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Overview

picture of a highway vending facility.

The mission of the Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) is to provide people who are legally blind with rewarding and profitable entrepreneurial ventures, broaden their economic opportunities, and invigorate all blind people to be self-supporting, while dispelling misconceptions about blind people by showcasing their abilities.

The Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) administers one of the largest vending and food service programs operated by people who are legally blind in the United States.  The Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise Program provides job opportunities in the food service sector for eligible blind persons under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Job opportunities include: snack bar, cafeteria, highway vending machines, or non-highway vending.

Everything a visually impaired person needs to get started running their own food service facility is provided including training, facility, equipment, inventory, and the necessary funds to begin operations.  The BBE prides itself in allowing visually impaired entrepreneurs independence in their day-to-day operations, while at the same time providing continual support through professional business consultants and educational workshops.  

Florida broadened the federal Randolph Sheppard Act with its own version. Blind licensees, under the Little Randolph Sheppard Act (FS 413.051) are given the first opportunity to participate in the operation of vending stands on all state properties acquired after July 1, 1979, when such facilities are operated under the supervision of the Florida Division of Blind Services of the Department of Education.

If you are legally blind and a United States citizen, you might want to consider the Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise Program as your career choice. Read How to Get a BBE Vendor License and find out how you can begin an exciting career as the manager of a vending or food services facility.

BBE Vendor Makes the Most of her Opportunity

By Janet Chernoff

Heather SaundersHeather Saunders’ career started at the Cabell-Wayne Association of Blind in West Virginia.  She interned at the association and was hired as an administrative assistant straight out of college.  Six years later Heather and her husband moved to Florida and she elected to take on a bigger challenge, being a stay at home mother to their daughter.  During that time she took on the occasional part time job, but her main occupation was raising her child.

Heather decided to return to the workforce when her daughter became a teenager.  She had met vendors in the Business Enterprise program while working for the Association of the Blind in West Virginia.  She didn’t want to return to administrative work and decided to apply to the Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program.  She started with work experience with a local vendor in June 2015 and was licensed in December of that same year.

Reports from the Daytona Rehab Center where she did her training indicated that she was a dream student and a natural for food service.  Heather was well on her way to a successful career as a BBE vendor.  Once she was back at home Heather had to make a tough decision.  She had the skills and the confidence that she could make a success of a facility, but she had a teenage daughter in school and a husband with a job with Dr. Pepper/Snapple.    Fortunately she did not have to decide between her family and career as a location came available in her area in May of 2016.  Heather now operates the vending at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities in Gainesville along with a small vending route in Lake City. 

Heather considers her career in the BBE full of opportunities.  It is an opportunity to run her own business and it is an opportunity to expand that business.  Heather works with BBE staff members to find new locations to add to her current facilities.  Heather’s daughter is in high school and will be graduating in the next couple of years.  Heather looks forward to expanding her prospects in the BBE program, taking on the challenge of a larger facility or even going into food service.  The future is bright for Heather Saunders and she ready to make the most of this opportunity.  

Important Notices

May Selection Cycle

Results of the May Selection Cycle are now posted on the Business Opportunities page.

Upcoming CEU opportunities

Biennial Seminar

August 18 - 19, 2017
Rosen Plaza Hotel, Orlando, FL
BBE attendees can earn up to 1.5 CEU credits.

Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show

September 10-12, 2017
Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL
BBE attendees can earn up to 1.0 CEU credits.

The one-stop source to help you master the emerging trends.  You’ll find everything you need to grow your business: the cutting edge trends in menus, technology, equipment, décor and the very latest in business education – all under one roof.
Register at https://www.compusystems.com/servlet/AttendeeRegLoginServlet?evt_uid=102&PROMO=EM2

National Association of Blind Merchants (NABM) BLAST Conference

September 12-15, 2017
Nashville Airport Marriott Hotel, Nashville, TN.
BBE attendees can earn up to 1.5 CEU credits

BBE will pay the registration fee ($250) for licensed vendors interested in attending the BLAST (Business Leadership And Superior Training) Conference.  This years’ BLAST will be held in Nashville, TN, September 12-15, 2017.  In order for BBE to pay your registration fee, you must notify Alan Risk of your intention to attend no later than 5 PM on July 31, 2017.  Remember, registration fees are non-refundable.  If BBE pays your registration fee and you do not attend, you will be required to reimburse BBE for the registration cost.  Please note the details below.

  • BBE will pay for Registration Fees ONLY.  Each attendee is responsible for all other expenses, including travel, lodging, meals, etc.
  • If your registration fee is paid by BBE and you do not attend, you will be required to reimburse BBE for the cost of registration.
  • BBE will only pay registration fees one time per vendor, per calendar year to attend national training conference associated with the Business Enterprise Program. 
  • BBE does not pay registration for spouses that attend with you.
  • Hotel reservations can be made by calling 1-615-889-9300 and ask for the NABM BLAST room block.  Room Rates are $149 per night.  There is a free shuttle to and from Nashville International Airport.
  • Visit www.blindmerchants.org or http://blindmerchants.org/blast-2017/ to register.

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Hadley has agreed that BBE managers in Florida are not required to provide verification that they are legally blind.  First time registrants will need to complete an enrollment application. Applications can be completed online at http:///www.hadley.edu. If you would prefer to receive a hard copy of the application in Braille or print format, you should contact Student Services at (800) 526-9909 or via email at student_services@hadley.edu.

The application will ask for information about your eye condition, but an eye report is not required if you are identified on the vendor list provided to them. For identification purposes, when completing the application form, please note "2017 FL Randolph Sheppard" in the Referral Details section of the application where it asks how you heard about Hadley.

Vendors who have taken Hadley courses within the past five years are not required to submit a new application. You should contact Student Services via email or telephone to request enrollment. However, Hadley asks that you identify yourselves as a Florida Randolph Sheppard Program student.
A list of BBE pre-approved Hadley courses for CEU credit can be found at http://dbs.myflorida.com/Business%20Enterprise/ceu.html.

On-line Monthly Business Report

Monthly Reporting Website

Monthly Reporting Instructions (Word DOC)

Vendors experiencing technical difficulties with submitting on-line reports, especially in cases that would result in a late report, should immediately contact Adam Gaffney, DBS computer helpdesk, by calling (850) 245-0360 or by sending an email to Adam.Gaffney@dbs.fldoe.org.

Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise

Providing Tools and Support for Legally Blind Vendors in the Food Service Industry