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.
Youth and Energy helps Vendor to be a Success in the Business Enterprise Program
At the age of twenty-six, Colton Knight is the youngest assigned vendor in the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program. The BBE program provides visually impaired people the opportunity to be self-supporting by operating vending and food service facilities in government buildings. Colton applied to the program when he was only twenty-two years old with his high school diploma and just a couple of years of work experience in food service. Colton studied culinary arts while at the Florida School of the Deaf and Blind, so the BBE program was a perfect fit for him. Colton started classroom training in June and was licensed by the end of 2016. When he completed classroom training, Colton was characterized as a hard worker with common sense in his exit report. The report went on to state that Colton was patient and respectful of a fellow classmate. His instructor concluded that these traits showed that he would be a good leader and boss.
After doing on the job training, Colton moved from his home in Jacksonville to Tallahassee and took over the snack bar at the Bob Martinez Center in March 2017. Colton operated this location for almost two years and offered vegetarian options in addition to the regular snack bar fare. In 2018, Colton was ready for his next challenge and was awarded and accepted a vending route in Tallahassee. Vending routes can be demanding and require an operator to have good organizational skills, the ability to do repairs on machines and a sense of humor. His route covers locations on the west side of Tallahassee which includes vending in the Capitol Buildings. Colton has worked with BBE staff to expand the route and has recently taken on the challenge of servicing vending locations at City Hall, the StarMetro bus system locations, and the RA Gray Building. Colton has instituted a vending management system that allows him to monitor his machines from his phone which allows him to work smarter not harder.
In 2019, Colton was elected as an alternate for his district to the Committee of Vendors. He, along with District Representative Mike Renaud, represents local vendors and bring their concerns to the committee as well as communicate committee decisions that may affect their businesses. They also act as mentors to new and struggling operators, organize regular district meetings and set up educational opportunities. Colton is also working with fellow operators Alton Palmore and Woody Matthews to develop a podcast that will give a national voice to the BBE program. Colton is an example of the type of vendor that will move the BBE program forward in the future; young, energetic, tech savvy and hard working. The program will continue onward and upward with vendors like Colton at the helm.
There are two ways to submit the completed Reimbursement Request Packet:
- 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.
- 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
May Selection Cycle
Business Opportunities for the May Selection Cycle are posted on the Business Opportunities page.
Upcoming CEU opportunities
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 email@example.com.
A list of BBE pre-approved Hadley courses for CEU credit can be found at http://dbs.myflorida.com/BBE/ceu.html.
Mississippi State University National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NRTC) offers educational modules covering important aspects of the Randolph-Sheppard program. A list of BBE pre-approved NRTC courses for CEU credit can be found at http://dbs.myflorida.com/BBE/ceu.html.