April 01, 2024

Licensed Vendor Succeeds in Business, Serves as Mentor to Blind Youth

“My goal is not only to operate a successful business, but to become a mentor for youth who are blind,” said Shelby Ball, a visually impaired vendor in the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency’s (GVRA) Business Enterprise Program (BEP). “I would like to provide a sense of encouragement to blind young people. I want them to know how BEP can benefit their lives.”

Shelby with GVRA doc

Ball, who is originally from Ohio but moved to Georgia in 1996, initially had misconceptions about the Business Enterprise Program. “Before doing research, I thought this program was designed to employ senior citizens,” she said. “After researching it, I realized this program benefits all age groups. It’s for people who want to become entrepreneurs in vending.”

To be eligible for the program, candidates must be legally blind, a U.S. citizen, and a GVRA client in the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program. Blind vendors who aspire to operate food service facilities in federal and state government buildings are given priority. The training is comprehensive, with candidates receiving instruction in food service management, customer service, menu planning, health and safety, and product merchandising.  

Ball enthusiastically accepted the opportunity to participate in BEP in August of 2022. “I began training that following October. Throughout the program, I have felt as though I enrolled in a mini-business college course,” she noted. “In 2023, I completed my training and subsequently was awarded a facility. My provisional period began in July of 2023, and a few months later I became a licensed vendor.” 

Ball is licensed to operate vending stands in public buildings. She currently manages snack bars at the Sam Nunn Federal Building and the Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters in Atlanta.       

“BEP has given me a sense of belonging,” said Ball. “With the support of my trainer and the VR team, I’ve learned how to be my own boss and to be successful. I’m earning an income, so my family is becoming financially stable,” she continued. 

When asked about her day-to-day responsibilities, Ball said she merchandises the snack bar and engages with customers to ensure they have a positive experience. She also manages two part-time employees. 

Conducting business in the digital age requires Ball to utilize software such as Square POS and 3-Square Market to track inventory and to monitor her sales. “My biggest learning curve thus far has been determining prices and making other adjustments to achieve the best profit possible,” she explained. 

A single parent, Ball spends time away from her job raising her three young sons in Cobb County.  

“My overall experience with BEP has been smooth,” said Ball. “GVRA continues to assist me a great deal. I am grateful for the support I receive.” 

Shelby standing next to three people

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