WASHINGTON — Along with First Lady Michelle Obama, Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter Corp. and chairwoman of the International Franchise Association’s VetFran Committee, announced “Operation Enduring Opportunity.”
With veteran unemployment rates of 11.7%, the IFA launched this campaign to offer returning veterans career paths in franchising. It includes the commitment of the franchising industry’s more than 825,000 franchise establishments to hire and recruit 75,000 veterans and 5,000 wounded warriors by 2014.
“Having the support of The White House to recognize our military members, create jobs and establish franchised businesses in communities sends a huge message for the will and determination of this country,” Thompson said. “Through Operation Enduring Opportunity, we’re encouraging franchise businesses to offer jobs and career opportunities to veterans, wounded warriors and their families.”
Veterans have a proven track record of success in franchising. Thompson, for example, served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, achieving the rank of captain. After retiring from the service, she became a successful multi-unit franchise owner of Cookies By Design before becoming the franchisor’s president.
In 2006, Thompson became president of Mr. Rooter Corp., a subsidiary of The Dwyer Group Inc. Its late founder Don Dwyer Sr. started the VetFran Program to thank veterans returning from the first Gulf War by offering them financial incentives.
His daughter and chairwoman and CEO of The Dwyer Group, Dina Dwyer-Owens, revamped the program after 9/11. Since the VetFran’s inception in 1991, more than 2,100 veterans have become franchise business owners. There are more than 400 participating franchising companies.
“The men and women who protect the very freedom by which we do business have proven that they are the kind of leaders for those businesses as well,” Dwyer-Owens said. “We will continue to thank them through VetFran, helping to provide a transition to civilian life with opportunities for business ownership that they deserve.”
Today, the program includes 428 franchise systems that voluntarily offer financial incentives to veterans seeking to become franchise small-business owners. According to a recent study based on U.S. Census data, there are more than 66,000 veteran-owned franchise establishments in the United States. They provide 815,000 jobs.
The goal of Operation Enduring Opportunity is to increase these numbers, offering veterans more employment and ownership opportunities on a broader scale in the franchising industry.
“This is exactly what we hoped for when Joining Forces was set into motion by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden — private sector companies stepping up for veterans and families,” said Captain Brad Cooper, U.S. Navy, and Executive Director of the White House Joining Forces Initiative. “The franchise industry’s commitment represents the largest employment commitment seen to date from the private sector.”
IFA member companies will be able to use the Joining Forces "Veterans Job Bank," a new search enhancement tool to enable franchise recruiting and hiring operations to more effectively reach veterans. The Administration, in collaboration with the Schema.org coalition (Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!) released a data standard that allows businesses to retain existing job posting preferences while enabling veterans to more effectively search for job opportunities.
The VetFran program is near and dear to the heart of Thompson, the new chairwoman of the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) VetFran Committee, as well as one of the faces of its new campaign.
“Helping veterans transition into entrepreneurship is a great way for us to tell them ‘thank you’ for serving our nation,” Thompson said. “I became accustomed to following systems in the military, and it’s helped me succeed in franchising — where systems are the foundation of success.”
With thousands of military servicemen and women returning to American soil, the VetFran Committee is promoting the VetFran Program like never before. They are lobbying for the Help Our Veterans Own Franchises Act, which establishes tax credits for franchising companies and veterans.
The IFA also offers its Certified Franchise Executive training through its newly created “Franchising for Freedom” program for returning service members at no cost. Participating franchisors and franchisees will train, mentor and support veterans and their families.
“We have the chance to make a difference in the lives of veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Thompson said. “After they fought to protect the American Dream we want to give them the opportunity to live that dream themselves by owning their own businesses.”
For more information on IFA’s VetFran program, please visit www.vetfran.com. For more information on Mr. Rooter, go to www.mrrooter.com.