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The 10 Most Popular Franchises for Military Veterans

Veterans have myriad opportunities for franchise success--often at special rates. Here's a look at some of the best options.
The 10 Most Popular Franchises for Military Veterans
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According to the SBA, about a quarter of the country's 23.5 million veterans are interested in starting or buying their own business. And franchises are eager to meet that demand through VetFran.

VetFran, or the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, was started during the Gulf War to help veterans become franchisees through financial incentives from franchisors. Since its relaunch after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, about 400 franchisors have joined the program, and more than 2,000 veterans have become franchisees as a result.

What makes franchises so eager to recruit veterans?

"For a franchisor, a veteran is an ideal franchisee," says Mark Siebert, CEO of franchise consulting firm iFranchise Group. "They're used to systems and structure, they're almost universally hard-working and they're willing to follow the rules."

On these pages, you'll find information on the 10 franchisors most popular with veterans, based on the number of franchises sold to veterans according to the International Franchise Association's most recent survey (released in November).

This list should not be seen as an endorsement of any particular company. Don't let incentives or popularity keep you from doing your homework to find out whether a franchise is really right for you. That means carefully examining their literature and legal documents, consulting with attorneys and accountants and, of course, talking to existing franchisees. --tracy stapp

1. Matco Tools
Mechanics' tools & service equipment
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: 19
(800) 368-6651
Startup cost: $79.9K-188.6K
Incentive: Veterans receive $5,000 in inventory
Offered since: 2005
Veteran-owned franchises: 230 (out of 1,439)
Veteran leadership: Matco's president, Thomas N. Willis, was in the Army Infantry, serving two years of active duty. Michael Smith, VP of materials and engineering, spent four years in the Air Force.

2. The UPS Store/Mail Boxes Etc.
Postal, business & communications services
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: 46
(877) 623-7253
Startup cost: $150.98K-337.95K
Incentive: Veterans receive $10,000 off the franchise fee for a new store and 75 percent off the initial application fee
Offered since: 2003
Veteran-owned franchises: 122 (out of 4,741)
Supporting the troops: The UPS Store has locations on more than 25 Army,
Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps bases, including Fort Bragg, Camp Pendleton and Pearl Harbor, and the company hopes to expand to more military installations in the future.

3. Sport Clips
Men's sports-themed hair salon
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: 160
(512) 869-1201
Startup cost: $153.2K-276.9K
Incentive: Veterans receive up to $5,000 off the franchise fee
Offered since: 2004
Veteran-owned franchises: 70 (out of 683)
Supporting the troops: Sport Clips is the "Official Haircutter" of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and raised $400,000 last year for the VFW's Operation Uplink, which helps deployed and hospitalized military personnel call home via satellite phone.

4. Dunkin' Donuts
Coffee, doughnuts, baked goods
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: 15
(781) 737-3432
Startup cost: $358.2K-1.98M
Incentive: Veterans receive 20 percent off the franchise fee for up to five stores
Offered since: 2003
Veteran-owned franchises: 30 (out of 9,235)
Supporting the troops: Dunkin' Donuts holds a monthly drawing to select at least 50 troops serving overseas to receive a case of its famous coffee, and corporate employees send additional coffee to servicemen and women during the holidays. To date, the company has donated more than 175,000 pounds of coffee.

5. CruiseOne Inc.
Cruise & travel agency
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: 58
(800) 892-3928
Startup costs: $4.6K-26.3K
Incentive: Veterans receive 20 percent off the franchise fee
Offered since: 2005
Veteran-owned franchises: More than 90 (out of 721)
Notable franchisee: Mike Brill caught the travel bug more than 50 years before the 2007 opening of his Palm Springs, Calif.-based CruiseOne franchise when his first Air Force assignment took him to Japan.

6. Meineke Car Care Centers
Exhaust systems, shocks, brakes,struts, oil changes
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: 55
(800) 275-5200
Startup costs: $167.2K-398.2K
Incentive: Veterans who control at least 50 percent of the business receive 25 percent off the franchise fee
Offered since: 2003
Veteran-owned franchises: 30 (out of 919)
Notable franchisee: Meineke franchisee Brian Gadson, an Army veteran, became the 1,500th person to purchase a franchise under VetFran in 2009. Meineke hit a milestone of its own in the same year: providing $500,000 in discounts to veterans.

7. WIN Home Inspection Home inspections
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: NR
(800) 967-8127
Startup costs: $42K-66.1K
Incentive: Veterans receive 10 percent off the franchise fee
Offered since: 1994
Veteran-owned franchises: More than 50 (out of 186)
Notable franchisee: Army veteran Dennis Pelissero served in Vietnam in 1969. He later became one of the first to join WIN with the help of the VetFran incentive and is still going strong with the company today.

8. Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.
Heating, ventilation and air
conditioning services
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: 197
(800) 583-2662
Startup costs: $64.3K-183.9K
Incentive: Veterans receive 25 percent off the franchise fee
Offered since: 1991
Veteran-owned franchises: 57 (out of 174)
Veteran leadership: The late Don Dwyer, founder of Aire Serv and Army veteran, was the originator of the VetFran program. He was inspired to start helping veterans get into franchising when he saw men and women returning from the Gulf War with dreams of business ownership.

9. Mr. Handyman Int'l. LLC
Home maintenance and repairs
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: 334
(800) 289-4600
Startup costs: $91.5K-132.6K
Incentive: Veterans receive $2,500 off the franchise fee
Offered since: 2005
Veteran-owned franchises: 39 (out of 289)
Notable franchisee: Jo McCabe went from Aircraft Maintenance Officer in the U.S. Navy to home maintenance franchisee with Mr. Handyman in 2008. She was recently named Mr. Handyman's 2010 Franchisee of the Year and rewarded with a trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

10. Snap-on Tools
Professional tools and equipment
2011 Franchise 500 ranking: 24
(877) 476-2766
Startup costs: $17.9K-278.5K
Incentive: Veterans receive $20,000 off their initial inventory purchase
Offered since: 2004
Veteran-owned franchises: More than 246 (out of 4,491), with 43 opened in 2010
Veteran leadership: More than 100 members of Snap-on's management team served in the military, and in 2010 they hired one more--20-year Air Force veteran Jon Rucker--to oversee the company's military program. Rucker visits military bases and events to help educate personnel about transitioning to the civilian workforce.

Franchise Giveaways

Discounts are great, but nothing beats free. Some franchisors take their support for veterans to the next level.

In April, Yellow Dawg Striping announced its Operation Stripes for Veterans giveaway program. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans could post text, photos or videos on the company's Facebook page for a chance to win a free parking lot striping franchise worth $28,000.

Yellow Dawg isn't the first franchisor to highlight its commitment to veterans through such a promotion. In 2009, the Maid Brigade Veterans Franchise Giveaway waived the franchise fees for six finalists and included equipment, training and $27,500 in working capital for its top winner. The contest has ended, but the company still offers 25 percent off the franchise fee for qualified veterans.

Kitchen Tune-Up added three new veterans to its ranks with its 2010 Free Franchises for Veterans program. Thanks to its current incentive offering $5,000 off the initial franchise fee, veterans make up more than a fifth of the company's franchisees. 

 

Tracy Stapp Herold is the special projects editor at Entrepreneur magazine. She works on franchise and business opportunity stories and listings, including the annual Franchise 500.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the July 2011 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Incentives Abound.

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