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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 Vendor is honored as a Hero by the Lighthouse of Broward County

Orlando Ramirez with a monkey on his shoulder.We are extremely proud to announce that on April 27, 2019 Orlando Ramirez was honored as one of the 2018 heroes by the American Heritage School in association with the Lighthouse of Broward County. Orlando was one of three people selected for the honor because of his contribution to the blind community and his success in the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program. Prior to his diagnosis of Best disease, a congenital degenerative genetic disease, Orlando was a district operations manager for a construction company. He was only in his early thirties when he left the position because he felt he could no longer do the work due to his diminishing sight.

On September 13, 2018, Orlando was licensed with the Business Enterprise program. Only 30 days later, he signed a temporary contract for his first facility, a snack bar in the Broward County Government Center. As the location needed an operator immediately, Orlando took over the facility with only a couple of days’ notice. He agreed to manage the facility until a permanent operator could be selected.

Orlando Ramirez cutting a pie in his commercial kitchen.Less than six months later, he signed a second contract for a cafeteria in the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to managing the two facilities, he took on the additional responsibility of providing on-the-job training to a BBE trainee and work experience to a Business Enterprise Program candidate.

Just six months after he finished his own training, Orlando opted to go to bakery school to improve his business and elevate the catering options available. Upon completion of school, he received the title of Master Baker.

The name for his business, Blind Monkey Kitchen, is based on his childhood nickname and on his love for monkeys. The business’ logo was created by his daughter and his niece. Orlando is working hard while looking for ways to expand and promote his business.

Facility manager, master baker, bagel maker, trainer, husband, and father of three beautiful children - these are only some of the roles that make Orlando Ramirez a hero in the BBE program and in life.

You can find information on how to visit and support Orlando’s facility and catering at www.blindmonkeykitchen.com.

In the back: Orlando Ramirez and his wife, Wendy. In the front (from left to right), are their children Angelina, Sebastian, and Samantha.
In the back: Orlando Ramirez and his wife, Wendy. In the front (from left to right), are their children Angelina, Sebastian, and Samantha.

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

Opportunities for the September 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 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.

Randolph-Sheppard Training

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.

Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise

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