The National Federation of the Blind’s Entrepreneurs Initiative (NFBEI) is a service offered by the National Association of Blind Merchants. NABM launched the program on January 1, 2012. Needless to say, it has been an eventful 7 years and we’ve been more successful than anyone could have envisioned. In 2018, a total of 37 state licensing agencies subscribed to the services. The NFBEI was established to marshal the efforts of the Randolph-Sheppard community and bring greater focus to its mission. One of our primary efforts has been to work with individual states on Randolph-Sheppard issues by providing training and technical assistance.
What does an SLA get if it takes advantage of the membership / subscription service?
- Access to national experts who can provide consultation and technical assistance to the State Licensing Agencies and/or Elected Committees of Blind Vendors on key Randolph Sheppard issues in their respective states;
- One on-site visit by an NABM representative to:
- Present at the BEP’s Annual Blind Vendors Meeting which will include an update on national issues affecting the state program and presentations on other topics;
- Training of Elected Committee Members;
- Staff Training; and/or,
- Program review and technical assistance.
- Assistance with rule/policy development and/or review;
- Mentoring for new BEP Directors;
- Participation in distant education programs provided by the NFBEI;
- Access to our Social Security assistance program that helps Randolph-Sheppard entrepreneurs who are having issues with their SSDI;
- The opportunity to contract with the National Association of Blind Merchants to plan and conduct all or part of the annual BEP operators meeting; and,
- The opportunity to contract with NABM to perform other desired services.
This further elaborates on the above.
Technical Assistance – NABM contracts with Terry Smith to serve as a principal resource to states that subscribe. Over the years, many of you have benefited from the unique expertise and experience of Mr. Smith. Terry served as Director of Tennessee Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired for over 28 years and held various leadership roles in the field. However, Terry is just part of the team of experts who are available. NABM President Nicky Gacos has devoted his lifetime to the food service industry and is one of the most knowledgeable blind entrepreneurs in the country when it comes to branding and micromarkets. He is also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to resources available to assist blind entrepreneurs. More importantly, Nicky knows how to bring these resources to bear to benefit blind entrepreneurs and SLA’s. NABM also has access to the best Randolph-Sheppard attorneys in the country who are available to consult on legal challenges faced by an SLA and/or Elected Committee. We have foremost experts available to us such as our expert on Social Security Disability. We have other experts with whom we contract on an as needed basis. Technical assistance may be as simple as answering a question for an SLA or it may involve in-depth consultation on-site.
On-Site Visit – NABM will make one on-site visit annually to provide training and/or offer technical assistance to each SLA that subscribes to its services. NABM pays travel expenses for the on-site visit. The NABM representative may speak at the state’s annual BEP meeting. The speaker will do up to two presentations – one on national issues and one on a topical subject as mutually agreed upon. There will be no speaker fee. The SLA is asked to include the speaker on its hotel group billing if applicable and to cover any costs for a banquet or similar events. Examples of topics that were presented this past year include:
“The Randolph-Sheppard Program: A National Perspective on Current Events”
“With Rights Come Responsibilities: A Look at the Vendor’s Bill of Rights”
“Ten Characteristics of a Highly Effective BEP”
“Blind Vendors: Real Entrepreneurs or Not?”
“Active Participation: What It Is and What It Isn’t”
“The Best BEP in the Country – Really?”
“A 12 Step Program to a Healthy National Program”
“Building Leadership in the Randolph-Sheppard Community”
“Becoming the Committee Envisioned by the Law”
“The Future of Randolph-Sheppard Through innovation”
“Is Our Real Future in the Private Sector?”
“Running a Successful Micromarket in Randolph-Sheppard”
“Women’s Issues in Randolph-Sheppard”
“Randolph-Sheppard Entrepreneurs Making a Difference” (A Banquet Presentation)
“SSDI – What Randolph-Sheppard Entrepreneurs Need to Know”
“Randolph-Sheppard 101 – A Primer on the Law That Makes It All Possible”
“Randolph-Sheppard: 80 Years of History”
“The Role of the Business Consultant” (Training specifically for staff)
These topics are for illustration purposes only. Other topics can be customized as needed.
The SLA may choose to use the on-site visit for NABM to conduct training of the Elected Committee of Blind Vendors and/or BEP Staff.
The SLA may choose to utilize the on-site visit to seek technical assistance on important issues. The on-site visit can be a day of technical assistance plus a day of training. NABM has even helped states with strategic planning. The bottom line is the on-site visits can be configured in such a way to best meet the SLA’s needs.
Mentoring New BEP Directors – One need identified by state agencies is training and/or orientation for new BEP Directors and staff. There is an obvious void that NABM can fill. Terry Smith is available to serve as a mentor for these new directors. NABM has often served as a mechanism to connect new directors with knowledgeable, experienced directors. This will include regularly scheduled telephone calls. The NFBEI can also send someone to the state and train on-site at no cost if the state agency is willing to cover any travel costs.
Annual Vendor Meetings – NABM is also available to contract with a subscribing state to plan and conduct annual in-service training for the state’s blind vendors and/or SLA staff. NABM can bring national quality training to the states while easing the bureaucratic burden on the state agencies. To date, NABM has contracted to plan and coordinate two such annual blind vendor meetings and has also conducted multi-state regional training.
Contracting for Expanded Services – NABM can provide expanded services beyond what is considered to be traditional technical assistance.
What does a membership / subscription cost? The fee for 2019 remains at $3,500. This fee has remained unchanged for the last 6 years. We are hopeful that all states will renew and anticipate a few new states joining our highly successful membership / subscription plan. States who subscribed in 2019 will automatically receive a renewal notice when it is time to renew. Most states subscribed on the calendar year while others did so for the fiscal year.
The question has been asked several times. Can set aside and/or federal dollars be utilized to pay for this membership / subscription service? The answer is yes. All of the services listed above are allowable expenses under the Randolph Sheppard Act. Most would fall in the category of management services or training, both of which are permissible expenditures under the Act.
We also get asked do any of the dollars paid by SLA’s go toward any lobbying efforts? The answer to that question is no. 100% of dollars paid by SLA’s are directed toward providing training and technical assistance.
How do we do this logistically? If your state wishes to subscribe, simply contact Terry. He will issue an invoice which you can process through your normal procurement process. It couldn’t be simpler. Be part of something special. Join with us.
For more information or for details about how to subscribe to the services of the NFBEI, contact Terry Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 865-599-7148.
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.