Heroes Among Us: The Quiet Success of Veterans In Franchising

Veterans are positively impacting franchising, their strong leadership and tireless can-do spirit is an inspiration for all.

By Eric Stites, CFE

*This story originally appeared on www.atourfranchise.org, a website highlighting the positive impact of franchising on communities around the country.

Veterans’ impact on franchising is significant. There are more than 66,000 veteran-owned franchise businesses in the U.S. today, which provide jobs for 815,000 Americans. Yet franchisees who are veterans stay out the limelight, quietly working hard behind the scenes building successful businesses. They don’t consider themselves heroes and don’t want any special recognition, but we owe them so much.

The International Franchise Association’s Veteran’s Transition Franchise Initiative, known as VetFran, is celebrating its 25th anniversary of supporting veterans interested in franchising. It salutes the brave men and women who have served our country and the franchising industry. They are our friends, our colleagues and team members. Here are just a few of their inspirational stories:


Steve Carey: Air Force Veteran and CertaPro Painters Franchisee 

As a fighter pilot, then colonel in the U.S. Air Force, where he served for 30 years, Steve Carey relished strategy, leadership and taking calculated risks. When it came time to retire from the military in 2007, he was drawn to business ownership because it required those same skills.

“My wife and I went through a multitude of options on what we could do as business owners. Should we start our own niche store somewhere? Or did we want to go to corporate America? Or did we want to follow along with a franchise?” Carey explained. “We came to the resolution that we didn’t want to start a brick-and-mortar business where we were tied to it from eight to five. We wanted something that was engaging, where we could connect with people, and where we had the decision-making ability to grow the business to whatever level we chose.”

That something was franchising, the Careys decided. Soon, a franchise headhunter introduced them to several opportunities and they quickly settled on CertaPro Painters, even though they hadn’t been looking specifically for a painting business.

“I saw things in CertaPro that paralleled my vision, both at the corporate level and franchisee level. They were focused on ensuring success for franchisees, and they were a people-oriented organization in which it was very easy to connect with people at the corporate level. They were really focused on trying to grow a culture of good businessmen and women.”

“What I learned in the military has been very helpful in running my business. I learned you have to prioritize and you have to be pretty organized with tasks and tasks management. As I grew in rank, I took on more leadership positions that developed my people management, task management and strategizing skills,” added Carey.

When speaking about the CertaPro business model, he said, “CertaPro is not about painting, painting is what we do, it’s about running a good business, listening to customers, delivering extraordinary experiences and that takes a lot more than just paint.”

Carey’s advice for prospective franchisees: “I would recommend when you choose a path, don’t focus on the exact nature of the industry; focus on what you have to do in that industry. Be sure that the industry represents the things you enjoy doing.”


Josh Lien: Army Veteran and Mosquito Joe franchisee

Not a lot of people can say they met their spouse while salsa dancing in Afghanistan, but Josh Lien can. He retired from the U.S. Army as a captain in 2007, then spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan doing government contract work before meeting and marrying his wife, then having their first child. He split his time between Texas and Afghanistan until their second child arrived, then Lien decided it was time to find something local. That something was a Mosquito Joe franchise.

“Purchasing a franchise seemed like a logical next step because I wanted to have the flexibility in my schedule that business ownership provides, without having to develop a business from scratch,” Lien said. “When I came across the Mosquito Joe franchise opportunity the original thing that hit me was the fact that I’m really an outdoors person but my wife absolutely hates mosquitoes. One bite and she doesn’t want to be outside anymore. It wasn’t a service I was familiar with before, but I definitely felt it was a need I could fulfill in the community.”

Running a franchise requires many skills: the ability to follow the franchisor’s established process, lead under pressure, and work with many types of people. In many ways, the military cultivates the ideal franchisee.

“There are a lot of intangible skills that military service imparts, and I rather like to distill this package of skills down a single phrase: the ability to make things happen,” said Lien.

Lien has been making things happen with his business in the Lone Star State. Since launching his Mosquito Joe franchise in Round Rock two years ago, he has expanded his service area to cover Austin, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Pflugerville and Georgetown areas.

“When I originally decided to go with Mosquito Joe, I started out with one territory and then about halfway through the first season, after I saw the kind of growth and the income potential, that’s what really led me to expand. It was a really great fit with the market.”

While mosquito control services aren’t always an obvious choice for a prospective franchisee’s consideration set, Lien explains finding the right fit in a specific franchise model involves looking at a variety of factors.

“Potential franchisees need to look at the type of industry they want to work in, an initial investment level they’re comfortable with, the strength of the specific location they’ll be operating in (demand, competition, demographics, etc.) and overall financials.”


Eric Stewart: Army Veteran and Window Genie Franchisee

After retiring as a master sergeant from the Army in 2008 and returning to Iraq and Afghanistan to serve the troops as a contractor until early 2014, Eric Stewart returned home for good. He sent his resume to almost 70 employers. “I think I was only called in for two interviews,” Stewart said. “I had no idea how hard it would be for me to get a job.”

Veterans nationwide are struggling like Stewart to find jobs after serving in the military. Possible reasons are that many don’t know how to market themselves in a civilian space and not all employers understand how to read a military resume or how it’s relevant to positions they are looking to fill. According to a 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, there were 573,000 unemployed veterans in 2014: 59 percent were age 45 and over, 37 percent were age 25 to 44, and 4 percent were age 18 to 24. The unemployment rate for male Gulf War-era II veterans (6.9 percent) was higher than the rate for male nonveterans (6.2 percent) in 2014.

Shortly after beginning his job search, Stewart was contacted by Bruce Krebs, a franchise coach with The Entrepreneur’s Source. Together they were able to discover which franchise opportunities best fit Stewart’s strengths, weaknesses, interests and goals. Stewart said, “Bruce helped me realize business ownership was the best opportunity for me to be both successful and happy; I wouldn’t do well behind a desk. I was excited immediately at the prospect of being my own boss and creating a future and legacy for me and my family.”

Among the franchise options Krebs presented to Stewart was Window Genie, which Stewart and his wife, Nydia, quickly decided to invest in. “I liked Window Genie’s proven business model and felt that the corporate office genuinely cared about my success. I felt it was a business I could successfully manage while still maintaining a life for myself and my family,” said Stewart.

Stewart has been so pleased with his experience as a Window Genie franchise that he recommended purchasing one to his good friends Barry Ellis, an Army veteran and his wife, Mazie, an active duty Army sergeant. Before deciding to invest in a Window Genie franchise in Fayetteville, N.C., which the Mazies did in 2015, Bill Mazie paid a visit to Stewart.

“I went to see Eric at his home office and saw the trucks, the equipment, how he had everything set up. It helped me see into the real day-to-day life of a Window Genie owner,” says Mazie.

Stewart’s advice for prospective franchisees is, “Do extensive research and talk to business owners who are not just in the field you want to pursue. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and you’ll be surprised how many people will share the secrets of their success with you.”


Chris Parker: Air Force Veteran and Sport Clips Franchisee 

On the surface, Chris Parker’s life as a Sport Clips franchisee seems worlds away from the 22 years he spent in the Air Force, primarily flying. The differences however, are not as significant as they initially appear to be. That’s because Sport Clips founder and CEO Gordon Logan, was a pilot like Parker before starting the franchise, and the sports-oriented hair business is run more like a fighter jet than a barber shop.

“Gordon and his team did a great job making sure that everything was planned out. He was a pilot like I was, and our lives depended on checklists. Everything was dictated to us. If regulations say we can do something, we can. That’s the type of thinking that Gordon put into this franchise,” Parker said.

Parker and his wife and business partner, Karen, opened their San Antonio-based Sport Clips franchise in 2008. Although they had no previous experience in hair care before buying the franchise, they liked the way it was set up and felt it would be easy to run.

“For us to do this, we needed to make sure we were comfortable enough to execute the game plan. It is a very simple concept — it’s one thing,” Parker said. “We liked that it was an owner-investment and that we were building equity in the future.”

Even with a simple concept, Parker said the early days of running his franchise were scary. He and his wife spent many hours in the store and when they weren’t there, they were

thinking about it.

“Basically what you’re doing is marrying the franchise, and your kid is the store. You’re always checking to make sure it’s well and fed,” Parker said. “If you don’t like being a parent, you shouldn’t be a franchisee.”

Parker recommends prospective franchisees take their time to find a franchise that will provide the support and guidance — or in Parker’s case, the checklists — that will make the early days of business ownership less stressful.


It is clear from the success that Carey, Lien, Stewart, Parker and many others have achieved, that franchising is a good career option for many veterans. They are provided with a blueprint — a proven system — for how their franchise needs to be run in order to be successful. Franchise ownership also enables them to be part of a team and in a leadership role, which may give them the sense of belonging they grew accustomed to while in active service as well as meet their mission-oriented nature.

On behalf of IFA’s VetFran program and the entire franchise community, we thank not only the veterans who are positively impacting franchising, but all veterans. Your strong leadership and tireless can-do spirit is an inspiration for all.


Eric Stites, CFE, is the CEO and managing director of Franchise Business Review, and Chair of the VetFran Committee. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.

Franchising Opportunities for Veterans

By Joey Williams

It is important that, post-military service, veterans have access to economic opportunity. That is why at IFA, we support veterans through our VetFran initiative. VetFran, founded in 1991, provides incentives, training, and mentoring to veterans transitioning to a career in franchising. IFA partners with over 600 franchises to ensure proper benefits for veterans.

While many career paths meet veterans’ needs and goals, franchising is uniquely suited to their abilities. Accordingly, the IFA Educational Foundation found that veterans own one in seven franchise businesses in the United States.

Franchising requires strong leadership, teamwork, and direction-following. After serving in the military, veterans have unmatched leadership experience. As a result, they can lead of a team of employees to meet successful results. Their appreciation and utilization of teamwork, stemming from high-stake military action, makes them perfectly fit to create an atmosphere where employees work for each other. A team-oriented organization is likely to meet their goals. Lastly, franchises receive extensive training to follow specific organizational procedures. Veterans leave the military with an unwavering commitment to follow instructions closely. These characteristics make veterans leading candidates to own and operate franchises.

Franchises recognize veterans’ success at running businesses, leading many organizations to encourage veterans to franchise. UPS, for example, offers $10,000 off the franchise fee for qualified veterans. While companies like UPS that support veterans should be venerated, they do this largely because veterans overwhelmingly display qualities necessary for owning a franchise.

Every day show your appreciation for the veterans who have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom. At the same time, make sure they are aware of the economic opportunities that fit their experiences and talents. While our appreciation of veterans if often based on their past accomplishments, their future is equally important. Franchising represents a viable and highly rewarding option for veterans with entrepreneurial ambitions.

VetFran Helps Soldier Become Multi-Unit Which Wich Franchisee

Anthony Maquinalez is a Texas-based multi-unit owner of Which Wich, with stores in Georgetown, Harker Heights, Waco, and Mansfield. He’s served in the Texas Army National Guard for seven years and is currently a First Lieutenant.

By Hala Habal

Tell us a little bit about your background.

Maquinalez: When I first graduated from Texas State, I went to my officer basic course for the U.S. Army. Immediately after training, I was told I was going to Afghanistan. When I got back, I realized I had no job. I joined the Police Academy and realized it wasn’t for me. I met a guy who was selling a Which Wich and decided to invest. I had eaten Which Wich sandwiches in college so I knew the product was good. For me, coming out of the military and not having a lot of business experience, franchising was a great fit. The military is all about procedures and execution. Being part of a franchise is similar — they already have a good product and there are already operating procedures in place. So, franchising is a perfect fit for a soldier.

What was your experience with IFA’s VetFran program?

Maquinalez: When I bought the first store, we heard about the VetFran program and it seemed great because it pushed me over the edge to dive into Which Wich. Attracting veterans is a great thing. Veterans are going to be your perfect franchisee. Soldiers are trained to follow orders. As a franchisee, you’re your own boss, but there’s a common operating picture that Which Wich lays out to uphold the brand standard. Soldiers are used to following orders and upholding a standard.

How did your military experience prepare you to be a successful franchisee?

Maquinalez: I had been an officer my entire career in the military. I’d been sent to multiple leadership schools — my entire job was to be a “jack of all trades” and manipulate soldiers on the battlefield. Having that broad management ability to get things done and delegate tasks has been a perfect fit for Which Wich. I didn’t have to reinvent the standard operating procedure. I had to come in and develop and mentor my team and make sure everything operates smoothly. And a leader in the military comes in to manage, delegate and oversee.

After three years with Which Wich, what’s next?

Maquinalez: I’m looking to open an annex to my Mansfield store, which is about a mile down the road inside the break room of Mauser Electronics (​​1,500 employees on that campus). We’ll prep and slice at the Mansfield store; there will be ovens and a line at Mauser. The company’s CEO eats with us all the time and came through and said he wanted to build it. He’s been eating with us for a long time. The CEO said ‘everybody likes your food, let’s put it in!’”

Hala Habal is Vice President of Communications for Which Wich. Find out more about franchise opportunities at Which Wich.

Air Force Veteran Finds Success and Fun in Franchising

An entrepreneur at heart, Melissa Anderson was looking for a new opportunity.

*This story originally appeared on www.atourfranchise.org, a website highlighting the positive impact of franchising on communities around the country.

She spent nine years in the U.S. Air Force stationed at various bases including Little Rock, Ark., Lakenheath, England and Incirlik, Turkey, and five years as an education specialist. She later moved to Florida with her husband and sought out a career change. A frequent reader of entrepreneurial magazines, Anderson began researching her options. She found something interesting.

“At that time, I’d never heard of the ‘Sip and Paint’ industry so when I came across it, it got my attention,” Anderson recalls. “That’s how I found Bottle & Bottega,” she continued, adding that the brand combines two of her passions — art and event planning.

While she had never been to a Bottle & Bottega studio, Anderson was drawn to the concept because it combined her two main interests. As the process moved along, the company’s management team helped her get a better understanding of what is involved in owning and operating a paint and sip studio. Anderson opened a Bottle & Bottega location in Jacksonville in August 2015, becoming the first for the brand in the area and the second across Florida. By opening a franchise location, Anderson also saw this as an opportunity to use skills learned in the military, including perseverance, drive, leadership and the determination to succeed.

Without the franchise business model, Anderson wouldn’t have been in position to own a business. “The idea behind a franchise and what drew me to it correlates to my military experience. Having the operating procedures and back-end tasks done gives you a running start in the brand,” she said.

For others interested in franchising, Anderson offers a few tips learned from experience. “First and foremost, you really have to put yourself out there,” she said, adding that networking quickly became her biggest tool. This was especially important for Anderson, who reached an agreement with Bottle & Bottega before she ever actually lived in Florida. “It was an extremely bold move to sign the franchise agreement prior to having even lived in the territory where we were moving,” Anderson recalls. Upon arriving, she immediately joined the local Chamber of Commerce and started attending networking meetings. “Opening the franchise forced me to really immerse myself in the community, which has been great. I’ve met amazing fellow business owners who are not only associates, but now dear friends.”

Getting involved and establishing “authentic relationships within your community” can lead to success. “You build each other up, and they help you build your business,” Anderson said. The Jacksonville Bottle & Bottega hosts fundraisers and believes that giving back to the community and working with charitable organizations are important parts of establishing a successful business.

Another tip, she said, is to “take action every day and put in the work,” which increases the chances that your location, and the corporate brand, will hit benchmarks and stay on a path of growth.

“Every day, you have to take consistent action, even if it’s small, because eventually all that compounds and builds, and it may be months — it could be a year — before you reap those rewards. As long as you put forth the effort, you will see results.” Also important is making sure you are in tune with the franchise concept.

“Franchising is really about relationships, so when signing onto a franchise, it’s important that the franchisee and the franchisor are a good fit for each other,” Anderson said. “The corporate team at Bottle & Bottega really feels like an extended family.”

Exclusive Interview With Veteran Who Won His Own Franchise

Veterans continue to have an impact on the franchise community, with companies like CruiseOne/Dream Vacations featuring more than 30 percent of its units owned by veterans or active-duty spouses. CruiseOne/Dream Vacations has awarded five free franchise locations to veterans Jason Bloomquist, Cory Jennings, James Selleh, Jay Starks and Chuck Wellman as part of its “Operation Vetrepreneur: Become Your Own General” program. IFA’s @OurFranchise spoke with each of the winners to find out why they decided to transition into franchising. The first profile is with Cory Jennings, a U.S. Navy veteran based on Midland, Texas.

*This story originally appeared on www.atourfranchise.org, a website highlighting the positive impact of franchising on communities around the country.

@OurFranchise: Why did you decide to enter the CruiseOne/Dream Vacations contest and go into franchising? 

Jennings: My wife and I have wanted to own our own business for around the last five years and after much discussion, decided to pursue a Dream Vacations franchise. This industry combines our love of travel and the ability to create our own path. We get to flex our entrepreneurial spirit in a fun and exciting business.

@OurFranchise: Do you believe military veterans and franchising is a good fit? 

Jennings: Absolutely. Military veterans have a work ethic second to none and franchising provides them with an opportunity to benefit from their hard work. Franchising provides veterans with a more streamlined path to succeed once they have left the military, and after volunteering their time and potentially their lives, they deserve it.

@OurFranchise: What advice would you give to military veterans interested in franchising? 

Jennings: Research the company and opportunity thoroughly. There are many potential franchises and companies available and they are not all created with your best interests in mind. Find an industry that you are passionate about and an opportunity that offers the right incentives.

@OurFranchise: Why should franchises hire veterans? 

Jennings: Tim Courtney, Vice President of Franchise Development for Dream Vacations, said recently at an event to honor our country’s veterans that “if a man is willing to die for his country, think of what he is willing to do for your company.” That pretty much sums it up.

@OurFranchise: How can franchises support veteran-franchise owners?

Jennings: Simply by providing them with the opportunity to succeed, and giving them the tools and support necessary to help them grow their business, veterans have the work ethic necessary to do the rest.

From Hobby to Successful Career: One Coastguard Veteran’s Journey

After serving six years in the United States Coast Guard, Dan Hayes ventured into the corporate world by climbing the rungs at one of the world’s most established brands: Coca-Cola.

*This story originally appeared on www.atourfranchise.org, a website highlighting the positive impact of franchising on communities around the country.

While working at the Coca-Cola Company, Mr. Hayes purchased rental properties as a way to broaden his own investment portfolio. In his spare time, he worked as a do-it-yourself landlord. Mr. Hayes quickly realized that his hobby proved quite lucrative. He considered going out on his own, but he wanted the professional operational support and resources he was used to in the corporate world.

He decided to buy a Real Property Management franchise in August 2015.

Mr. Hayes says joining a franchise has provided him with access to proven systems and business resources to help with marketing, training and operations. Ultimately, the support has given him a competitive advantage over independent operators.

In less than one year, Mr. Hayes was honored with the 2016 Rising Star Award by Property Management Business Solutions, the franchisor of Real Property Management. This award recognizes a newer franchisee who has had early success and contributes new life to the organization with their presence.

For those interested in learning about franchising opportunities with Real Property Management, you can read more here.

Veteran CEO: Some of the Best Franchisees in the Business Are Veterans

Full excerpt from Sport Clips CEO Gordon Logan on how franchises can help veterans.

*This story originally appeared on www.atourfranchise.org, a website highlighting the positive impact of franchising on communities around the country.

In recent years, much attention has focused on rebuilding the economy and resurrecting the American dream. Yet one area often overlooked is the success of franchising and the millions of opportunities found in the business model, particularly for veterans in Texas and across the country.

From quick-service restaurants to yoga studios to employment services to hair salons, this business model has become a seamless part of our everyday lives. Yet many Americans are unaware of the integral role franchising plays in our economy and in our communities. Brands such as Schlotzsky’s, Rainbow Carpet Cleaning, Jeni-King, Mr. Rooter, Sport Clips, Woodhouse Day Spas, La Quinta and many others are Texas born and bred, yet many people may not even recognize these are successful franchises operated by their friends and neighbors.

We opened the first Sport Clips Haircuts in 1993 in Austin, and in 1995 we began to franchise as the business model of expansion, and we never looked back. Today there are nearly 1,600 Sport Clips located in 50 states end five Canadian provinces, with more than 200 in Texas.

I began my career in franchising in 1979 as a franchisee myself, operating franchised hair salons throughout Texas. This experience as a franchisee helped me understand how to best start and operate a franchise to create exceptional opportunities for our franchisees. My service is an Aircraft Commander in the U.S. Air Force helped me develop the leadership skills needed to run a successful business. Leadership, team building, and the discipline of executing a proven plan of action are attributes that translate exceptionally well from the military to the business world.  Sport Clips has been actively engaged in getting our military veterans introduced to entrepreneurship through franchising… skill sets developed during military service enable our veteran franchises to excel.

More than 6,000 veterans or their spouses nationwide have become franchise business owners since 2011. This brings the total number of independent, veteran-owned franchises to more than 66,000: More than 238,000 veterans and their spouses have found jobs in franchising in the past five years alone. The franchise industry is reducing veteran unemployment and providing exceptional opportunities for veterans and their families.

Sport Clips has been recognized as a leading franchise for veterans by multiple groups and publications, including the International Franchise Association and its VetFran program. Franchise opportunities can be particularly attractive to veterans because of how this uniquely American business model works: The franchisor develops and promotes a brand concept, so franchise owners can focus on executing a proven concept, which is second nature to veterans due to their military experience. It is extremely rewarding to me as a CEO to help military veterans take advantage of the opportunities franchising has to offer. As business owners and employers, veterans understand the value of teamwork, reliability and accountability, and successful mission accomplishment.

VetFran is one of the most impactful of the IFA programs, and is a major reason why Sport Clips has been actively engaged with the International Franchise Association to launch a national “@OurFranchise” tour. By sharing our stories and communicating successes, we hope to ensure franchising  remains a robust part of local economies by highlighting the opportunities franchising offers for military veterans. Veterans tend to hire more veterans, which multiplies the employment opportunities for all veterans.

Franchising is a business model that allows veterans who have an unwavering drive to better themselves and their communities and to succeed as an entrepreneur to control their own destiny. Hundreds of thousands of Americans choose franchising to participate in entrepreneurship because of its proven blueprint for entrepreneurs who have chosen to go into business for themselves, but not by themselves.

In Texas, franchising accounts for more than 62,000 establishments, 635,000 jobs and $53 billion in economic output. These are significant numbers coming out of our great state. The undeniable success of franchising is largely due to the local, independent business owners and operators who are franchisees of established brands. Today’s franchisees are paving the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs by offering opportunity to American’s of all skill levels and circumstances. Franchising is the largest occupational training system in America, teaching critical job skills that are essential for future success.

Franchising is a model that works. It works especially well for veterans, and provides opportunities for financial independence and personal freedom essential to the economy of Texas and the nation.
Gordon Logan is the CEO and founder of Georgetown-based Sport Clips Haircuts.

One Woman’s Journey From the Marines to Franchising Stardom

IFA’s @OurFranchise spoke with Mary Thompson, CFE, to discuss how she exited the military and found her place as franchise owner and then a multi-location franchise owner, and then a franchisor president and today the COO of Dwyer Group.

*This story originally appeared on www.atourfranchise.org, a website highlighting the positive impact of franchising on communities around the country.

@OurFranchise: How was the transition to civilian life and specifically franchising?

Ms. Thompson: Franchising helped me transition from the Marine Corps to being an experienced and successful business person. After leaving the service, I went directly into a sales position for my first few years as a civilian. The adjustment was difficult at times because not only was I learning a new job and new company, I was also learning how to navigate a world where healthcare, housing, and even the language of business were vastly different than the military.

My dream was to be an entrepreneur as I was driven to build and lead a team toward a common mission. While I had the financial backing to open a business, I did not have the business experience to do so. Since franchising is built on systems and processes designed to create success, it was a logical solution to my challenge. I liked the Cookies by Design business model and product. Franchising was the solution that allowed me to meet my goal and I knew with hard work I would follow the system to success. Within three years I was a multi-unit franchisee meeting my goals and fulfilling my dream of small business ownership. Franchising and the systems that it brought to me helped me as a veteran with – no business experience – to have a system to follow. It also provided me the support of the franchisor who drilled down on unit level economics helping me grow both personally and professionally faster than I would have without the systems.

@OurFranchise: What advice would you give to military veterans looking to get involved in franchising?

Ms. Thompson: Do your homework. Study the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) to understand the health of the franchisor you’re considering. Talk to at least 10 franchisees in the system to best understand what is good and bad about the organization.  If possible, talk to at least one former franchisee to know what failure looks like. First search for those franchise models with the best unit level economics to help you have the best chance to see a good return on your investment. Another top priority is knowing the culture of the franchise the veteran is considering. For veterans in particular, having a close cultural match makes a difference how well they will fit into the organization and enjoy belonging. Lastly, ask the franchisor you are considering for a list of existing veterans in the franchise on both the franchisee and franchisor level. They can help you navigate the transition and will speak your language.

@OurFranchise: You’re also involved in IFA’s initiative VetFran. Why did you join and what has your experience been like?

Ms. Thompson: A strategic initiative of the International Franchise Association, VetFran was founded in 1991 by the late Don Dwyer Sr. – founder of Dwyer Group – to say thank you to our veterans returning from the first Gulf War. It has grown into a large network of more than 650 franchise brands that voluntarily offer financial discounts, mentorship, and training for aspiring veteran franchisees and veterans seeking employment. Their most recent survey shows that 238,000 veterans and military spouses found opportunities in the franchise world since 2011.

Franchising had been so impactful to me as a veteran transitioning to the business world and I wanted to return the favor. I joined VetFran to give back and offer assistance to the service men and women returning from overseas deployments and transitioning to civilian life. They have earned the power to prosper and I believed by joining VetFran I could be part of the solution.

As chair of VetFran in 2011, in partnership with the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the International Franchise Association and its members launched Operation Enduring Opportunity — a franchise industry-wide effort to hire 75,000 veterans by the end of 2014, as well as to recruit and develop thousands of veterans to be franchise small business owners. We beat that goal by more than double. The programs and assistance available through VetFran make a difference for our veterans. Today I am a sitting member of the VetFran Committee to help continue the good work.

@OurFranchise: How does the Dwyer Group support veterans?

Ms. Thompson: To date, Dwyer Group of franchise companies has awarded more than $2.1 million in discounts to 374 veteran franchise owners. Our mission is simple: We strive to become the leader in franchising with transitioning military personnel and current veterans in order to help them achieve their dreams and goals by being in business for themselves.

Putting Their Trust in Veterans: CruiseOne Awards Free Franchises

Veterans Jason Bloomquist, Cory Jennings, James Selleh, Jay Starks and Chuck Wellman have won free CruiseOne/Dream Vacation franchises as part of Operation Vetrepreneur.

*This story originally appeared on www.atourfranchise.org, a website highlighting the positive impact of franchising on communities around the country.

More and more American businesses are realizing that veterans are some of the most talented and sought-after employees out there, with highly transferrable skills, knowledge and discipline. Franchises are some of the leading employers of veterans, with companies like CruiseOne/Dream Vacations having over 30 percent of its units owned by veterans or active-duty spouses. CruiseOne knows a good thing when they see it, and they’ve doubled down on veterans with an annual competition that sees the five veteran winners awarded their own home franchise.

Now in its fifth year, the CruiseOne “Operation Vetrepreneur: Become Your Own General” just wrapped up and announced the five winners. The competition has involved more than 1,300 veteran applicants competing across all five branches of the U.S. armed services over the past five years, with winners representing the top two percent of applicants. The process is rigorous, involving the submission of a business plan, a video essay and phone interviews. The franchises awarded to the winners over the past five years are valued at more than $317,000, but CruiseOne knows that these prizes are not a giveaway but an investment.

Veterans have proven to be natural and successful franchisees, and many companies are looking to increase their share of veteran-owned units. “There are so many parallels between the military and franchising that recruiting and supporting military veterans has become a cornerstone of who we are and what we do; it is shaping the future of our organization,” said Tim Courtney, CFE, Vice President of Franchise Development and Ambassador of Veteran Affairs for CruiseOne/Dream Vacations. “We recognize that military veterans are driven by the core values and disciplines they learned in the military and it is these values and disciplines that drive them to succeed.”

This year’s winners are U.S. Air Force Veteran Jason Bloomquist of Maple Shade, N.J.; U.S. Navy Veteran Cory Jennings of Midland, Texas; Air Force Veteran James Selleh of Brentwood, Tenn.; Air Force Veteran Jay Starks of Sandy, Utah; and Air Force Veteran Chuck Wellman of Beaverton, Ore. CruiseOne/Dream Vacations hosted an awards ceremony in Fort Lauderdale attended by local business leaders and government officials, and is sending each of the winners to a weeklong training course at its headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

With such a qualified field of applicants, winning a competition like this requires not just the right mind set and skills, but also a passion for the field of travel and often an equally dedicated spouse by your side, as we found out from one of this year’s winners, Cory Jennings. “My wife and I have wanted to own our own business for around the last five years and after much discussion, decided to pursue a Dream Vacations franchise. This industry combines our love of travel and the ability to create our own path. We get to flex our entrepreneurial spirit in a fun and exciting business.”

The world of franchising is full of veteran success stories, across the spectrum, with franchisors, franchisees and employees each playing a role. CruiseOne actively encourages veteran franchisees with 20 percent off the initial franchise fee and the free franchise giveaways during its annual contest highlight the company’s commitment to veterans. IFA has been a champion of bringing the talent of military veterans to the franchise community through the VetFran initiative. Now counting over 650 franchise members that voluntarily offer financial incentives and discounts to veterans, VetFran continues to bring together talent and opportunity.

Veteran Franchisee Brings His Family Into the Business

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.

Award-winner: Franchisors Understand Veterans Are a Perfect Fit

CruiseOne/Dream Vacations has awarded five free franchise locations to veterans Jason Bloomquist, Cory Jennings, James Selleh, Jay Starks and Chuck Wellman as part of its “Operation Vetrepreneur: Become Your Own General” program. IFA’s @OurFranchise spoke with each of the winners to find out why they decided to transition into franchising. Shown here are responses from Charles Wellman, a U.S. Air Force veteran based in Beaverton, Ore.

@OurFranchise: Why did you decide to enter the CruiseOne/Dream Vacations contest and go into franchising?

Wellman: After many years of wanting to start our own business, my wife and I began researching franchise opportunities. I found CruiseOne and researched it immensely considering my wife and I love to travel. Now that I am retired from the Air Force, working for myself would be a very rewarding career, especially when I can do something I truly love.

@OurFranchise: Do you believe military veterans and franchising is a good fit?

Wellman: Absolutely! Veterans are trained and focused on doing a great job. Veterans work well both in groups and individually. I think veterans are a match for franchising because we all have a “get it done” attitude and can get most tasks accomplished with very little to no direction. Give a veteran a task and a timeline, and it will get done to a very high standard.

@OurFranchise: What advice would you give to military veterans interested in franchising?

Wellman: Research to make sure the business is right for you and your personality, and secondly be honest with yourself before you decide to make the leap into a franchise. If you don’t feel like it’s the right fit; look for something else.

@OurFranchise: Why should franchises hire veterans?

Wellman: The real question is why wouldn’t franchises want veterans? We are hard-working, dedicated, committed individuals who signed up to put our life on the line for our country! When we believe in something and commit to it, then you cannot make a better investment!

@OurFranchise: How can franchises support veteran-franchise owners?

Wellman: Train, support and believe in them!