IFA Helps Veterans Impact the Franchising Community

Veterans may only be 5 percent of the population but they are a whopping 14 percent of franchisees.

By George Eldridge
The primary mission of VetFran is to assist qualified IFA members, support outreach efforts, facilitate educational events and conduct ongoing national outreach of the VetFran message. VetFran offers webinars to educate members on how to best utilize the program, develop and maintain partnerships with Veteran Services Organizations (VSOs), and government agencies. This will help to better leverage existing outreach resources for hiring and recruiting veterans into the franchise industry. 
VetFran currently has more than 600 member companies. To be  involved, a company must be an IFA member that offers at least a 10 percent discount off of the initial franchise fee for qualified veterans. VetFran instituted a qualification program (the star program) that categorizes all VetFran members into three categories; 1-Star, 3-Star and 5-Star. (See examples of various 5-Star VetFran members starting on page 43.)
The strategic objectives are to build a program that operates systematically to manage all content development and daily workflow to partner organizations and participating companies, and to achieve and maintain national veteran outreach through website engagement, online educational resources, financial support, social media and events.  
Founded in 1991, VetFran offers discounts and incentives for veterans to become franchise owners and find employment opportunities. VetFran is also a media-generating tool, and is currently developing the infrastructure needed to meet the growing demand for educational and financial support for veterans and their spouses entering the franchise industry. As a result, the VetFran committee is developing a five-year strategic plan to implement a coordinated and effective program for veterans and VetFran members.  
At the forefront of the program is the aim to educate as many veterans as possible about the opportunities of small-business ownership through franchising. Educational programs are provided through the partnership with VSOs and other organizations that seek to provide veterans with career alternatives. Here are some examples.
The Military Officers Association of America hosts a networking event for enlisted members and officers in Washington, D.C. for approximately 1,000 veterans that offers opportunities to connect with entrepreneurs. There is a panel that consists of veteran business owners and features at least one franchisee to share the business model perspective with the audience.  The event also affords countless opportunities for informal discussions with franchisors and franchisees alike.  
The Service Academy Career Conference hosts four hiring fairs annually, located in San Antonio, Texas San Diego, Calif., Savannah, Ga. and Washington, D.C. The D.C. event is the largest as it attracts nearly 1,000 officers and the other locations attract around 400 officers. On the day before the job fair, a franchising panel consisting of two to four franchisees provides an opportunity to talk with prospective franchisees in a more relaxed atmosphere. Franchisors also host a roundtable to answer questions from other prospective franchisees. 
VetFran is currently working with the Hiring Our Heroes program within the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Hiring Our Heroes hosts more than 12 summits which consist of two days of programs designed to assist veterans in finding their next career path. VetFran and Hiring Our Heroes are working on the opportunity to offer a franchising panel or a roundtable workshop at these summits to expose veterans to another possibility after their military service.  These summits are hosted at very large bases and are often attended by more than 1,000 veterans of all ranks.  
VetFan seeks to develop new partnerships in this effort and asks for your involvement in this program. According to past studies, veterans are approximately 14 percent of franchisees while only five percent of the population. Many of these men and women have the skills needed to be great franchisees but many do not know about the opportunities that await them in franchising.  
George Eldridge is Manager of IFA’s VetFran Program and a member of the U.S. Air Force.