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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.

Dedicated Vendor Goes the Distance in the BBE Program

Mark Ogden standing by vending machine
Mark Ogden standing by vending machine

Mark Ogden started training to be a Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) vendor in 2015 and was licensed in March 2016. Mark has an interesting job history and has worked on race cars for Roush Racing with NASCAR driver Mark Martin. He also worked for Northrop Grumman, a global aerospace corporation; in the parts department at Harley Davidson and as a limo driver for twelve years. Mark suffered a retinal detachment in his left eye in 1985 and in 2001 he was diagnosed with acute retinal necrosis affecting both eyes. Since he could no longer drive, Mark took a job with a janitorial service cleaning car dealerships. Mark became interested in the BBE program because he wanted to get back to doing meaningful work and felt that the program would be a chance to get his life back.

Prior to applying to the BBE, Natasha was involved in a variety of jobs in the sales industry in Miami, Florida. She sold everything from pre-owned automobiles to antiques and electronics. Eventually this lead to a job selling low vision equipment for Florida Reading and Vision Technology. Natasha said this was a job that resonated with her as it allowed her to help clients grow personally while advancing her career. Natasha was organizing a workshop focusing on independence for the visually impaired when she first heard about the BBE program.

Mark Ogden sitting at a desk
Mark Ogden sitting at a desk

Shortly after being licensed, Mark had to leave Florida to help with a family emergency. It was two years before he was able to return to the state. He was awarded a contract to operate a vending route in Ft. Pierce in 2018. The vending route was small and the financial return was limited but Mark was willing to operate the facility to get started. When he started he had only four locations with eleven machines. The route now spans three counties with fifty machines at twenty locations and covers roughly seventy-five miles. Mark was looking forward to an increase in business in 2020 and has two locations with public pools. The true potential of the facility was not realized with local shutdowns, but even with those challenges, sales on this route have increased by 66% over the previous year. Mark’s route to success has been long in many ways but his dedication to his path shows that he can go the distance.

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

January Selection Cycle

Business Opportunities for the January 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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