Franchise program lets vets take aim at business success

"It's been tough and it's been a learning experience from day one," White said of business at his Cartridge World outlet off Bruceville Road. "The sky's the limit. It took time to build up word of mouth, but it's not as scary now. I expect things to go well." White, who lives in Elk Grove, bought the ink cartridge refill franchise in 2006…

http://www.sacbee.com/
May 7, 2010

Franchise program lets vets take aim at business success
Darrell Smith

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Stanley White works last month at the Cartridge World franchise in Elk Grove he bought with the help of the International Franchise Association's VetFran program. MICHAEL ALLEN JONES / moc.eebcas|senojm#moc.eebcas|senojm

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Stanley White looks around his small storefront and considers himself fortunate.

Business is difficult in a struggling economy, but the one-time U.S. Army soldier knows he likely wouldn't have achieved his dream of running his own business if not for a program to bring more military veterans into franchise ownership.

"It's been tough and it's been a learning experience from day one," White said of business at his Cartridge World outlet off Bruceville Road. "The sky's the limit. It took time to build up word of mouth, but it's not as scary now. I expect things to go well."

White, who lives in Elk Grove, bought the ink cartridge refill franchise in 2006 with the help of the International Franchise Association's VetFran, or Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative. Start-up costs begin at $30,000, but VetFran partner Cartridge World offers veterans a 15 percent discount.

Relaunched after 2001's terrorist attacks, the program by the Washington, D.C.-based trade group for franchisers and franchisees is part of a nationwide campaign to encourage veterans to purchase franchise businesses once they leave military service.

"Running a business takes dedication, focus and discipline. That, you learn by serving your country in the military," said Alisa Harrison, a franchise association spokeswoman.

The group offers incentives to would-be franchisees, from training to discounts on franchise fees.

Military veterans returning to private life in an uncertain economy are turning in greater numbers to VetFran.

Some are enticed by a proven business model, others to the access to capital and marketing services a franchiser can offer, according to the franchise association.

"That's where a franchise is beneficial," White said. "It still doesn't guarantee you won't go out of business, but it's definitely a huge help."

White just wanted to start over.

On paper, his past life was a good one. A young husband and father with a promising and lucrative career in insurance sales, he was earning north of $100,000 by age 30.

But the veteran knew he was missing something. He wanted to spend more time with his family and less time on the road and he was itching to run his own business.

By the time White bought his franchise in 2006, veterans had purchased more than 600 franchises using VetFran's incentives since the 2001 relaunch, the association said.

That number has climbed rapidly over the last five years. By early 2010, veterans had purchased nearly 1,800 franchises through the program with another 250 deals in negotiation.

"Lending to small businesses is really tight. There's no lack of qualified prospects, but it's difficult to access capital," Harrison said. "This demonstrates the importance of VetFran. The need is there."

And, more businesses are joining the fold, too. Nearly 400 companies from AAMCO transmissions to Cinnabon to PIP Printing participate in the program, compared with about 200 companies in 2006.

The franchise association hopes to encourage even more veterans to own franchises and they have taken their message to Congress.

A bill called the Help Veterans Own Franchises Act, co-written by U.S. Reps. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, and Aaron Schock, R-Ill., would offers a tax credit to businesses that offer discounted franchise fees to qualified veterans. The bill is still being considered in the House Ways and Means committee.

The credit would amount to half of the discount capped at $25,000 per franchise unit.

As for White, the franchise life continues to suit him well.

"I work harder here, but I'm able to coach youth football, go home for lunch," he said. "Things tend to fall in place for me by sheer luck. No one's going to mistake me for a Fortune 500 company, but I'm happy."

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