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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 Embraces the Challenges of 2020

Natasha Ginarte sitting in a chair
Natasha Ginarte sitting in a chair

The Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program requires dedication and commitment. To become a licensed vendor, a trainee must go through an application and recommendation process, successfully complete two weeks of work experience, eighteen weeks of classroom training and up to two months of on the job training. This is a large undertaking for anyone, but to do this as the primary care giver for a young child takes a very dedicated person. Natasha Ginarte is that person.

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.

Natasha moved back to St. Augustine and was looking for a more challenging occupation when she decided to investigate a career in the BBE. She put the plan on hold when she realized that she was expecting a child. Two years later her son was healthy and thriving and Natasha decided it was time to apply to the BBE. She was nervous about returning to the classroom environment as it had been over fifteen years since she had been in school.  Natasha’s Division of Blind Services (DBS) counselor, Peggy Styron, helped her immensely and made sure that she had the tools she needed to succeed. Natasha took classes to improve her math skills as she knew that that was not her strongest subject.

Natasha Ginarte delivering pizza
Natasha Ginarte delivering pizza

She had family to help with her son and lived close enough to the training center to be a day student. Even with all that planning the inevitable happened and she had to take time away from class while her child was sick. On the job training was her next hurdle as it was the first time that she would be away from her son. Her partner, Greg McMahel, supported her and her son and that support allowed her to complete her training and get licensed. Greg continues to help her and works with her in her business. Greg is a military veteran with 13 years of service. He also has a background in management and assists Natasha with purchasing and accounting.

Natasha was licensed in August 2019. She was awarded and accepted a vending route with locations in Gainesville and Lake City and took over in January 2020. This route includes a micro market at the Department of Transportation in Lake City, a State Veteran’s Home in Lake City, and Tacachale Developmental Disability Center in Gainesville. She was awarded a second temporary contract for a vending route in St. Augustine which includes the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and assumed management of that facility in November 2020. Natasha is an alumni of the school so this location has special meaning for her. Natasha appreciates all the support that she has received from BBE and DBS staff. Natasha believes that all you need to be successful is to have something to be enthusiastic about. She is enthusiastic about her work and has embraced the challenges in 2020 to be a successful vendor in the BBE program.

Important Notices

Grievance Hearing

2:00 PM (Eastern), Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Meeting to take place via conference call and is open to the public by telephone: 888-585-9008, Conference ID 384053578.
For further information, contact Compliance Officer Alan Risk alan.risk@dbs.fldoe.org

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

NABM Randolph-Sheppard leadership sessions (January 14, 21, 28, and February 4, 2021)

Four straight weeks of relevant information and training every Thursday. Each session will last approximately 90 minutes and BBE Vendors that participate will earn 0.25 CEU credit per session. 

Fast Corp Ice Cream Machine Training (Thursday, January 21, 2021 from 3 pm to 5 pm).

Improve your operational and preventive maintenance skills on the Fast Corp ice cream machine.  A technical support specialist from Fast Corp will conduct this training on programming procedures, upkeep of the machine and troubleshooting. Vendors that participate in this “conference call” will earn 0.25 CEU credit.  Remember, in order to receive CEU credit, you must notify Alan Risk afterwards of your participation. Instructions to join the conference call:

  1. A few minutes prior to the scheduled time for the conference call, dial (888) 585-9008.
  2. When prompted, enter conference room number 384 053 578 followed by the # sign.
  3. You will then be placed into conference.

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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