According to a study that was based on U.S census data and was conducted for the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation, U.S. military veterans own and operate almost 15% of franchise businesses. In the United States, more than 66,000 veteran-owned franchise businesses provide jobs for 815,000 people, generating in excess of $41 billion in GDP.

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Despite these numbers, the unemployment rate among veterans remains significantly higher than for the general population. In response to these rates, First Lady Michelle Obama announced in November 2011 the launch of "Operation Enduring Opportunity," a campaign to hire and recruit into the franchise industry 75,000 veterans and their spouses, and 5,000 Wounded Warriors, by 2014. The program is a joint effort between the International Franchise Association (IFA), the White House Joining Forces Initiative and other organizations.

International Franchise Association
The IFA is the largest and oldest organization in the world representing global franchising. Formed in the early 1960s when a group of entrepreneurs discussed concerns about the future of franchising, the IFA's mission is "to enhance and safeguard the business environment for franchisees and franchisors worldwide."

IFA members, which represent franchise companies in more than 300 different business format categories, are divided into three groups:

  • Franchisors – representing more than 70% of U.S. registered franchise companies in the U.S.;
  • Franchisees – more than 10,000 franchise owners from many U.S. major franchise systems; and
  • Suppliers – that provide products, services and assistance to franchise systems.

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As a result of an effort led by Chairman Don Dwyer, Sr. (USAF, Ret.), VetFran (Veteran Franchises) was founded by the International Franchise Association in 1991 to assist Gulf War veterans transition to the civilian economy. The program offers financial assistance, training, mentoring and industry support to service members interested in franchise career and ownership opportunities. Nearly 500 franchisor member companies voluntarily provide financial incentives and mentoring to prospective veteran franchise small business owners through the VetFran program.

Veterans often make ideal candidates for franchising businesses. According to VetFran, veterans are successful in franchising because:

  • Veterans develop strong leadership skill and a comprehensive understanding of teams and teamwork;
  • Military training emphasizes system implementation and the importance of following procedures with precision; and
  • Franchises provide training, and veterans have experience learning specific talents to carry out specific tasks, and are adept at learning and mastering new skills.

IFA's vice president of strategic initiatives and industry relations, Beth Solomon, cites the correlation between military experience and franchise ownership: "Success in franchising comes from following systems and procedures. It depends on operational excellence and team leadership. Those skills are very much in the training of service members."

Joining Forces
The White House Joining Forces program is a "comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned." The initiative aims to:

  • Bring attention to the unique needs of U.S. military families;
  • Inspire, educate and promote action from all sectors of society;
  • Showcase the dedication, experience and skills of U.S. service members and spouses; and
  • Improve connections between the U.S. public and the military.

With regard to employment, Joining Forces helps employers create military family-friendly workplaces, emphasizes the workforce potential, and increases employment and career development opportunities for veterans and military spouses.

On June 28, 2011 Joining Forces executive director Brad Cooper announced the new "VetFran Toolkit and Mentor Network." This program, a partnership between the IFA, The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is designed to promote access to franchise employment and ownership opportunities for U.S. veterans and military spouses. The VetFran Toolkit incorporates a Franchising 101 online class, a skills and attributes assessment, a finance evaluation, and partner links.

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Operation Enduring Opportunity
In partnership with the White House Joining Forces initiative, the International Franchise Association and franchised businesses have revitalized and expanded the VetFran program with Operation Enduring Opportunity. The OEO program has encouraged many franchisors to set company targets (such as hiring and recruitment goals) and to expand the discounts offered to veterans. In addition to discounts for expenses such as royalty fees, some franchisors have elected to waive their franchise fees entirely for veterans as part of the Operation Enduring Opportunity initiative.

"Our freedom has been ensured by our brave men and women in uniform," said Steve Caldeira, president and CEO of the International Franchise Association. "Now we need to ensure that they can fulfill their dreams and build successful careers in the civilian economy. That's why we are working hard each and every day to advance Operation Enduring Opportunity - for our veterans, for our economy and for our country."

Within the first six months of Operation Enduring Opportunity, more than 6,200 veterans began careers in franchising, including more than 4,000 new franchise business owners.

The Bottom Line
The White House Joining Forces initiative and the IFA's VetFran program assist veterans, military spouses and Wounded Warriors by promoting career and entrepreneurial opportunities. Through Operation Enduring Opportunity, many franchisors are offering financial incentives that help veterans enter the franchise industry. For example, In June the UPS Store announced it will again waive its $29,950 franchise fee for the first 10 veterans to sign a letter of intent. This is the second round of Operation Enduring Opportunity incentives offered by UPS, the first of which was offered in November 2011.

Specific incentives and opportunities can be viewed at the IFA's VetFran Directory at