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VetFran Program Marks Significant Milestones

VetFran’s top objectives for coming year are to make deeper inroads and develop a pathway for wounded warriors’ and veterans’ transition into franchising.

During the first five months of 1991, I was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps as a member of a tank crew in combat operations while in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for Desert Storm. Back home at the same time, a visionary leader in the franchise industry wanted to help those of us coming home from serving our country. VetFran was born.

Don Dwyer Sr., founder of The Dwyer Group, launched a program funded with his own money, centered on helping provide discounts to honorably discharged veterans who wanted to join the franchise industry. From that first year, awareness of the program spread, mostly via word-of-mouth.

When I joined TSS Photography Inc., (known as The Sports Section in 1993) I immediately jumped at the chance to help fellow veterans purchase a franchise. Shortly thereafter, we granted a Vietnam veteran a franchise in Massachusetts. This was our first VetFran owner, and nearly 20 years later, the program is going stronger than ever.

Today, VetFran has reached significant milestones:

  • 64,880 veterans have started careers in franchising since 2011.
  • 4,314 veterans became franchisees among companies since 2011.
  • There are now 537 franchise systems and 14 suppliers supporting and actively engaged in VetFran.
  • www.vetfran.com is a one-stop resource and the VetFran Directory receives 44,000 visitors a month.

The International Franchise Association, under the leadership of President and CEO Steve Caldeira, CFE, along with the tremendous help of Senior Manager, Research and Strategic Initiatives Josh Merin, has made VetFran a powerhouse of activity both on Capitol Hill, and around the country. Partnerships forged through VetFran now include such prestigious groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Marine Corps Association, Military Officers Association of America and many others.

Program Leadership and Objectives

The VetFran Committee has had great franchise leaders since Don Dwyer, including past chairmen MSA Worldwide Managing Director Michael Seid, CFE, IslandTime Treasures President Lonnie Helgerson, CFE, and most recently, Mr. Rooter Corp. President Mary Kennedy Thompson, CFE. Their passion and determination will be felt for years to come. They have given VetFran the foundation to make an impact on one of the most valuable resources America has, our military men and woman who have fought so that we may have the precious gift of freedom.

VetFran’s top objectives for the coming year are to make deeper inroads and develop a pathway for wounded warriors and veterans transitioning into franchising. Operation Enduring Opportunity was launched in November 2011 to create 75,000 jobs for veterans by the end of 2014, a goal that should be achieved before the end of this year, well ahead of schedule.

Our efforts in finding jobs and ownership opportunities for those wounded in the line of duty will become paramount. To assist us with this achievement, former Marine Kevin Blanchard and IFA coordinator, research & strategic initiatives, who was severely wounded in Afghanistan, persevered through the recovery and progressed through the system to civilian life with a mission to help make VetFran an integral part of more veterans’ lives.

Expanding to Serve

In the fall of 2012, VetFran established the Chairman’s Corps, consisting of Aaron’s Sales & Leasing, CKE Restaurants Inc., Dunkin’ Brands, Edible Arrangements International Inc., Liberty Tax Service, PepsiCo, Marriott International, Mr. Rooter Corp., Realogy Corp., Sport Clips, Inc., Sprigster LLC, Tasti D-Lite, TD Bank, TSS Photography, Inc., The UPS Store and WIN Home Inspection.

Fundraising efforts have only begun and along with the help of these companies, VetFran received the support of Edible Arrangements and its CEO Tariq Farid, CFE, who donated $125,000 in February and will be a Lifetime Member of the Chairman’s Corps. Also this February, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce contributed $80,000 bringing the total raised to nearly $285,000 this fiscal year.

To augment these efforts and to raise awareness of VetFran’s activities at the consumer level, the program added FirstGiving (http://www.firstgiving.com/). By adding a “Donate” button to your website, you’ll help VetFran raise additional funds to extend its outreach and support the mission. For every $1 donated via FirstGiving, 96 cents will be directly funded into VetFran. This platform has raised more than $1 billion for non-profits like VetFran.

The funds raised through these efforts help to communicate the opportunities available to veterans, as well as build the support and resources available, such as the VetFran website.
IFA added a VetFran Mentor Network with Tasti D-Lite CEO James Amos Jr., CFE, Sport Clips, Inc. Founder and CEO Gordon Logan, Aaron’s Sales & Leasing National Director-Franchising Greg Tanner, and others who will help counsel veterans on franchising.

Discussions are designed to help the individual sift through the volume of information and focus on one’s goals. Efforts are not geared to point someone to a particular company, but mentors will see that a mentee gets reassigned if the veteran expresses interest in joining their system. The only goal is helping veterans find the right career path for them or their families in franchising.

In June, VetFran mounted events at veteran-owned franchise businesses in 12 cities and launched new tools to put veterans back to work in franchising, including a VetFran Toolkit. The VetFran Toolkit is designed to foster access to franchise opportunities for veterans and military spouses. It includes a “Franchising 101” online course, a finance assessment and a workbook for prospective franchise owners.

Honors, Research and Outreach

In October, VetFran’s Operation Enduring Opportunity received the American Society of Association Executives’ Power of Gold Award, one of the highest industry awards “honoring associations that engage in activities and initiatives that are essential to a stronger America and world.”

That same day, IFA received the Public Affairs Campaign Award of 2012 during PR News’ Digital PR Awards ceremony for Operation Enduring Opportunity. The PR News Awards recognize “outstanding digital initiatives among corporations, agencies and nonprofits.” With Operation Enduring Opportunity, IFA, “took chances, made tremendous strides, and understands the power of digital communications in public relations,” stated PR News.

Also in October, VetFran undertook a month-long survey of IFA members with Franchise Business Review to track progress toward Operation Enduring Opportunity’s goal of hiring as team members and recruiting as franchise business owners 75,000 veterans and military spouses plus 5,000 wounded warriors through 2014. The report “Veterans in Franchising: A Progress Report” was produced from the survey.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Veterans hire veterans. Veteran-franchise owners were 30 percent more likely to have hired a veteran than non-veteran-owned franchise businesses.
  • Most popular franchise industries among veterans coming into franchising include Automotive (16 percent), General Services (15 percent), Food (15 percent), Residential/Home Services (11 percent) and Business Services (8 percent).
  • Four out of five veterans “enjoy operating” their franchise business (83 percent), “enjoy being part of this franchise organization,” (81 percent), would “recommend to others” their franchise brand (79 percent).

In association with Veterans Day 2012, VetFran events were conducted in Atlanta, St. Paul, Minn. and Austin, Texas, premiering an IFA-produced video about VetFran, “From Honor to Owner,” and announcing the results of “Veterans in Franchising: A Progress Report.”
VetFran was joined in San Antonio by U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills for the second consecutive Veterans Day. At the same event, WIN Home Inspection announced that IFA 2012 convention speaker and wounded warrior Shilo Harris would be one of its newest franchisees.

As you can see, a lot is happening in the VetFran Program, but much more remains to be done. To continue its record of success, VetFran seeks your support and welcomes your participation.

Joe Lindenmayer is president and COO of TSS Photography, Inc. He can be reached at 678-740-0880 or joe@TSSPhotography.com.

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