Altruistic Values And State-Of-The-Art Technology Spur Success In Colorado
From Vending Market Watch
Altruistic Values And State-Of-The-Art Technology Spur Success In Colorado BY EMILY REFERMAT ON DEC 12, 2016
For Gary Nelson, vending was a calling. He loved the business from childhood, being raised in it by his parents in the 1970s. More importantly he loved how it gave him an opportunity to aid others. From serving the snack and coin-op needs of Colorado residents to working to improve the opportunities and success of visually impaired operators under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, Nelson has strived to help his local community and the industry through his Aurora, CO-based operation Liberty Enterprises Inc.
The Randolph-Sheppard Act
“We are vending operators who happen to be blind and work to achieve the same goals and operational standards as commercial vendors,” explained Nelson. This idea drives him to operate the best vending company he can under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. First enacted in 1936, the Randolph-Sheppard Act provides blind persons with remunerative employment, enlarging their economic opportunities, and encouraging their self-support through the operation of vending facilities in federal buildings. Under the Randolph-Sheppard Program, state rehabilitation agencies recruit, train, license and place individuals who are blind as operators of vending facilities located on federal and other properties. The business is also usually run differently than commercial vending operations and varies by state. In Colorado, the vending operator has an operating agreement with the state licensing agency (SLA) detailing his or her commitment to servicing locations, financial matters, management, etc. The SLA then buys equipment and places it at a location under permit. The operator services the equipment, placing product, and managing the business independently. A portion of the operator’s profits are paid as a fee to the SLA to fund further equipment acquisitions. While this might sound like an easy business model, it requires constant attention to federal rules and regulations as well as relationships with government agencies that enforce the Randolph-Sheppard Act in addition to attention to the vending location and end users. Operators within the state compete against each other and rely on their own business acumen to optimize operations. Still, the Randolph-Sheppard Act offers a viable opportunity to those who are visually impaired or blind, and Nelson considers it a privilege to be among the operators it assists.
“As an operator under Randolph-Sheppard, I believe my locations are not an appropriated right. Rather, it’s a privilege to serve those facilities. It’s about serving the customers in our venue,” said Nelson. Over the years Nelson has done that by adding technology whenever it improved his customer service and operation management, acquiring new business, proactively transitioning vending to healthier products and giving back by volunteering and sharing his knowledge. His motto has always been: “You have to be competitive, relevant and profitable.” Adapting to the times as well as sharing what he knows helps him ensure he does just that.
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