How VETFRAN Helped Me Become a Franchisee After 20 Years in the Military
Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric Stewart spent much of his life overseas in countries including Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Stewart traveled to these countries first over the course of five tours of combat duty in the U.S. Army, then as a government contractor. However, last year, he decided he was ready to open a business of his own. Here's how he decided that Window Genie was a right fit for him as a veteran.
Name: Eric Stewart
Franchise owned: Window Genie of Killeen, Texas
How long have you owned a franchise?
Since October 2014.
I didn’t want to go through the pains of reinventing the wheel. I was asked by a small business owner why I didn’t start my own business instead of paying all the money for franchising. My response was it took you 20 years to get where I currently am! The knowledge and support I receive from Window Genie headquarters is worth every penny.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
After serving 20 years in the military and retiring in 2008, I became a government contractor working overseas. After six years, I returned home in March 2014 and decided to open my own business.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Window Genie has a proven and solid business model that works and has received numerous prestigious awards through the years for their accomplishments. Through the VETFRAN program, Window Genie gives back to veterans by offering 15,000 extra households to your territory for free. Staff support from HQ is immeasurable, and includes some of the hardest working people I know that genuinely care about your success. I bought into a vision that I knew I could successfully manage while still maintaining a life for myself and my family.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I spent approximately $69,000 for the franchise fee for a protected territory, which included 123,000 households plus an additional 15,000 households free through the military discount and $25,000 for the equipment package. Not a bad deal for less than $100,000.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I talked to some of the current business owners and my business coach, Bruce Krebs of the Entrepreneur Source. Bruce never hesitated to apply his extensive business knowledge and advise me every step of the way, making my dreams a reality. Also, Cindy Watson, the vice president of the SBA and finance division of First Financial, worked very hard and was very encouraging through the process and the paperwork.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Staying on top of the administrative side of the business. Another challenge was developing the ability to look at mistakes as lessons and learning opportunities rather than simply a potential setback.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Do extensive research and talk to various business owners not just in the field you want to pursue. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and you’ll be surprised how many people will share the secrets of their success with you. Don’t worry about asking a “dumb question.” You don’t know the answer if you don’t ask the question.
What’s next for you and your business?
Purchasing more protected territories and become one of the most successful Window Genie franchise owners! Additionally, utilizing the “Windows 4 Wishes” charitable program to passionately give back to others in my community.