace period and are considered to be on provisional status during that year. When this time is up an individual may become a full-fledged operator. Managers are given the opportunity to independently run their operations and keep 100% of the profits they earn from their labor.
      A new operator’s connection with the program does not end at the conclusion of training, however. BEP business managers enjoy mutual support, backup, and interaction with the program manager and other individual operators. Membership in BEP’s professional association provides a pathway to further training and helps operators stay current with program information and business trends.

      Contact Information

      For more information about Iowa BEP opportunities and getting started in our training program, contact:
      Tim Wigans, Business Enterprises Program Counselor
      515-249-8742 or, in Iowa, call (800) 362-2587
      tim.wigans@blind.state.ia.us