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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.

Veteran Vendor goes the Extra Mile for the BBE Program

By Janet Chernoff

Mike RenaudMike Renaud’s journey has not been an easy one.  He struggled with school until his family moved and Mike was able to attend the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.  At school he discovered an aptitude for vending and love of cooking.  He took part in a work study program that allowed him to go to culinary school in the morning and attend academic classes in the afternoon.  Once he graduated he worked in several restaurants including Denny’s and Shoney’s.  This career path was less than optimal as his vision made keeping these jobs difficult.  He was working at Albertsons grocery store in St. Augustine when he lost all of his belongings in a fire at his apartment.

After the fire, Mike moved back home to Orange Park and decided to apply to the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program.  Mike had his challenges but persevered and completed classroom training in June 1994.  He moved on to a six month on the job training with vendor Krekor Sampadian and he credits his “mentor” Krekor with his ability to complete training and become a successful vendor in the BBE program.  Mike was licensed in March 1995 and did additional training in January 1996 at the cafeteria in the Turlington building in Tallahassee.  His evaluation notes that his performance was excellent in the areas of human resource management, facility operations and customer service. 

He accepted his first facility in Tallahassee in 1997.  His plans to return to Orange Park changed when Mike met the woman that would become his wife.  He operated facilities in Tallahassee in the Fletcher Building, City Centre and the Department of Corrections. In 2002 he was awarded a pair of rest areas on I-10 in Madison County and took on the challenge of a facility that would be under renovations for 18 months.  He still operates those locations today. 

Mike has taken an active role in the Florida BBE program.  He represents his district on the Committee of Vendors and is always willing to lend a helping hand to local operators.  He agreed to service the vending at the Turlington Building in Tallahassee while it transitioned from a cafeteria to a micro-market.  A micro-market is a self-checkout food facility that allows customers to purchase a variety of snacks and fresh food items and pay at a kiosk. During the construction, Mike valiantly serviced vending machines that frequently needed to be relocated as work progressed.

On January 20, 2017 Mike hosted the soft opening of the Café 325 micro-market and provided samples of menu items to invited guests.  At the grand opening on Monday, January 23 Turlington Building staff explored the new micro-market and were instructed on kiosk operation.  Fresh salads, sandwiches and entrees are prepared by the manager and staff of the Larson Café located only a couple of blocks away.  The Larson Café is operated by BBE vendor Steve Docie.

Important Notices

January Selection Cycle

Results from the January Selection Cycle are now posted on the Business Opportunities page.

Upcoming CEU opportunities

Florida Council of the Blind (FCB) Convention

June 1 - 4, 2017
Lexington Hotel & Conference Center, Jacksonville, FL
BBE attendees can earn 0.5 – 1.0 CEU credit.

National Federation of the Blind National Convention

July 10 – 15, 2017
Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, Orlando, FL
BBE attendees can earn 0.5 – 1.0 CEU credit.

Biennial Seminar

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

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