There are many good things to say about the franchising industry, like the role it plays in the country’s economy and how supportive it is of its members. But, there’s another important area where the industry shines, and that’s its long history of reaching out to U.S. military veterans to help them transition back into civilian life.
Long before many other groups, the franchise industry was there for U.S. veterans. In fact, way back in 1991, a strategic initiative called VetFran was launched to support veterans returning from the Gulf War. Its sole mission? “To provide access and opportunities in franchising to our nation’s veterans and their spouses.”
Although thousands of military men and women subsequently joined the industry through VetFran (more than 238,000 to be exact), franchisees as a group are never content to rest on their laurels. Now there’s a renewed effort by the International Franchise Association (IFA) to continue to boost this number, as thousands of service members return to the U.S. from Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief causes was supporting military families and veterans. As part of the White House Joining Forces initiative, she announced Operation Enduring Opportunity in late 2011. As one of the key objectives of this campaign, all 825,000 U.S. franchise businesses were asked to help reach the goal of hiring and recruiting 75,000 veterans and 5,000 wounded warriors by 2014. The industry says this is the largest hiring and recruiting commitment it has ever undertaken.
True to form, the franchise industry has stepped up with flying colors. Vetfran.org reports that since 2011, nearly 65,000 veterans have entered franchising, including 4,314 as owners. And as of April 2013, the White House Joining Forces initiative announced that 290,000 veterans and military spouses had been hired or trained since the launch of the initiative. Franchising contributed almost a quarter of this total.
The Chair of the VetFran Committee, Joe Lindenmayer, says that today, VetFran’s ranks have grown to include more than 500 franchise systems that voluntarily offer financial incentives to military veterans who are interested in becoming franchise small business owners. Most impressively, one out of every seven franchise businesses are now owned and operated by military veterans, and more are being added every month.
Bringing more veterans into franchising appears to be the ultimate win-win. The industry and the businesses themselves benefit, obviously, from being able to pull from a huge and very skilled talent pool. They are giving back in multiple and enduring ways– to their communities, to the country and to those who sacrificed so much for us all. And once identified by the VetFran logo as a program participant, they enjoy increased public support.
Veterans themselves find that the franchising industry is a niche that suits them. Vetfran.orgsuggests some reasons why this continues to be such a successful match:
What types of franchises are involved with VetFran? Some of the sponsors that support this initiative include McDonald’s, Edible Arrangements, The UPS Store, TownePlace Suites Marriott, SportClips, and several others. This provides a wide array of options based on the interests of potential franchise owners.
Regardless of what type of franchise a VetFran chooses though, one of the great features of this site is that you can tell a lot about the different companies offering veterans franchise opportunities through VetFran simply by their STAR designation. For instance, if a franchisor has one STAR, this means that, in addition to passing their clean audit report and being in business at least two years, they also offer new veterans franchise owners at least 10 percent off the initial fee.
A five STAR Designation is the highest possible rating, noting franchises that have been in business at least five years, have at least 50 franchise units, and one Certified Franchise Executive on staff. Additionally, choose this type of franchise as a veteran and you can expect at least 20 percent off the initial fee.
If you’re a veteran or know one, or if you’re a franchise owner, visit the VetFran website to find out more about exploring franchise opportunities. In particular, the site offers a VetFran Toolkit to help veterans get started; just complete a short form to access it.
VetFran also offers other opportunities on their website, such as becoming a VetFran Mentor, which is someone who “assists a transitioning veteran with understanding the options available to them in the franchise sector.” This is just one more way to give back to those who’ve selflessly given to our country if you’re the type of person who wishes to do more. It’s also one more added value of VetFran, especially if you’re the veteran who would benefit from a little extra mentorship.