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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.

Reflections on Three Pillars in the BBE

By Randall Crosby

Don Tuell I’m writing this on 4-29-18 after just having said goodbye to a friend, business associate and mentor who served us for many years in the BBE Program.  I refer to Don Tuell who left us too soon so I like many others am sad for this loss.  But I rejoice in the fact that I had the good fortune to know him at all and for at least a brief time.  I only wish I’d asked him even more questions than I did and that I’d had even more phone call/ conversations with him than I did but I guess we say this anytime this kind of thing happens and I know many others out there feel the same way.  During the celebration of life for Don yesterday which was attended by many of our BBE operators and staff the word “encourager” was used frequently to describe Don and it’s the best word I can think of to accurately describe him.  He loved to help, encourage and inspire others to be the best person and business owner that they can possibly be while acknowledging that none of us is perfect.  As he would give his advice or “pep talk” to someone (which he did for me and others many times) he would remind himself and the listener that we must always be humble.  Don served on the committee for many years and after leaving his position he still served on the training and grievance sub committees and that’s where he encouraged and trained many new and even veteran operators over the years.  Several of us shared stories and memories we have about Don and it was said a few times by a few different people that Don would always end his conversations by saying “I love you”.  It was one of the many things that made him special to us. 

Tom Spiliotis, Bill Findley, and Don TuellOur Bureau Chief Bill Findley said yesterday that we have lost three pillars in our business program in a short time (18 months).  He was referring to Tom Spiliotis, John Klindtworth and Don Tuell.  I had the privilege to know all of them personally and to be inspired and enlightened by them in conversations I had with them and by hearing them speak at our committee meetings and seminars over the years.  Each of them in their own unique way was amazing at striving and working toward something bigger than themselves and always trying to bring everyone and anyone around them up to a higher level… up to their level but always telling themselves and others that nobody is perfect and the system is never perfect but let’s try to make it that way even if its impossible to do… at least we can try.  That was their belief and mantra I think.  While our BBE is not perfect and it never will be I believe it’s in a better place because of these three pillars of business, these three amazing leaders who we’ve had to say goodbye to way too soon.  These are just my own personal thoughts and perspective so take them to use as you like.  While we are sad for the loss of these great business leaders and people, we should remember and be thankful that we currently have some other great business leaders among us who are proving themselves everyday by doing the required daily tasks of running their business and going the extra mile to volunteer on our state committee and sub committees.  John KlindworthThanks to our state wide committee and to our state agency under the leadership of Jim Warth and Bill Findley respectively.  I’ve been in the BBE for 28 years now so I’ve seen the ups and downs just like many of our other operators and state agents have seen and we’ve always found a way to endure and overcome them, so I’m optimistic that we’ll weather the storms that we currently face and come out stronger and as winners in the end.

I like quotes so I’ll close with these two which may seem a bit unusual and from a not so likely source but I think Tom, John and Don would like them.  I think they transfer over to our BBE which provides opportunity to succeed with some unexpected obstacles and even failures along the way from which we can learn.  As I think about these 3 successful people and their stellar careers and lives I think they each would look back and remember more about their failures than their successes because it is through our failures and obstacles and how we handle them that we grow and eventually become successful.  As you read this and especially my fellow BBE operators realize that Tom, John and Don all started the same way we all did by going through the training, getting licensed by the state and starting a new business not knowing what to expect with probably a lot of doubts and worries about the future and look how far they went.  So we can all be “encouraged.”

" FAIL= First Attempt In Learning." – Anonymous

"Running into a pole is a drag but never getting the opportunity to run into a pole is a disaster." – Daniel Kish, Blind person who uses echo sound as mobility.

Important Notices

May Selection Cycle

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

Upcoming CEU opportunities

Florida Council of the Blind (FCB) Convention

May 17-20, 2018, Jacksonville, FL
For more information, call 800-267-4448

National Federation of the Blind of Florida (NFBF) Annual Convention

May 25-28, 2018, Tampa, FL
For more information, call 813-877-6688

National Federation of the Blind (NFB) National Convention

July 3-8, 2018, Orlando, FL
For more information, call 410-659-9314

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/BBE/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