Special Forces vet Ray Omar has gone from owning one Dunkin’ Donuts to nine, and following in his dad’s footsteps, has brought his family into the business.
*This story originally appeared on www.atourfranchise.org, a website highlighting the positive impact of franchising on communities around the country.
Franchisees come from all walks of life, and often times, their success is determined by the motivations, values and experiences that have shaped their life before they make the leap to becoming a small business owner. You might say some have entrepreneurship in their blood. Ray Omar, a successful Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee who is expanding from Maryland into Washington, D.C. and Tennessee was just a small kid in Queens when he started learning about entrepreneurship. Ray’s dad owned a Pop’s Fried Chicken in the Bronx and later a coffee and baked goods distribution company in Manhattan. “As a kid, I was heavily influenced and inspired by my dad, helping out where I could throughout high school and getting a first hand look at what it took to run a business,” recalls Ray. He adds that his “dad was great in that he never pressured me to join the family business, and let me pursue my own interests, which were to become a military officer.”
Ray’s journey indeed didn’t lead him directly to business and franchising, but instead to joining the U.S. army after graduating from college. Ray joined the elite 5th Special Forces Group, becoming a Signal Detachment Commander. Over his six years in the service, he acquired a skill set that not only translates well to entrepreneurship, but in fact one that Ray largely credits for his success. “I believe that veterans are uniquely qualified to become franchisees,” Ray says, explaining that the army teaches skills like leadership, responsibility, teamwork, communication and commitment to the cause. “A lot of the veterans coming out now, especially those who have seen combat are really one step ahead of their peers who don’t have that experience.”
Ray entered the world of franchising in 2008, a risky time at the height of the Great Recession. He chose Dunkin’ Donuts because it was a staple from his childhood in Queens, and the quick service industry and coffee business would lead him in his father’s footsteps. “If I was going to get into franchising, I needed to get into a brand that I really believed in and loved the product, and Dunkin’ was one of those,” adds Ray. He opened his first location at the site of a foreclosed bank in an underserved and hard-hit community in Maryland. Within six months of his opening, residents would stop in to thank him for choosing to take a chance on their community, and as business grew, other stores started opening in the shopping center and the community began to revive.
That sense of belonging to a community goes above and beyond seeing people as just potential customers, and starting his own business as a franchisee during the Great Recession really brought that home. He has seen team members stay with him through the years, starting out in entry-level jobs and now managing million-dollar locations. Every year, Ray brings together the community and the police department to raise money for the Special Olympics.
Ray has since opened three more locations in Maryland, with another two in the works. This year, he’s bringing his family-inspired entrepreneurial journey full circle, by bringing his brother Zak and sister-in-law Megan into the business. They’ll be overseeing four new locations set to open in Clarksville Tennessee, near Fort Campbell where Ray was based during his years in the army.
Ray’s success story is still being written, and going from one Dunkin’ Donuts to nine and returning to his roots by bringing his family into the business may be just the beginning. What’s clear now is that Ray’s story highlights the importance of motivations, values and experience. Ray and his brother learned the value of entrepreneurship and hard work from their small business owner dad, Ray built up a winning skill set during his years in the service, and they picked a brand they believe in. Now they’re making real differences in their communities, creating opportunities and passing on the values that underpin success in business.