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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.

BBE Staff and Vendors are Sadden by the Unexpected Loss of a Veteran Operator

By Janet Chernoff

Stephen Barnes Naples Florida obituaryMay 13, 2019 was Stephen Barnes’ fifteen anniversary as a vendor in the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program. Instead of celebrating this milestone members of the BBE program are mourning his loss. Steve was born in Kentucky on October 24, 1965. He graduated from Grant County High School in in May 1983 and completed BBE training at Daytona Beach Community College in January of 2004. Prior to entering the BBE training Steve had worked in management at Ogden’s grocery stores in Kentucky. He moved to Florida in 2001 and worked in management at the Kash n’ Karry Grocery stores until 2003. He became a client of the Division of Blind Services (DBS) so that he could explore other options. After meeting with vendor Tony DellaSala and Maureen Fink, the Regional Business Consultant, Steve decided to pursue a career in the BBE. Tony later acted as Steve’s mentor and wrote the following assessment “Steve will excel in any facility he is placed in. He is very knowledgeable and is a quick learner. Steve has the enthusiasm and drive to become a success in this program.” These comments proved to be true.

Steve signed into his first facility, vending at the Manasota Post Office shortly after he was licensed and remained at the location for two years. He moved on to vending in Bradenton before signing into his first rest area on I-4 in Longwood in 2011. He signed into his current location, the rest area on Alligator Alley southbound in January 2015. He served as District Representative for District 5 from 2013 to 2015 and as the District 8 Representative from 2017 until his death. Steve was an active and thoughtful representative and communicated with the vendors in his area regularly. Recently he assisted fellow vendor Ray Richards as he transitioned in to his new location, the northbound rest area on Alligator Alley.

Stephen Barnes at Biennial

Steve Barnes is survived by his wife July and his daughter Emily. A celebration of life is planned on Saturday, May 25, 2019.  His obituary can be found at https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/naples-fl/stephen-barnes-8712334

Important Notices

May Selection Cycle

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

Upcoming CEU opportunities

Florida Council of the Blind (FCB) Convention

May 16-19, 2019, Avanti Palms Resort, Orlando, FL
BBE attendees can earn up to 1.0 CEU credit
For more information, email floridacouncil@comcast.net

National Federation of the Blind (NFB) State Convention

May 24 – 27, Embassy Suites, Boca Raton, FL
BBE attendees can earn up to 1.0 CEU credit
For more information, email info@nfbflorida.org

2019 Biennial Seminar

August 23-24, 2019
Rosen Plaza Hotel
9700 International Drive, Orlando
BBE attendees can earn up to 1.5 CEU credits for the 2019-2021 reporting period.
For further information email janet.chernoff@dbs.fldoe.org.

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 "2019 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.

Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise

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