All posts by Matt Wiggins

From the Battle Field to Business Ownership

By Mark Lambert, Co-owner of Five Star Painting, a Neighborly Company (of Colorado Springs and Temecula)

Originally from California, I graduated from high school in Long Beach and decided to follow in the footsteps of my father and both grandfathers and enlisted in the Army. I went on to serve in multiple locations and assignments throughout the U.S. and Europe, as well as multiple combat deployments. After 22 years, I retired at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. My military experience instilled in me strict discipline, strong work ethics and a heck of a lot of ambition, so it’s no wonder I wound up as co-owner of two successful Five Star Painting franchises. Nearly half of my life had been devoted to following a proven system with a strict set of rules and franchising was no different.

However, the road to franchise ownership was no easy feat. When I returned to civilian life I met someone who owned a painting company and started painting for him. I thoroughly enjoyed the work. I learned everything I could about the industry and put the leadership skills I acquired in the military to work, which eventually turned into me leading the company and being in charge of providing customer estimates. Unfortunately, the owner sold the company and the new owner hired a family member to do my job. What was a disappointment turned into an even greater opportunity as this change led me to meet my current business partner and fellow Army vet, Mike Shaffer. Mike suggested that we look into Five Star Painting, a Neighborly company, as he had been in talks with them in the past. A few months later we drove out to Utah to meet with the previous president of Five Star Painting and immediately signed on to develop Colorado Springs – East and West. This new venture turned out to be one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. A few years later an opportunity came up for Mike and his family to move back to Southern California, so he transplanted one of our territories to Temecula, where we still are partners to this day.

Being veterans ourselves, any time we have an opportunity to hire a fellow veteran we try to do so. Interestingly, painting tends to be a therapeutic activity especially for vets who may suffer from anxiety or PTSD. The job allows for some peace and quiet as you often are working in a space by yourself. Giving back is part of our company’s ethos. Whether helping a veteran’s family with pro bono work or partnering with the Wounded Warrior Project, we give back because we care.

Being able to continue to apply the character and leadership I’ve acquired through decades as a soldier has allowed me to excel. I chose the painting industry as my mode of service, and I’ve never looked back.


VetFran Meets with Congressmen in Virginia

By Matt Wiggins, VetFran Fellow

Last month, VetFran sat down with Congressmen Phil Roe and Dave Brat, strong supporters in Congress of VetFran’s mission. The occasion was a town hall event outside of Richmond in Congressman Brat’s 7th District of Virginia. The event was well attended and hosted a lively and engaged audience. Constituents gathered to discuss veteran’s issues, like healthcare and economic opportunity. Roe and Brat agreed about the vital role that veterans play in both Virginia and the nation as a whole.

Congressman Roe is the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and sat down privately with VetFran to explain what he’s done on the VA Committee to help veterans. “Coming from a small business background I know what it’s like to work for myself, and I know that the last person who gets paid is the person who owns the business – everything else gets paid first,” said Roe. “I didn’t realize when I first got to congress how much of an impression that had made on me – working for yourself.” His legislative record demonstrates his progress. “We have passed this congress 70 bills out of committee, 26 have been signed into law. These are major pieces of legislation,” he added.

Roe sees the big picture on veteran’s issues as well, working to tackle some difficult mental health issues. “Next year I’m focusing on veterans’ suicide. We’ve put $8 Billion into this and the suicide rate is unchanged, so I want to look at that.” He feels the same way about homelessness among veterans, saying, “we’ve spent $7 billion on veterans’ homelessness and that’s not going down. Where is the money going? We’re going to look at opioid addiction, and we’re going to look at Electronic Health Records.” In terms of the Veterans Entrepreneurs Act, VetFran’s sponsored legislation piece, Roe called it “hugely important,” and has been a great supporter of its journey through congress.

Congressman Brat echoed a similar sentiment when he spoke with VetFran. “Veterans put up the ultimate sacrifice. Thanking veterans, rewarding them, keeping our promises to them is key,” said Brat. He isn’t just making promises either, he’s keeping them. “I sponsored HR 2135 – a bi-partisan bill that waives the SBA loan program fee,” said Brat, “[I’m] always in favor of every program that gets our veterans in the pipeline, and I signed on to the Veterans Small Business Act.”

When asked about the big picture for veterans going forward, Brat commented, “the best thing we can do for everybody is keep the economy running. Help veterans and our communities get jobs. Tax cuts and jobs act to keep the economy roaring.”

We agree with the congressmen, veterans benefit from a strong and dynamic economy. Thanks to the work of Congressmen Brat, Roe, and their peers, now is a great time for veterans to get involved in franchising and find their own business opportunities. For more information on how you can get started with franchising and to see the discounts available to veterans, please visit

Life After Service: What the military taught me about business ownership

By: Jack Huffman

The statistics are alarming – 8,000 veterans take their lives each year. That’s 22 veterans a day. For many, they feel they no longer have anything to live for. I was once of a similar mindset.

I am a combat veteran from the war before the war, as I like to say. I joined the Army in 1993, a year after I graduated high school. I was 19 years old and deployed twice over my four years of active duty as an E4 Specialist Promotable. My deployment took me to Saudi Arabia in 1996-1997, where my unit relieved the German unit after the Khobar Towers Bombing and was one of the first units to experience the modern terrorism that we know today.

The military lessons of perseverance and grit served me well in my transition to civilian life. Four years after retiring from the military, I took my back out and was out of work for 9 months. Then I broke my neck two years later and was out of work for over four years before going back to college to get a degree in Small Business Management

In 2011, I was working in construction before I was laid off during the recession. I went into a completely different industry within HVAC before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) a few weeks later. I was also diagnosed with PTSD from the war.

After many setbacks, it would’ve been easy to become a statistic, however, I knew my story was not over. I sought help, went to therapy and began sharing my story. The next step of recovery was finding my next career move – entrepreneurship.

Business ownership seemed like a great avenue to help others and myself, despite the challenges. Now, I own and operate a franchise territory for Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning. I knew I wanted to become a franchisee because owning a franchise location gives veterans the freedom and leadership development they crave while being provided an easier transition out of the military. In the military, there is a leader who you fall into march with. The same goes for franchising – there is a leader who tells you when and how to march to be successful, and you march. That is why franchising is a perfect fit for veterans. Out of all the franchise systems, I chose Oxi Fresh because the business model is smooth and easily fits into my lifestyle. I was the first person to ever purchase a franchise without visiting the corporate office prior to signing. I believed in the concept that much. In addition to Oxi Fresh, my wife and I are planning to open a retreat next year to assist veterans suffering from PTSD.

With all my new ventures, my military background allows me to take risks and be proactive. Additionally, from all of my experiences, I have the innate ability to empathize and anticipate people’s needs ahead of time. I also have the training to cope in adverse situations, which is common in entrepreneurship – nothing ever goes how you expect it to. I wake up every day in pain, but with a smile on my face because I am excited to have the opportunity to improve other people’s lives through living a better one myself. The military taught me that you have to learn to deal with the cards you are given – you cannot reshuffle. That’s exactly what I’m doing now.

IFA and VetFran Members Touted as Top Franchises for Veterans

By: Matt Wiggins, VetFran Fellow, IFA Foundation

In the spirit of Veteran’s Day, Franchise Business Review has announced its annual list of The 80 Best Franchisees for Veterans. IFA and VetFran members accounted for 75 percent of the list. “IFA appreciates the dedication of our members to supporting veterans and recognizing their sacrifices. Year after year, they demonstrate their strong commitment to providing opportunities to the veterans community,” said Rikki Amos, IFA Foundation Vice President.

Franchise Business Review bases their list on a survey of over 26,000 franchisees from many top franchise brands. Survey participants are given the opportunity to express their honest opinion on core elements of their franchise. Brands who earned a place on the list of The 80 Best Franchisees for Veterans were ranked highly among categories like quality of training, leadership, and enjoyment of running a franchise.

IFA and VetFran members consistently demonstrate a strong and unwavering commitment to providing opportunities to veterans of the US Armed Forces. Veterans are uniquely qualified to be franchisees, and typically perform better than their non-veteran counterparts. An estimated 14% of franchisees nationwide are veterans, while the percentage of veterans in the US population is only near 1%. The franchise industry as a whole believes veterans should have the opportunity to become successful business owners after serving our country.

The VetFran Program was founded in 1991 and has been an industry-leading initiative which today numbers over 630 member companies, each of which offers discounts and incentives to prospective veteran franchisees. VetFran recognizes its member brands by highlighting their commitments to the veteran community. Veterans can also find resources regarding franchising opportunities and funding all in one place using In late 2018, VetFran will launch a new initiative to welcome veteran franchisees of our member companies to the VetFran family, furthering its mission to facilitate the transition of veterans into franchising.


Matt Wiggins is the IFA’s inaugural VetFran Fellow. After serving as an IFA intern, he transitioned into the role in August. Coming from a military family, Matt has dedicated his work at IFA to improving and building the VetFran program. Through his fellowship, he hopes to make franchising more accessible to veterans across America.

Life After Service: Transitioning from the Military into Business Ownership with Signal 88 Security

Originally Published on on May 2, 2018

For every military service member, the time eventually comes to return to the civilian job force or retire. This can be a hard transition for many, especially for those who have been serving for a long time.

Concerns quickly pile up: “What will I do? Where will I work? How will my experience translate in the job force?”

There are many programs designed to ease these concerns and the armed forces have been ramping up their efforts to help make the transition easier, but it is still not enough in most cases. The key is to have a plan in place long beforehand so that you can be prepared for life after out-processing.

A fitting example of this is Chris and Rhonda Woody, owners of Signal 88 Security of El Paso, Texas. They launched their Signal 88 franchise in 2015 with the intent of building the business while Chris is on active duty so that his income could be replaced when he retires.

“I didn’t want to wait until I retired to figure it out, I wanted to get something set up and start growing it now,” said Chris.

“I heard about Signal 88 in Entrepreneur Magazine and it was listed as a veteran-friendly franchise so I decided to check it out. Business ownership is something I’m passionate about and have always wanted to do.”

Chris, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Military Police, credits his 32-year military career with giving him the skills and confidence to launch into the business world.

“My military experience has helped me in the security capacity because I know the lines between official police business and security. Also, being a lieutenant colonel has helped me hone my leadership and team-building skills, which are important when starting a business.”

While business ownership is one of Chris’ passions, priority #1 is still the Army.

“I can’t effectively run my businesses while I’m active duty and fully devoted to the Army, so my wife, Rhonda, runs the business in the meantime. At first, I wanted to hire a sales person while I’m gone to help grow our revenue, but the franchise group recommended that someone with more ‘skin in the game’ handle it. Since Rhonda is co-owner of the business, she began handling most of the sales and operations and does a great job at it.”

“I have operations managers to help me,” explains Rhonda, “but I handle majority of the sales and operations aspects. I’m seen as the face of Signal 88 in El Paso.”

Both Chris and Rhonda have learned that the early days of entrepreneurship are no cakewalk, but they are confident the challenge will be worth it.

Rhonda explains, “I’m busy basically 24/7 being a business owner and a parent of four kids. It’s important to take some time for yourself and realize that you’re building something for the future.”

Chris added, “All service members should realize that they need a plan in place for what comes after their service. If you start a business, it’s important to build it early and realize that you need to be saving money for surprise costs.

Servicemen and women all understand the idea of providing security and should have training in that aspect. Signal 88 builds on that by giving owners a more technologically advanced way of doing it with a process to build a healthy business. This combination, along with the skills gained in the military, helps Signal 88 owners separate themselves from the competition.

To learn more about franchising with Signal 88, please visit