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Overview

Picture of vendor Steve Schneider.

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.

Strength and Resiliency Lead to Success for BEP Vendor

Marylynn Giles-Robinson with flag
Marylynn Giles-Robinson with flag

In 2016 Marylynn Giles-Robinson and her husband Dale made the decision to leave their home in Colorado to move to Ft. Myers, Florida. They did this obtain better services for Marylynn's visual impairment. Marylynn had been diagnosed with Keratoconus OU in 2008 and had a corneal transplant in 2010.

Marylynn joined the Navy after high school and worked as a firefighter from 1989-1993. In 1993 she left with an honorable discharge to care for her critically ill son. After she left the Navy she had a variety of jobs in the retail and food service industries. Her work history made the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) a good fit, as she wanted a career rather than just a job. She applied to the program in 2017 and was licensed in February 2018. She signed into her first facility, vending at the Marianna FCI in April of that same year. The earning potential for the facility was modest and the location rural but Marylynn was eager to get started on her BEP career. Things were going well until early October when Hurricane Michael effectively closed down the facility with no expectation of reopening anytime soon. The hurricane not only impacted the facility but her home. Marylynn and her husband stayed in a shelter until her residence was livable. Marylynn received the opportunity to service a small Panama City vending route and vending at a highway welcome center but the income was half of what she had received from her previous facility.

Marylynn and Dale holding up a sign that reads Florida Strong
Marylynn and Dale holding up a sign that reads Florida Strong

Seven months after Hurricane Michael destroyed her main source of income, Marylynn had the chance to operate a vending route in Jacksonville when an operator unexpectedly resigned. Marylynn and her husband Dale relocated to Jacksonville and began the process of starting over in a new town and a new facility. They had been there less than a year when their business was again impacted by circumstances beyond their control as the pandemic reduced their income by half. In June 2020 Dale Robinson passed away unexpectedly dealing Marylynn another personal and professional blow. Dale was an important part of the business and replacing him was almost more than she could take. Marylynn elected to stay with the BEP and continued running the vending route on her own. Recently she was awarded a rest area on I-10 near Wellborn. The location is under construction and it will be several months before she can take over the facility. Marylynn's willingness to continue operating a BEP facility despite the challenges of the last two years shows a resiliency and strength that will continue to make her successful both in business and in life.

Important Notices

Reimbursements

There are two ways to submit the completed Reimbursement Request Packet:

  1. E-mail – BBE Facility Operators are encouraged to participate in and use the E-mail Reimbursement Request System. Send the request packet to the e-mail address of BBE.Reimbursements@dbs.fldoe.org. In the e-mail’s Subject Line, include the Invoice Number to assist in quick referencing. In body of the e-mail, include the Invoice Number, the BBE Facility Operator’s name, and include any additional notes necessary for clarification to assist in processing the request when needed.
  2. Ground Mail – Send the completed Reimbursement Request Packet to:
    Division of Blind Services
    Office of the Comptroller, DBS Fiscal Section
    Suite 924, Turlington Building
    325 West Gaines Street
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-04000

September Selection Cycle

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

Upcoming CEU opportunities

Randolph-Sheppard Training

Mississippi State University's National Research & Training Center on Blindness & Low Vision (NRTC) offers educational modules covering important aspects of the Randolph-Sheppard program. While NRTC does not offer continuing education credits for these modules, CEUs are offered internally through the Bureau of Business Enterprise. A list of BBE pre-approved NRTC 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

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