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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.

Miami Vendor Perseveres and Becomes a Proud Member of the BBE Vendor Community

By Janet Chernoff

Guillermo AlvarezGuillermo Alvarez's story is not an unusual one especially in the Miami area. Born in Cuba in 1965 he relocated to Miami in 2004 and became a citizen in 2010. What makes Guillermo's story different is that he had been legally blind since birth.

Once in the United States Guillermo completed his GED while working odd jobs in restaurants. He became a licensed massage therapist in 2008 but was finding it hard to secure clients. Guillermo applied for the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program because he felt that the program would provide him an opportunity to be employed. He wanted to improve life for himself and his family. Guillermo was not new to the food service industry as he had operated a cafeteria for ten years in Cuba. Guillermo started BBE training in January 2014 and was licensed in June. He excelled in class even with the added disadvantage of needing an interpreter to help him with the lessons.

It took Guillermo almost a year to be awarded a facility primarily because he wanted to remain in the Miami area. He was not idle while he waited, working with other vendors to hone his skills. His abilities were soon recognized and he was awarded the vending route that he was operating temporarily on a permanent contract in August 2015. In May of 2016 he took on the added challenge of running a second facility when a vendor unexpectedly resigned.

Guillermo Alvarez is a man of dignity. Even when facing financial hardships and the unavoidable delay to the start of his career, he held his head high and moved forward. Guillermo says that he is very proud of this country and the program that has given him this opportunity. He came to this country alone and was without his family for two years. He had some really bad times, but he kept going and fighting. Showing an appreciation for every opportunity he receives, he continues to advance and is a proud member of the BBE vendor community.

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

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