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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.

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

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

May Selection Cycle

Results from the May Selection Cycle are posted on the Business Opportunities page.

September Selection Cycle

Opportunities for the next BBE Selection Cycle will be posted on September 15, 2019.

Upcoming CEU opportunities

2019 Biennial Seminar

August 23-24, 2019
Rosen Plaza Hotel
9700 International Drive, Orlando
800-627-8258
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.

NABM Mini BLAST and Vistar Trade Show

NABM (National Association of Blind Merchants) is announcing its first ever Mini BLAST to be held September 25-27, 2019 at Harrah’s Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The conference will be held in conjunction with Vistar’s large northeast show. There will be over 150 exhibitors at that show. Plus, equipment suppliers technology companies, and others will be there exclusively to show their products and services to BLAST attendees.

Registration is now open. The registration fee is $100 and you can register on-line at https://blindmerchants.org/mini-blast-2019-registration/ . A room block has been set aside for $99 per night. That rate is good only for September 24, 25, and 26. It is NOT good on the weekend. To book your room, you can go to https://book.passkey.com/go/SH09VVD  or call 1-888-.516-2215.  The Group Name is RSA and the Group Code is SHO9VVD.  

BBE will pay the registration fee ($100) for licensed vendors interested in attending the Mini BLAST Conference. In order for BBE to pay your registration fee, you must notify Alan Risk of your intention to attend no later than 5 PM on August 30, 2019. 

Important Notes:

  • Remember, registration fees are non-refundable.  If BBE pays your registration fee and you do not attend, you will be required to reimburse BBE for the registration cost. 
  • BBE will pay for Registration Fees ONLY.  Each attendee is responsible for all other expenses, including travel, lodging, meals, etc.
  • BBE will only pay registration fees one time per vendor, per calendar year to attend national training conference associated with the Business Enterprise Program.
  • BBE does not pay registration for spouses that attend with you.
  • IMPORTANT: DO NOT PAY REGISTRATION FEE WHEN REGISTERING
  • Be sure to notify Alan Risk once you’ve completed the registration form.  Registration fees will be paid by Purchase Order from the State of FL.
  • BBE Vendors that attend both the Mini-Blast and the Vistar Trade Show can earn up to 1.500 CEU credits.

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