Turner wished to be part of a reputable company with less chance of failure than a standard start-up would have. So in November, he opened a Wireless Zone franchise near Capitol Hill.
“A good franchiser gives you all the tools you need to be successful, and you add your own hard work, determination and confidence,” he said. “Anyone who has been successful in the military understands that type of system.”
More than one million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will enter the workforce in the next five years. Rather than attempt to elbow their way into the tight job market, some veterans are pursuing franchising because it mimics the rule-based system they grew accustomed to in the military.
“Veterans opening franchises is becoming a popular trend,” said Joe Sharpe, economic director for the American Legion. “It seems like a good fit for them. It’s like starting a business that’s already been set up for you.”
Several new programs aim to entice veterans to the world of franchising. The International Franchise Association runs one called VetFran, which requires that parent companies give veteran franchisees their “best deal” possible — often resulting in thousands of dollars off the initial franchising fee. There are more than 450 companies participating, and at least 2,100 veterans have opened franchises through the program so far
Some companies go even further — the UPS Store recently announced it was giving away free franchises to 10 veterans who qualify. (Five have already been given out.) In February, CiCi’s Pizza announced it will waive the franchise fee and offer a 50 percent cut on royalty fees to all qualified veterans who open CiCi’s franchises and hire a veteran manager.
Franchising from the field
Nathan Sinclair performed tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan with the Marine Corps, but he intended to start his own company immediately after he returned. He saved up his earnings and began e-mailing with the franchise office of Pita Pit, a favorite fast-food joint of his, from his base in Afghanistan.
“They were really supportive of me -- they were helping me find a location and get all my financing for the fee,” Sinclair said. He opened his Pita Pit in Las Vegas on January 23, positioning himself strategically near the University of Nevada Las Vegas and its hungry students.
The financials differ, but opening a franchise generally involves paying an initial sum, ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands, to the parent company, as well as an ongoing yearly royalty.
Some opt to cover the franchise fee by taking out a loan, and the Small Business Administration’s Patriot Express loan program aims to reduce paperwork for veterans applying for business loans, including for franchises.