Franchisors Look to Veterans in Economic Upturn

By Joel Goldstein, marketing director at MFV Expositions

Business may have taken a hit during the recession, but there are signs of recovery for franchising. The number of franchised establishments is expected to increase by 2 percent in 2010. This bodes well for veterans seeking a business opportunity, especially since investing in a franchise is a smart way to access finance and capital after returning home from service. More than 14 percent of businesses in America are veteran-owned, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Veterans know how to be effective leaders, but they also know how to thrive in a proven system. This combination makes veterans unique and desirable franchisees. And with thousands of men and women transitioning out of the armed services every year, several franchises upped their ante when it comes to attracting vets.

Many of these franchises will be present at the West Coast Franchise Expo - the largest franchise event in the West that brings together hundreds of franchise companies along with thousands of highly qualified candidates. Taking place Nov. 5 to 7 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, it's a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with franchise representatives and take advantage of the 30-plus informational seminars available. On Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the WCFE will host "Franchising 101 for Veterans." This free seminar will include specific information about the basics of franchising, financial opportunities available through the Small Business Administration's loan program, as well as discussions from veteran franchisees.

Many of the exhibitors present at the WCFE are members of VetFran, a program sponsored by the International Franchise Association. Established after the Gulf War by the late Don Dwyer Sr. - founder of The Dwyer Group - the VetFran Program gives U.S. military veterans a discount towards the purchase of a franchise. Today, VetFran includes more than 400 franchisors that offer financial incentives to veterans. Most importantly, more than 1,500 veterans now own a franchise through the VetFran program.

One VetFran member is Express Employment Professionals, the nation's largest privately held staffing company. The franchise offers a 25 percent reduction in its franchisee fee to military veterans who qualify for an Express franchise. Express offers new franchise owners the unique chance to earn money by helping people grow their careers and businesses while impacting their local community. Patrons can find Express Employment Professionals at booth No. 100 at the WCFE.

In addition to these discounts, there are other ways veterans can finance a new business. Not only are more franchise companies providing in-house financing for startup investment due to tightening lending practices, but SBA guaranteed loans are a good way to fund a franchise unit. The SBA also has a resource called The Franchise Registry, which is a preapproved listing of franchises - allowing for a more streamlined loan process for potential franchisees.

With WCFE 2009 welcoming the most veterans yet, turnout in 2010 is expected to top those numbers. As a way of saying thank-you, all veterans will receive free admission to WCFE this year with a military ID. MFV Expositions will donate 10 percent of all admissions to California's Welcome Home - an initiative through the state's Department of Veterans Affairs that helps veterans obtain employment, education and housing benefits when they return home.