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Date: 8/28/2016
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Marc Steiner and Robert Cresanti: Helping Vets Take The Lead

Finding an opportunity can be tough, but Virginians – and veterans, especially – are finding it through franchising.

More than 6,000 veterans or their spouses nationwide have become franchise business owners since 2011. This brings the total number of independent, veteran-owned franchises to over 66,000. More than 238,000 veterans and their spouses have found jobs in franchising in the past five years alone. The franchise industry is reducing veteran unemployment and increasing opportunities for former service members and their families.

This is important, and one of the reasons why the International Franchise Association launched a national “@OurFranchise” tour. By sharing our stories, we hope to communicate how to ensure franchising remains a robust part of local economies, and highlight the opportunity that franchising presents for military veterans.

It can be difficult to take off the uniform. Whether they’re discharging after a full tour or decades of active duty, veterans have to rebuild a career, basically from the ground up.

These returning men and women are armed with valuable skills, but many find it hard to earn acceptance in the traditional workforce here at home. Some veterans themselves do not realize how well their service prepared them for success in the private sector. For the nation’s wounded warriors, the challenges can be even greater.

That’s why the franchising industry has long been committed to welcoming uniformed veterans, providing jobs and fostering dreams of business ownership. More than 660 different franchise brands offer programs for veterans to become franchise owners through the International Franchise Association’s VetFran project.

These programs – usually run by veterans – are designed to help former military members apply their skills in a field that matches their interests and abilities.

There are options. Although the term “franchise” may be most familiar from the restaurant sector, franchising is a diverse, $944 billion industry. It employs 9 million Americans – over 287,000 Virginians – in work as varied as automotive repair, personal fitness, shipping, home maintenance, pet care and much more.

Franchise opportunities can be particularly attractive to veterans because of how this uniquely American business model works. The franchisor develops and promotes a brand concept, so franchise owners who launch their own locations start out ahead.

They operate within a proven system, gain marketing and advertising support, and can rely on the advice and encouragement of other owners pursuing a similar path.

As business owners, veteran franchisees bring fellow service members onto their payrolls and help them achieve their own post-military career goals.

They also train workers from entry-level on up. As our neighbors, veterans continue to give back – with greaterthan-average records of voting, volunteering and civic engagement.

Vital for all of us, franchises place veterans at the heart of our communities, right where they should be, as leaders, mentors and role models.