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Are You a Veteran? These Franchises That Want You to Join Their Ranks. If you've served, these franchises are eager to help you launch a new business.

By Tracy Stapp Herold Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the November 2023 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Brian | Stock.Adobe.Com

Franchisors love veterans. They see them as ideal franchisees, thanks to veterans' built-in leadership skills, ability to follow prescribed systems, and determination to succeed. In fact, many franchisors seek to attract veterans — and thank them for their service — by offering them special incentives, usually in the form of a franchise fee discount.

Every year, we invite those franchisors to apply for our list of the top franchises for veterans, and this year we had almost 500 applicants. We narrowed that pool down by evaluating several factors, including their veteran incentives, how many of their units are owned by veterans, whether they hold any franchise giveaways or other contests for veterans, whether they have veterans on their leadership team, and more. We also considered each company's 2023 Franchise 500 score, which is based on an analysis of 150-plus data points in the areas of costs and fees, size and growth, franchisee support, brand strength, and financial strength and stability.

The result is our ranking of the top 150 franchises for veterans, which you'll find here. But we also went beyond the numbers and talked to four sets of veteran franchisees about their experiences with franchising: why they chose the brands they did, how their time in the military helped them succeed, and what advice they have for other veterans looking to follow their lead. Our list is not intended as a recommendation of any particular brand, so if you're considering buying a franchise, you'd be wise to talk to existing franchisees as well — along with reading the company's legal documents and consulting with an attorney and an accountant — to find out whether the opportunity is right for you.

Related: Why Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs

Image Credit: Courtesy of Erika Dario | Signal

Why They Opened a Signal Franchise

When Army veterans and brothers-in-law Zach Alsterberg and Will Serra opened their Signal (No. 21 on our list) security franchise in Anchorage, Alaska, in 2010, they were just 23 and 26. Thirteen years and a second location in San Antonio later, we asked them to share what they've learned.

How did you come to be Signal franchisees?

Serra: While working as a defense contractor in Afghanistan, I met a man who was becoming a Signal franchisee. He left a $10,000-a-month job to launch this franchise, so that really piqued my interest. Zach was just getting out of the Army, so we had a phone call and I asked him if he wanted to start a business.

Alsterberg: I think Will has been an entrepreneur at heart from a very young age. I have become one because of his support and thought process.

Will, you stayed in Afghanistan for a few more years?

Serra: Yes, I stayed in Afghanistan and was financing the business, but Zach had the rough end of the stick. How many days was it that you worked every day?

Alsterberg: It was over 420, 13 hours a night, seven days a week. That's what it took to build the team and get us out there.

How has your military experience aided your success?

Serra: I think the military inscribed in us a discipline and a hunger to succeed.

Alsterberg: And dedication to others. One of the things that made us successful is placing our clients' and our team members' needs above our own.

What advice would you give to other veterans considering franchise ownership?

Serra: People don't realize the level of sacrifice that is needed — but it's worthwhile because of the freedom.

Related: Military Veterans Joining the Ranks of Franchise Ownership

Image Credit: Courtesy of Northeast Florida Pet Nutrition, LLC

Why They Opened a Pet Supplies Plus Franchise

After F/A-18 pilot Brian Rolf retired from the Marine Corps in 2014 with an MBA earned from Naval Postgraduate School, he opened a Pet Supplies Plus (No. 67 on our list) with his father, Eric Rolf, in Atlantic Beach, Florida, in 2016. They've since opened three more stores. Brian explains his journey.

Why did you choose Pet Supplies Plus?

We liked the idea of the pet industry, and my family comes from a long line of grocers — and Pet Supplies Plus is set up more like a grocery model than a big-box pet store. Veterans appreciate structure and well-run organizations, and that definitely attracted me to franchising, but what specifically drew me to Pet Supplies Plus was that they also allow some creative license. They've got good support structure and training, but they also let you put that local spin on your store, because every market is different.

How has your military experience helped with running a franchise?

The leadership training and learning to deal with people in stressful situations has definitely helped me to build our teams within the stores. They probably all get tired of my military colloquialisms, like, "No good plan survives first contact with the enemy." The enemy could be anything from poor sales to competition moving in. Understanding that and being able to react and have contingency plans in place beforehand is definitely a military way of thinking, but it translates well to business.

What advice would you give to other veterans considering franchise ownership?

Take your time, have an idea of what your goals are, study and prepare, and realize your personal and financial constraints. Go in with eyes wide open and have some good mentors.

Related: 3 Tips for Hiring Veterans and How They'll Help Your Business Thrive

Image Credit: Courtesy of PJ'S Coffee of New Orleans

Why They Opened a PJ's Coffee of New Orleans Franchise

Marine veteran Bobby Mounts opened his first PJ's Coffee of New Orleans (No. 72 on our list) in Ruston, Louisiana, in July 2020, and is opening a second location in Monroe, Louisiana, next year. PJ's named him "Rookie Franchisee of the Year" in 2021 and "Franchisee of the Year" at their 2023 annual conference. Here's how it happened.

What's your background?

I was a Marine Corps reservist from 2000 to 2006. After that, I was a police officer for 14 years, but my wife and I decided it was time to get out.

Why franchising, and why PJ's?

I felt like I had the leadership skills and the discipline to be my own boss. I just didn't have the business skills— but I knew that could be taught by a good franchisor. We felt that a coffee shop would do well in our town, and I could tell right away after speaking with David Mesa [chief development officer of Ballard Brands, PJ's parent company] that PJ's was a veteran-friendly organization. He made me aware of their yearly franchise giveaway contest for veterans, and I ended up winning that year, so it really accelerated my timeline.

What was it like opening during the height of COVID?

It was scary. I'd already taken out bank loans and signed contracts, and then things were being shut down. I talked with David Mesa and he said, "Keep pushing, you're gonna be fine." He was a Marine, too, and he quickly became a mentor to me. So I took his advice and we kept pushing. I'm glad we did, because we were profitable from day one.

What advice would you give to other veterans considering franchise ownership?

Take the leap, have confidence in yourself and your leadership abilities, and you can do it.

Related: 7 Core Values That Make Military Veterans Great Entrepreneurs

Image Credit: Courtesy of Richie Services LLC

Why They Opened an Accelerated Waste Solutions Franchise

Amyra Richie just retired from the Navy after 20 years. Her husband Anthane has been in the Navy for 14 years — and counting. We talked to them about how they juggle military service, three kids ages 2 to 17, real estate investments, a podcast, and now a growing Accelerated Waste Solutions franchise (No. 116 on our list) in Chesapeake, Virginia.

What led you to franchising?

Anthane: We've been investing in real estate, and we started a podcast about it called Rich State of Mind. Through the podcast, we met a franchise facilitator.

Amyra: And he introduced us to about four franchises.

Why did you choose Accelerated Waste Solutions?

Anthane: The biggest thing we were looking for was the ability to remotely operate the business. Currently I'm on shore duty, so I have a lot more flexibility. The idea is before I go back to operational tour, we will have hired people to run the day-to-day.

We also liked that as a new franchisor, Accelerated Waste Solutions would be more open to input from franchisees. For example, I brought up the idea of, when we do apartment trash-outs, offering to also remove carpet for a $50 surcharge per room.

How has your military experience helped with running a franchise?

Anthane: Project management. We are great at looking at problems and figuring out how to maximize a situation.

What advice would you give to other veterans or active-duty military considering franchise ownership?

Anthane: Be strategic in what franchise you pick, because it has to fit your goals.

Amyra: Know it's going to be hard work. To be successful, you have to sacrifice.

Related: How Veterans Can Get Started in Franchising Today Through IFA's VetFran Program

Tracy Stapp Herold

Entrepreneur Staff

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.

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