Program Helps Vets Own Franchises

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2007 - When he returned home from an 11-month deployment to Iraq in October 2005, Army Staff Sgt. John Reid realized he'd stashed away a sizeable sum of cash and wanted to put it to work for himself.

"I didn't want to waste it on a new car or something like that," said the New York National Guardsman, who spent five years on active duty before joining the Guard in 1989.

Instead, Reid decided to invest in his own business. He attended a franchise expo, ultimately buying a Glass Doctor franchise in Somerset, N.J. Only when the company flew him to Waco, Texas, for an orientation did Reid learn about one of the best-kept secrets for veterans who dream of opening their own business: the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative.

Known as "VetFran," the program offers financial incentives to veterans interested in owning their own franchise. By purchasing his franchise through VetFran, Reid said, he saved about 10 percent of the franchise cost. "That gave me a little more start-up money," he said.

In addition to financial help, Reid said the program gave him another whole network of advisors to help him make his new business a success. "It's really helpful that I can call on them any time with any problems," he said. "That's an added benefit."

Reid is among more than 600 veterans who have taken advantage of VetFran to buy franchised small businesses since Don Dwyer Sr. of the Dwyer Group founded the program in 1991. VetFran lost momentum after Dwyer's death in 1994, but his daughter, Dina Dwyer-Owens, revived it after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Today, some 200 companies in the International Franchise Association participate in the program.

"VetFran was created to honor America's veterans for their service to the nation," said IFA President Matthew Shay. "We ... do it in a way that helps them continue to contribute to the nation's well-being by becoming small-business owners and operators."

Cmdr. Gary Martin-Ranft, a Coast Guard Reservist, recently took advantage of VetFran to buy a HomeVestors of America franchise in Chicago. The company, best known for its "We Buy Ugly Houses" advertising signs, specializes in buying, rehabbing and selling houses.

Martin-Ranft said he was always interested in real estate, and welcomed the opportunity to buy a real-estate franchise through a program that recognizes veterans. "I like to be loyal to people who are good to veterans," he said.

Former National Guardsman Alina Gutierrez, who bought a Glass Doctor franchise in Hamilton, N.J., said she, too, was happy to participate in a program that honors veterans. "I like that we are recognized for what we've done for our country," she said.

While honoring veterans for their service, VetFrank also attracts top-notch candidates as potential franchise owners, Shay said. "Veterans are highly desirable franchisee candidates, because their military training instills in them a strong sense of discipline, an ability to lead within a structured system and an unwavering belief in core values, which carries over well to the franchise business," he said.

Veteran Dan Windler, who bought a Rainbow International Restoration and Cleaning franchise in Imperial, Calif., through VetFran in 2003, said his service in the Marine Corps helped set him up to be a successful businessman. "We were taught from day one in the U.S Marine Corps that veterans make good leaders and business owners," he said.

Gutierrez, too, credited her military training, particularly experience she gained during her deployment in Iraq, for helping her succeed in business and in life. "My goal for the business is to give 100 percent and be the best that I can," she said. "It's not just about making money. It's about leading a better life."

VetFran is among a huge array of programs and services offered through corporations, grassroots organizations and private citizens in support of the men and women in uniform and veterans of the U.S. military. These initiatives are highlighted in the Defense Department's America Supports You program.

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