Helping Veterans Become Franchisees

With the help of a new program, this Naval vet was able to buy his dream franchise.

By Devlin Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After researching franchises for a while, Steven Sellner figured out he wanted to invest in some type of mobile service. An Internet search led him to Expetec Technology Services, a mobile computer repair franchise. "I have such a big interest in computers--all my free time was spent working on computers in one way or another--so it was a great idea," Sellner says.

His interest piqued, Sellner contacted Expetec for more information. The franchise representative asked Sellner if he was a veteran. The 49-year-old had indeed served four years active duty in the Navy, working as an electronics warfare operator at Pearl Harbor, which made him eligible for the VetFran program.

VetFran, the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, was relaunched this year to help veterans acquire franchises. The program, supported by the International Franchise Association and the SBA, keeps the veteran's cash investment at about 10 percent of the initial investment for the franchise. Since the relaunch, Sellner is the first veteran to use the program to purchase a franchise.

Currently, about 70 franchises with initial total investments of $150,000 or less are participating in VetFran. To qualify, potential franchisees must be honorably discharged veterans and meet requirements set out by the franchisor. As in Sellner's case, a long military career is not necessary.

"I was very pleased to learn that, even with my short military experience, I was still able to participate in the program," says Sellner, who joined Expetec in August 2002. "It was a great opportunity...and a surprise."

Because of the reduced franchise cost granted him by VetFran, Sellner could afford a larger territory for his Honolulu-based Expetec franchise. And working with VetFran didn't complicate his franchise purchasing process. "The VetFran program was pretty much integrated into that process and invisible to me," he explains. "Expetec took care of all the requirements."

Now happily providing computer repair services through his homebased franchise, Sellner sees franchising as a good fit for many veterans. "Franchising is not just something you just jump into and, if you don't like it, try something else," he says. "Starting a franchise is a big commitment, and people who have been in the military are prepared for that type of situation."

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