26
Nov

How This Marine Veteran Found Inspiration From Tragedy

How This Marine Veteran Found Inspiration From Tragedy

How This Marine Veteran Found Inspiration From Tragedy

Image credit: Alex Wong | Getty

Dakota Meyer joined the Marines at the age of 17. His service took him from his self-described simple and conservative life in Kentucky to the war zone of Afghanistan, where his combat team was caught in a deadly ambush. Disobeying direct orders to stay out of harm’s way, Meyer raced into the fight, saving the lives of dozens of Marines and Afghan soldiers, and recovering the bodies of four of his fallen brothers. For those selfless actions, President Barack Obama presented him with the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2011.

Meyer now tours as a motivational speaker, advocates for veteran employment and has taken a full dive into the world of entrepreneurship. He currently runs two companies: Dakota Meyer Enterprises (construction and general contractor) and DM Tactical LLC (training for the federal government.)

Here are five lessons he’s learned during his incredible journey from Kentucky kid to Medal of Honor recipient to small-business leader.

1. You can find inspiration in your darkest hours.

“This medal is something I wish I never received. It represents the worst day of my life, but the attention that it got me made me want to do great things to honor the lives of my fallen brothers. After the ceremony, I experienced different parts of the world, experienced different types of people — it lit a fire in me to give me more confidence in myself and it showed me to make the most of every moment.”

2. You must be comfortable with risk.

“Being in the Marine Corps and doing the job I did, there is a lot of risk involved. It made me comfortable with risk. Being an entrepreneur is all about risk. Being an entrepreneur is like going to Vegas every day and shoving all of your chips into the middle of the table every single day. It doesn’t matter how big of a company you have, I always tell people that you are one job away from being broke. And if you don’t live that way, you’ll be broke.”

3. Surround yourself with people smarter than you.

“Business is just like sports: if you’re the best in the group that you run in, you’re never going to get any better. It’s the same thing in business. I surround myself with people who are smarter than me and have more experience than me, and I have gotten a lot of great advice. Mark Gross, CEO and founder of Oak Grove Technologies, which specializes in tactical training and intelligence services, has been an amazing help. He gives me straight scoop, and that’s what you need. He tells me this will work, this won’t, and that advice is amazing.”

4. Do yourself a favor and hire a veteran.

“Over the next year, there’s going to be 250,000 veterans getting out of the military. I think it’s crazy that people look at it like, ‘Oh, we need to give these men and women jobs.’ That’s crazy! As a business owner, I look at it like, ‘There’s only 250,000, if I don’t hurry up and hire as many of these people as I can get, I lose out.’ A veteran is a person who has proven themselves in an uncontrolled, unstable environment. That’s the kind of person I want on my team.”

5. If you don’t care, no one will.

“At the end of the day, no one is going to care about your company as much as you do. That is a motto that you will live or die by. And if you don’t believe that, just take your eye off the ball for a day and watch what happens. The only business owners that fail are the ones who gave up. You are going to be tested every day, every hour, every minute. You need to be up for that and you need to welcome that. And if you do, you will succeed.”

26
Nov

4 Ways This Veteran’s Military Background Helps Him Run His Business

4 Ways This Veteran’s Military Background Helps Him Run His Business

A marine and firefighter got a second career making others feel at home.
4 Ways This Veteran's Military Background Helps Him Run His Business

Image credit: Firehouse Subs

On Sept. 11, 2001, Bob Lepore, then a New Jersey firefighter, was one of the many first responders who went to help at Ground Zero. “One of the things that I learned is that life is short,” he says. “It’s not given to everybody.”

Even before that day, though, he was inspired by his years in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) to approach his work with a desire to help others.

From 1961 to 1968, Lepore fought in Vietnam as a member of the USMC. After the war, he spent nearly 35 years as a firefighter before becoming a sales executive for Starwood and Hilton hotels in South Carolina.

But it wasn’t until recently that Lepore was able to use his military experience in the entrepreneurial world. For the last two and half years, Lepore has been the franchise owner of a Firehouse Subs in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“I think my military experience gave me discipline, neatness, organization and probably a lot of my personality,” he says, “which all go hand in hand in running the business.”

Lepore says the opportunity to own a Firehouse Subs presented itself when he walked into a location shortly after his retirement from the fire service. “I looked around and everything felt like home,” he says.

A common thread for members of the military is an impulse to help others, Lepore says, and being involved with a company that makes that a priority allows him the chance to continue to support his neighbors. An integral part of the ethos of Firehouse Subs is the The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which provides support for the purchase of life-saving equipment, educational support for members of the military and disaster prep and relief.

Lepore, who will also host a Toys4Tots gift drive this holiday season through the restaurant, says “giving back to the community is part of me.”

Image Credit: Bob Lepore

Read on for Lepore’s four tips about how his military experience helps him oversee his business.

1. Timeliness
To be an effective marine and firefighter, you need to be organized.

Now, Lepore’s skills are now used in a slightly unexpected way. While running his franchise, he makes sure that the schedules of his college-age employees allow them to fit in all of their schooling.

2. Camaraderie
Lepore says that like in a military unit or a firehouse, one of his number-one priorities is building camaraderie amongst his staff. He looks to extend the same warm welcome to his employees he felt three years ago when he made his first move to become a franchisee. “I feel like I’m part of a family,” Lepore says.

3. Tidiness
Cleanliness is paramount in the military, and Lepore explains that Firehouse Subs has very specific guidelines for its uniforms and stores. “Keeping your equipment well maintained is no different than keeping your rifle or fire equipment well maintained,” he says. “It will save you time and money in the end.”

4. Chain of command
A consistent chain of command was something that Lopere says he always valued during the course of his career, and it was something that he wanted to implement when he became a business owner.

“All team members are taught a very specific structure from the beginning to avoid any miscommunication or confusion,” he says. “I do not overstep my general manager, nor do I allow my shift leaders to break the chain. I make this very clear to all employees so we maintain consistency in our day-to-day operations.”

26
Nov

20 Veteran’s Day Deals From Your Favorite Restaurants

20 Veteran’s Day Deals From Your Favorite Restaurants

Serving those who served with some free servings.
20 Veteran's Day Deals From Your Favorite Restaurants

Image credit: Shutterstock

To honor the service of veterans and active members of the armed forces, a number of restaurant chains this Friday will offer discounts and free meals to this segment of the population.

From Chipotle to iHop to Krispy Kreme, restaurants are showing their support on the holiday to all vets and active military personnel. Check out these 12 mouth-water restaurant deals.

1. Chipotle

Buy one entree item and get one free for any burrito, bowl, salad or tacos at Chipotle restaurants across the U.S. The offer is available from 3 p.m. to close — just remember to bring proof of service.

2. Denny’s

All active military personnel and veterans can “Build Your Own Grand Slam” — basically, all you can eat pancakes — on Nov. 11 from 5 a.m. to noon at Denny’s locations nationwide. Show your military ID to receive this offer.

3. iHop

Get a free stack of red, white and blue pancakes — three pancakes topped with blueberry, strawberry and whipped cream — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at participating iHop restaurants.

4. Red Lobster

By showing proof of service or military ID, vets and active military can receive a free appetizer or dessert on Nov. 10 and 11.

5. Sizzler

To honor U.S. vets and military, Sizzler will offer them a free lunch and beverage on Nov. 11.

6. Applebee’s

Here’s a deal you don’t want to miss. As part of its Thank You Movement, vets and active military can receive a completely free meal at Applebee’s on Nov. 11, with proof of service. They can also receive a $5 coupon that can be redeemed between Nov. 12 and Nov. 27.

7. BJ’s Restaurant

All vets and active military can enjoy a free entree under $12.95 on Friday. All you have to do is show your proof of service.

8. California Pizza Kitchen

This Friday, active military and veterans can select between any entree-size pizza, salad or pasta from California Pizza Kitchen’s special Veteran’s Day menu. To receive the special, you must come in uniform or present your military ID card.

9. Chevy’s Fresh Mex

From fajitas to burritos to tacos and more, vets and active military can enjoy a complimentary food item from Chevy’s special Veteran’s Day menu.

10. Golden Corral

This restaurant is offering veterans, retirees and active duty members a free sit-down “thank you” dinner on Monday, Nov. 14, from 5 to 9 p.m.

11. Hooters

At any Hooters across the country, veterans and active military members can enjoy a free meal from a special Veteran’s Day menu. To receive the special offer, show proof of service.

12. Krispy Kreme

Get your free coffee fix (and a donut!) at any participating Krispy Kreme locations. Simply identify yourself as an active military personnel or vet to enjoy this freebie.

13. Bob Evans

Head over to this restaurant chain, show your military ID and get a free entree from a special Veteran’s Day menu.

14. Longhorn Steakhouse

Score a free appetizer or dessert when you dine it at Longhorn Steakhouse. Veterans and their friends also receive 10 percent off their bills.

15. Baskin’ Robbins

We hope you’re hungry — for every ice cream scoop sold today, the dessert chain will donate 11 cents to United Services Organizations.

16. Outback Steakhouse

Vets and active military can enjoy a free Bloomin’ Onion and beverage today. That’s not all though — between now and Dec. 31, inactive and active military personnel and their families receive 15 percent off their meals.

17. Ruby Tuesday

Vets and active military can receive a free appetizer up to $10 today.

18. Buffalo Wild Wings

Veterans and active military get a free small order of traditional or boneless wings with a side of fries.

19. Olive Garden

Veterans and military can receive a completely free entree item off Olive Garden’s menu.

20. Cracker Barrel

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, swing by Cracker Barrel, show your military ID and score a free slice of Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake.

26
Nov

5 Tips for Veterans Thinking About Starting a Business

5 Tips for Veterans Thinking About Starting a Business

5 Tips for Veterans Thinking About Starting a Business

Image credit: The U.S. Army | Flickr

Maybe you’ve been thinking about going out on your own and starting a business. It’s a pretty daunting thought, yet people with military experience tend to make excellent entrepreneurs.

In fact, a 2011 study from the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy reported that veterans are about 45 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs than people with no active-duty military experience.  The most recent U.S. Census data from 2007 showed veterans owned about 2.4 million businesses that generated $1.2 trillion in receipts and employed 5.8 million people, proving that veterans make their mark on America long after their military service has ended.

Military veterans are organized, goal oriented, skilled and ready to take smart risks at the right times. Veterans not only have superior training, we have the confidence to generate fresh ideas and make connections to build valuable networks. More importantly, veterans have the resourcefulness to make do with minimal assets and the persistence to stick with it until we succeed. If you’re a veteran thinking about taking the plunge into small business ownership, there are plenty of advantages available to you. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Go with what you know.

Military service may have given you a solid foundation in a variety of fields, from computers and technology to communications, health care, operations and engineering. If you wonder how your military skills will translate into the civilian world, don’t worry. Your character, courage and integrity translate just fine.

If you’re interested in starting your own business, stick to your passions and go with what you know best. Translating your military resume to civilian needs is much easier when you’re in familiar territory. For example, squad leaders make excellent project managers, and veterans have come up with original product ideas based on field experience, from energy drinks to better performance gear.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

To survive, entrepreneurs have to fill a lot of roles, especially in the first years when a business is in the startup phase and growing rapidly. However, being everything to everyone isn’t always the way to get things done right. Know your strengths, and outsource the other tasks. For example, you may decide to do your own business development and execution, but outsource payroll, accounting, and back office work. Focusing on your strengths will make you more formidable, and knowing when to rely on outside help will lead to fewer pitfalls.

3. Seek advice from experts.

The American economy needs veterans to create businesses that solve real problems. Luckily, there are 100 hands reaching out to help you.  Counseling, mentoring, and training programs are available through VETbiz.gov and local Small Business Administration (SBA) offices at SBA.gov. Go to SCORE to find a mentor who can help you make good decisions right out of the gate, and apply for a course like Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. To learn about programs near you, check out the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at your local community college.

4. Find a need and fill it.

You can’t capitalize on an opportunity if you don’t realize it exists. Isolating and developing a business opportunity is the key to getting started, but how do you recognize one? Listen for the words “somebody should” in a conversation, such as “somebody should place pushcarts near the baggage claim at airports.” Somebody did, and they made money. Think of information gathering like a recon mission. Take the time to talk to people at all levels of an organization to find unmet needs. What is missing that these folks currently want or need? Be open to suggestions, whether it’s an idea for improved productivity or a new product feature. This is the best way to uncover opportunities and find the need that you can fill.

5. Make the most of financing for veterans.

As a military veteran, you can access special financing options to kickstart your business. Government-backed loans for small business provide additional security to lenders, so loan applications are more likely to be approved.

Microloans are another smart way to find funding. The SBA’s Microloan Program helps to fund startups with up to $35,000. The SBA Express Loan Program answers applications within 36 hours. The SBA also has programs with lower (or waived) borrower fees. Ask about SBA 7(a) loans (90% of all SBA financing), Cap Line, Veterans Advantage and Lift Funds.

If your credit is less than perfect, veteran status can open doors for finding loans with specialty lenders, credit unions, and community banks.

Vets have serious potential to leverage their experience and start viable ventures. From network development opportunities to special loan access, there are open doors that make entry into the world of entrepreneurship easier for those who have served. If you are a veteran with the drive to create something new using your unique skill set, what is holding you back?

26
Nov

Veterans Are Natural Born Entrepreneurs

Veterans Are Natural Born Entrepreneurs

Veterans Are Natural Born Entrepreneurs

Image credit: Shutterstock

Veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than nonveterans, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

And the agency estimates that about 2.4 million or 9 percent of all U.S. small businesses are veteran-owned, representing about $1 trillion in annual sales.

The SBA announced last month that it would extend fee relief on its popular 7(a) loan for amounts of $150,000 or less. The fee-relief program, originally slated to expire on Sept. 30, was extended one year.

“We owe a debt of gratitude and so much more to our service men and women, and veterans who are the cornerstone of small business ownership,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet in a prepared statement. “This fee relief will continue to help veteran business owners who grow their businesses, create jobs in their communities, and put their training and passion for our country to work in their neighborhoods.”

Many consider a veteran to be the perfect entrepreneur. The Fire and Adjust website noted 10 reasons why veterans make good entrepreneurs: confidence, self motivation, discipline, listening skills, determination, leadership, risk management, stress management, teamwork and focus.

Eddie Sell, an active fire captain in Long Beach, Calif., and the owner of Bellflower, Calif.-based Firehouse Chefs Food + Drink, represents one of the nearly 10 percent of U.S. entrepreneurs who went from servicemember to entrepreneur.

“I was very fortunate when I was in the Navy,” Sell tells me during a recent interview. “I was trained in the culinary arts and I was assigned to a high-profile position serving an admiral and other VIPs.”

“I loved what I did and always knew that I would one day own my own restaurant,” Sell adds. “I started with a catering business that eventually turned into Firehouse Chefs Food + Drink. It took a while but I was able to make my dream come true by staying focused on my goal and taking advantage of a special loan program.”

In the near term more than 250,000 servicemembers a year will transition into civilian life, according to the SBA. This means the economy will likely experience a significant increase in veteran-owned businesses.

The SBA helps entrepreneurs like Sell through its Small Business Development Center (or SBDC) program, providing management assistance to current and prospective small business owners. These centers offer one-stop assistance, including information and guidance, to individuals and small businesses in central and easily accessible branch locations.

“I know firefighting and cooking inside and out,” Sell says. “I did not know how to put a business plan together. The consultant at the SBDC worked with me for several months to put together a business plan to help me succeed with the restaurant and to get a bank loan.” What’s more, the agency arranged for the consulting services to be provided for free.

In September, Kauffman FastTrac, created by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, announced a free 10-week online entrepreneurship training program for veterans.

“Veterans possess some of the most important skills needed to become successful entrepreneurs,” said Michele Markey, vice president of Kauffman FastTrac. “Leadership experience, and the ability to calculate risk, manage teams and take initiative are invaluable characteristics of successful business owners.”

The following are some tips to help veteran entrepreneurs succeed in business:

1. Leverage military training.

Through their years in service, veterans learned valuable skills relevant to running a business, including confidence, self motivation, discipline, listening, determination, leadership, risk management, stress management, teamwork and focus.

Veterans should make the most of their acquired skills and treat them as a competitive advantage. While these skills no longer mean making decisions that amount to the difference between life and death, they can be enlisted to keep a business alive and thriving.

2. Set up a veteran-owned business.

These days diversity programs extend beyond aiding minority- and women-owned programs. Programs within large corporations and government agencies assist veteran-owned and disabled-veteran-owned businesses. Veterans should seek out local, state and federal certifications that give priority to veteran-owned businesses.

3. Check resources.

Other organizations assist veteran-owned businesses. Check local SCORE chapters and the Boots to Business website to find resources that aid veteran-owned businesses.

4. Seek out training.

Running a business is not easy. Programs such as the one offered by Kauffman FastTrac or Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses can be beneficial. Veterans can also inquire about other training opportunities by contacting local community colleges, SCORE and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

5. Network.

Being an entrepreneur is a lonely job. Apart from accruing business-development advantages from actively networking, veterans can receive valuable mentoring from other former servicepeople. Such relationships can be beneficial for dealing with business matters and challenges arising from having been in active service.

26
Nov

100 Veteran-Friendly Franchises

100 Veteran-Friendly Franchises

100 Veteran-Friendly Franchises

Image credit: Yasu & Junko/Trunk Archive

More than 5,600 veterans have become franchisees in the past four years, according to the International Franchise Association. That’s thanks in no small part to the organization’s VetFran program, through which some 650 member companies offer discounts, mentorship and training to veterans seeking to become business owners. The initiative has been a boon to the sector: Franchisors find that vets, with their leadership and teamwork skills and propensity for following a system, make ideal franchisees.

On the following pages, you’ll find our list of the top 100 franchises offering incentives for veterans, listed in order of their ranking in Entrepreneur’s 2015 Franchise 500®. We’ve included details on what each company offers, as well as information on the ways these franchises are honoring veterans and active servicemembers.

This list is not an endorsement of any particular franchise or veterans program. Before investing, read the company’s legal documents, consult with an attorney and an accountant and talk to knowledgeable franchisees about their experiences.

1. Anytime Fitness
Fitness center
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #2
Startup cost: $62.9K-$417.9K
Franchise fee: $18K-$35K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,869/36
Incentive: 20 percent
off franchise fee
anytimefitness.com

2. Subway
Subs, salads
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #3
Startup cost: $116.6K-$263.2K
Franchise fee: $15K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 43,916/0
Incentive: Franchise fee waived if opening on a military/government location; 50 percent off franchise fee if opening on nongovernment location but receiving government financing
subway.com

3. Supercuts
Hair salon
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #5
Startup cost: $113.9K-$233.8K
Franchise fee: $29.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,393/1,093
Incentive: $2,500 rebate on first-store franchise fee
regisfranchise.com

4. 7-Eleven
Convenience store
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #10
Startup cost: $37.6K-$1.1M
Franchise fee: $10K-$1M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 55,944/495
Incentive: 10 to 20 percent off franchise fee; special financing
franchise.7-eleven.com

5. Dunkin’ Donuts
Coffee, doughnuts, baked goods
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #11
Startup cost: $217.3K-$1.6M
Franchise fee: $40K-$90K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 11,460/0
Incentive: 20 percent off franchise fee for first five traditional restaurants
dunkinfranchising.com

6. Jan-Pro Franchising International
Commercial cleaning
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #12
Startup cost: $3.9K-$51.6K
Franchise fee: $2.5K-$44K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 7,849/0
Incentive: Up to 20
percent off franchise fee
jan-pro.com

7. Hardee’s
Burgers, chicken, biscuits
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #17
Startup cost: $1.3M-$1.9M
Franchise fee: $25K-$35K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,894/192
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
ckefranchise.com

8. The UPS Store
Postal, business and communications services
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #21
Startup cost: $167.8K-$353.6K
Franchise fee: $29.95K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 4,862/0
Incentive: $10,000 off franchise fee; 50 percent off initial application fee
theupsstore.com

9. Cruise Planners
Travel agency
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #22
Startup cost: $2.1K-$22.7K
Franchise fee:
$495-$10.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,071/1
Incentive: $1,000 off
franchise fee; $500
marketing credit; free training for second person; three months of website hosting and support
cruiseplannersfranchise.com

10. GNC Franchising
Vitamins and nutrition products
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #23
Startup cost: $190.9K-$321.5K
Franchise fee: $40K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,210/3,524
Incentive: 50 percent off first-store franchise fee
gncfranchising.com

11. Snap-on Tools
Professional tools and equipment
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #25
Startup cost: $159.7K-$316.3K
Franchise fee: $7.5K-$15K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 4,579/225
Incentive: $20,000 off startup inventory
snapon.com

12. Vanguard Cleaning Systems
Commercial cleaning
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #26
Startup cost: $10.9K-$35.8K
Franchise fee: $9.6K-$35.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,109/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
vanguardcleaning.com

13. Liberty Tax Service
Tax preparation, electronic filing
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #28
Startup cost: $58.7K-$71.9K
Franchise fee: $40K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,882/181
Incentive: 20 percent
off franchise fee; special financing
libertytaxfranchise.com

14. Papa John’s International
Pizza
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #30
Startup cost: $129.9K-$844.2K
Franchise fee: to $25K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,993/740
Incentive: Franchise fee waived; free set of ovens; reduced royalty for four years; $3,000 food-purchase credit
papajohns.com

15. ServiceMaster Clean
Commercial/residential cleaning, disaster restoration
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #31
Startup cost: $69.6K-$261.7K
Franchise fee: $31.9K-$67K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 5,021/10
Incentive: 15 percent off franchise fee
servicemasterfranchise.com

16. Papa Murphy’s
Take-and-bake pizza
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #32
Startup cost: $264.8K-$446.2K
Franchise fee: $25K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,369/119
Incentive: Discounted royalty fee
papamurphys.com

17. Matco Tools
Mechanics’ tools and equipment
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #33
Startup cost: $85.2K-$247.7K
Franchise fee: $5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,598/1
Incentive: $10,000 in inventory
gomatco.com

18. Auntie Anne’s Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels
Soft pretzels
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #34
Startup cost: $196.5K-$370.1K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,602/15
Incentive: $10,000 off franchise fee
auntieannes.com

19. Midas International
Auto repair and maintenance
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #35
Startup cost: $184.1K-$430.1K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,232/4
Incentive: Franchise fee waived
midasfranchise.com

20. Sport Clips
Men’s sports-theme hair salon
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #36
Startup cost: $168.3K-$326.5K
Franchise fee: $25K-$59.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,373/32
Incentive: 20 percent off franchise fee
sportclipsfranchise.com

21. Great Clips
Hair salon
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #37
Startup cost: $122.6K-$233K
Franchise fee: $20K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,694/0
Incentive: $5,000 off first-store franchise fee
greatclipsfranchise.com

22. The Maids
Residential cleaning
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #38
Startup cost: $98.6K-$126K
Franchise fee: $12.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,137/60
Incentive: $4,000 off franchise fee
maids.com

23. Edible Arrangements International
Sculpted fresh-fruit bouquets
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #40
Startup cost: $192.7K-$326.4K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,202/4
Incentive: $10,000 off first-store franchise fee
ediblearrangements.com

24. Miracle-Ear
Hearing instruments
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #41
Startup cost: $119K-$287.5K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,259/6
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
miracle-ear.com

25. Circle K
Convenience stores
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #42
Startup cost: $211.5K-$1.6M
Franchise fee: $25K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 5,201/3,255
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
circlek.com

26. CleanNet USA
Commercial cleaning
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #45
Startup cost: $9.8K-$97.95K
Franchise fee: $6.1K-$83K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,617/14
Incentive: 5 to 10 percent off franchise fee
cleannetusa.com

27. Snap Fitness
24-hour fitness center
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #47
Startup cost: $109.5K-$285.6K
Franchise fee: $25K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,316/125
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fee
snapfitness.com

28. Merry Maids
Residential cleaning
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #48
Startup cost: $60.5K-$185.9K
Franchise fee: $36.5K-$50.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,495/187
Incentive: 15 percent off franchise fee
merrymaids.com

29. Carl’s Jr. Restaurants
Burgers
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #49
Startup cost: $1.3M-$1.9M
Franchise fee: $25K-$35K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,257/238
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
carlsjrfranchising.com

30. Budget Blinds
Window coverings, window film, rugs, accessories
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #50
Startup cost: $89.2K-$187.1K
Franchise fee: $14.95K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,009/0
Incentive: Franchise fee waived
budget-blinds-franchise.com

31. Massage Envy Spa
Therapeutic massage and facial services
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #51
Startup cost: $413.7K-$960.9K
Franchise fee: $45K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,085/0
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fee
massageenvy.com

32. Fantastic Sams Hair Salons
Family hair salon
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #52
Startup cost: $136.1K-$246.1K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,122/2
Incentive: 25 percent off multi-unit franchise fee
fantasticsamsfranchise.com

33. Meineke Car Care Centers
Auto repair and maintenance
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #53
Startup cost: $200.1K-$466.4K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 973/2
Incentive: 50 percent off royalty fees for first six months
meinekefranchise.com

34. Cold Stone Creamery
Ice cream, sorbet
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #54
Startup cost: $261.1K-$404.5K
Franchise fee: $27K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,224/11
Incentive: 20 percent off franchise fee
kahalamgmt.com

35. Comfort Keepers
Home care
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #57
Startup cost: $83.1K-$114.4K
Franchise fee: $45K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 747/29
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
comfortkeepersfranchise.com

36. Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System
Commercial cleaning
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #60
Startup cost: $14.5K-$48K
Franchise fee: $11.3K-$37K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 7,996/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
coverall.com

37. Firehouse Subs
Subs
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #61
Startup cost: $128.8K-$1.2M
Franchise fee: $20K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 870/31
Incentive: $2,000 off first-store franchise fee
firehousesubs.com

38. Home Instead Senior Care
Nonmedical senior care
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #62
Startup cost: $102.3K-$117.9K
Franchise fee: $48K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,042/2
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
homeinstead.com

39. Chem-Dry Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning
Carpet, drapery and upholstery cleaning; tile and stone care
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #63
Startup cost: $11.3K-$141.5K
Franchise fee: $20.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,564/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
chemdryfranchise.com

40. Cinnabon
Cinnamon rolls, baked goods, coffee
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #65
Startup cost: $180.1K-$387.5K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,245/1
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fee
cinnabon.com

41. Express Employment Professionals
Staffing, HR solutions
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #66
Startup cost: $120K-$196K
Franchise fee: $35K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 725/0
Incentive: 50 percent off franchise fee
expressfranchising.com

42. Eye Level Learning Centers
Supplemental education
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #68
Startup cost: $75.6K-$139.1K
Franchise fee: $20K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 573/741
Incentive: 50 percent off franchise fee
myeyelevel.com

43. Wingstop Restaurants
Chicken wings
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #70
Startup cost: $192.3K-$688.4K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 787/19
Incentive: $15,000 off first-store franchise fee
wingstop.com

44. Sign-A-Rama
Signs
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #71
Startup cost: $96.6K-$248.5K
Franchise fee: $49.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 961/0
Incentive: 10 to 50 percent off franchise fee
signaramafranchise.com

45. Batteries Plus Bulbs
Batteries, light bulbs, related products
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #72
Startup cost: $215.1K-$389K
Franchise fee: $37.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 614/46
Incentive: $10,000 off franchise fee
batteriesplus.com

46. Choice Hotels International
Hotels
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #74
Startup cost: $88.1K-$13.2M
Franchise fee: $10K-$60K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 6,372/0
Incentive: Development loans
choicehotelsfranchise.com

47. Mac Tools
Automotive tools and equipment
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #77
Startup cost: $86.2K-$240.3K
Franchise fee: $3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 844/6
Incentive: $10,000 off startup inventory
mactools.com

48. Moe’s Southwest Grill
Southwestern food
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #78
Startup cost: $368.9K-$915.7K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 607/4
Incentive: $10,000 off franchise fee
moes.com

49. Smoothie King
Smoothies, health products
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #79
Startup cost: $181.1K-$422.95K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 702/22
Incentive: 20 percent off franchise fee
smoothiekingfranchise.com

50. Hungry Howie’s Pizza & Subs
Pizza, subs, bread, wings, salads
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #80
Startup cost: $239.7K-$472K
Franchise fee: $25K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 533/18
Incentive: 50 percent off franchise fee
hungryhowies.com

51. FastSigns International
Signs, graphics
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #81
Startup cost: $164.8K-$299.9K
Franchise fee: $37.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 587/0
Incentive: 50 percent off franchise fee; 50 percent off first-year royalty and ad royalty fees
fastsigns.com

52. Cellairis Franchise
Cell-phone and wireless-device accessories and repairs
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #82
Startup cost: $56.9K-$406.8K
Franchise fee: $7.5K-$30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 577/32
Incentive: 20 percent off franchise fee
cellairis.com

53. Anago Cleaning Systems
Commercial cleaning
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #83
Startup cost: $10.5K-$65.6K
Franchise fee: $4.6K-$32.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,377/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
anagocleaning.com

54. Rita’s Italian Ice
Italian ice, frozen custard
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #84
Startup cost: $140.5K-$414.2K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 597/0
Incentive: 50 percent off franchise fee
ritasice.com

55. Mathnasium Learning Centers
Math tutoring
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #86
Startup cost: $90.8K-$137.6K
Franchise fee: $40K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 666/11
Incentive: 40 percent off franchise fee for active-duty military; 25 percent off franchise fee for veterans three years post discharge
mathnasium.com

56. Kona Ice
Shaved-ice truck
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #87
Startup cost: $114.1K-$129.4K
Franchise fee: $15K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 667/10
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
kona-ice.com

57. Molly Maid
Residential cleaning
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #88
Startup cost: $85.8K-$131.3K
Franchise fee: $14.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 647/0
Incentive: $6,000 off franchise fee
mollymaid.com

58. Proforma
Printing and promotional products
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #89
Startup cost: $4.7K-$50.2K
Franchise fee: to $29.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 702/0
Incentive: Franchise fee waived; customized marketing kit
onlyproforma.com

59. Weed Man
Lawn care
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #91
Startup cost: $68.5K-$85.5K
Franchise fee: $20K-$33.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 563/0
Incentive: 25 percent off franchise fee
weedmanfranchise.com

60. Marco’s Franchising
Pizza, subs, wings, cheese bread
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #95
Startup cost: $207.8K-$530.8K
Franchise fee: $25K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 600/0
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fee
marcosfranchising.com

61. Pop-A-Lock Franchise System
Mobile locksmith and security services
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #96
Startup cost: $100.4K-$135K
Franchise fee: $15.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 511/3
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee; special training program
popalock.com/franchising.php

62. Cartridge World
Ink and toner cartridges, printers, printer services and supplies
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #97
Startup cost: $68.8K-$150.8K
Franchise fee: $50K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,063/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
cartridgeworld.com

63. CertaPro Painters Ltd.
Residential and commercial painting
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #101
Startup cost: $129K-$161.5K
Franchise fee: $52.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 472/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee; preferred in-house financing
ownacertapro.com

64. Bricks 4 Kidz
Lego-engineering classes, camps, parties
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #102
Startup cost: $33.8K-$51.1K
Franchise fee: $25.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 649/1
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
bricks4kidz.com

65. Goddard Systems
Preschool/educational child care
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #105
Startup cost: $704.7K-$880K
Franchise fee: $135K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 428/0
Incentive: $20,000 off franchise fee
goddardschoolfranchise.com

66. Rent-A-Center
Rent-to-own furniture, electronics, computers, appliances
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #106
Startup cost: $355.4K-$582.2K
Franchise fee: $35K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 109/2,764
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fee
rentacenterfranchising.com

67. Pillar To Post Home Inspectors
Home inspections
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #109
Startup cost: $33.2K-$42.6K
Franchise fee: $17.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 463/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
pillartopost.com

68. Carvel
Ice cream, ice-cream cakes
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #110
Startup cost: $249.3K-$381.1K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 445/0
Incentive: $10,000 off franchise fee
carvel.com

69. Menchie’s
Self-serve frozen yogurt
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #111
Startup cost: $218.3K-$385.2K
Franchise fee: $40K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 495/1
Incentive: $10,000 off franchise fee
menchies.com

70. Home Helpers/Direct Link
Medical/nonmedical personal care
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #112
Startup cost: $65.8K-$106K
Franchise fee: $44.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 628/0
Incentive: $2,000 off franchise fee
homehelpershomecare.com

71. Novus Glass
Auto glass repair and replacement
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #113
Startup cost: $46.8K-$229.5K
Franchise fee: $14.99K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,627/17
Incentive: $3,000 off franchise fee
novusfranchising.com

72. American Leak Detection
Concealed water, gas and sewer leak-detection
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #115
Startup cost: $76.8K-$259.6K
Franchise fee: $29.5K-$120K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 365/28
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fee
americanleakdetection.com

73. Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services
In-home tutoring
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #116
Startup cost: $32.6K-$56.6K
Franchise fee: $19.8K-$39.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 390/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
clubztutoring.com

74. Cost Cutters Family Hair Care
Family hair salon
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #118
Startup cost: $88.5K-$182.1K
Franchise fee: $29.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 394/268
Incentive: $2,500 rebate on first-store franchise fee
regisfranchise.com

75. Pita Pit
Pita sandwiches
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #123
Startup cost: $187.5K-$314.98K
Franchise fee: $25K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 489/14
Incentive: 20 percent off franchise fee
pitapitusa.com

76. AAMCO Transmissions and Total Car Care
Transmission repair and car care
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #124
Startup cost: $227.4K-$333K
Franchise fee: $39.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 671/0
Incentive: $8,000 off franchise fee
aamcofranchises.com

77. N-Hance
Wood floor and cabinet refinishing
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #125
Startup cost: $24.3K-$131.98K
Franchise fee: $15K-$53.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 380/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise-fee down payment
nhancefranchise.com

78. Right at Home
Home care, medical staffing
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #126
Startup cost: $78.2K-$131.7K
Franchise fee: $47.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 476/1
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
rightathomefranchise.com

79. HomeVestorsof America
Home buying, repair and selling
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #127
Startup cost: $42K-$347.3K
Franchise fee: $16K-$55K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 587/0
Incentive: $1,500 to $5,000 off franchise fee
homevestors.com

80. Del Taco
Mexican/American food
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #136
Startup cost: $847.7K-$1.8M
Franchise fee: $35K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 243/304
Incentive: 50 percent off franchise fee; reduced royalty fee for two years
deltaco.com

81. Coffee News
Weekly newspaper distributed at restaurants
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #137
Startup cost: $9.3K-$10.3K
Franchise fee: $6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 785/5
Incentive: Three-year zero percent financing for second through fifth units
coffeenews.com

 

82. Griswold Home Care
Nonmedical home care
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #138
Startup cost: $98.5K-$121.2K
Franchise fee: $49.5K-$54.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 208/11
Incentive: 5 percent off first-territory franchise fee
griswoldhomecare.com

83. Schlotzsky’s
Sandwiches, pizza, salads
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #141
Startup cost: $503.8K-$786.98K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 312/38
Incentive: $10,000 off franchise fee
schlotzskys.com

84. EmbroidMe
Embroidery, screen printing, promotional products
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #143
Startup cost: $93.7K-$246.5K
Franchise fee: $49.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 460/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
discoverembroidme.com

85. Great American Cookies
Cookies
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #145
Startup cost: $183.2K-$316.7K
Franchise fee: $35K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 344/0
Incentive: 25 percent off first-store franchise fee
greatamericancookies.com

86. Steamatic
Insurance/disaster restoration, cleaning, mold remediation
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #146
Startup cost: $112.5K-$168.7K
Franchise fee: $15K-$40K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 361/0
Incentive: 25 percent off franchise fee
steamatic.com

87. Lawn Doctor
Lawn, tree and shrub care; mosquito and tick control
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #147
Startup cost: $81.5K-$99.99K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 508/0
Incentive: $15,000 off franchise fee
lawndoctorfranchise.com

88. Real Property Management
Property management
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #148
Startup cost: $56.6K-$99.9K
Franchise fee: $20K-$40K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 272/0
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
realpropertymgt.com

89. Wild Birds Unlimited
Bird-feeding supplies and nature gift items
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #149
Startup cost: $123.3K-$192.1K
Franchise fee: $25K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 288/0
Incentive: 15 percent off franchise fee
wbu.com

90. CruiseOne
Travel agency
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #150
Startup cost: $3.2K-$21.9K
Franchise fee: $495-$9.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,000/0
Incentive: 20 to 40 percent off franchise fee; training fee waived for first veteran/military spouse associate, reduced by 50 percent for additional veteran/military spouse associates
cruiseonefranchise.com

91. Fish Window Cleaning Services
Window cleaning
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #154
Startup cost: $78.2K-$139.7K
Franchise fee: $30.9K-$54.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 305/1
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
fishwindowcleaning.com

92. U.S. Lawns
Commercial grounds care
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #155
Startup cost: $32.8K-$79.3K
Franchise fee: $22K-$32K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 267/0
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fee; special financing
uslawns.com

93. Tutor Doctor
Tutoring
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #156
Startup cost: $62.5K-$100.7K
Franchise fee: $39.7K-$54.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 429/0
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fees of $44,700-plus
tutordoctoropportunity.com

94. Big O Tires
Tires, tire services, auto products
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #158
Startup cost: $258.2K-$1.2M
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 381/12
Incentive: Franchise fee waived
bigofranchise.com

95. McAlister’s Deli
Sandwiches, salads, baked potatoes
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #161
Startup cost: $579K-$1.5M
Franchise fee: $35K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 281/46
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fee
mcalistersdelifranchise.com

96. Which Wich Superior Sandwiches
Sandwiches
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #162
Startup cost: $195K-$488.8K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 293/4
Incentive: $10,000 off first-store franchise fee
whichwich.com

97. Two Men and a Truck International
Moving services
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #164
Startup cost: $178K-$555.5K
Franchise fee: $50K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 281/2
Incentive: 10 percent off franchise fee
twomenandatruckfranchising.com

98. BrightStar Care
Medical/nonmedical home care, medical staffing
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #165
Startup cost: $93.5K-$172.97K
Franchise fee: $50K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 266/4
Incentive: $5,000 off franchise fee
brightstarfranchise.com

99. The HoneyBaked Ham Co. and Café
Specialty ham and turkey store/cafe
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #166
Startup cost: $281.8K-$436.4K
Franchise fee: $30K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 193/234
Incentive: $10,000 off franchise fee
honeybakedfranchise.com

100. Rainbow International Restoration & Cleaning
Indoor cleaning and restoration
2015 Franchise 500 rank: #167
Startup cost: $156.2K-$256.1K
Franchise fee: $28K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 311/0
Incentive: 25 percent off franchise fee
rainbowinternationalfranchise.com

26
Nov

3 Reasons No Money Is No Barrier to Starting Your Business

3 Reasons No Money Is No Barrier to Starting Your Business

3 Reasons No Money Is No Barrier to Starting Your Business

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

More people are starting new businesses than ever before. That’s not because all of a sudden this year more folks have better ideas than in years past. It’s because the barriers to creating a new business have never been lower.

Technology has broken down the walls and empowered anyone to start a business of any kind. Flexibility, cost and mobility have created a solid foundation for entrepreneurship to continue growing in the years to come. Here are three key reasons anyone can become an entrepreneur.

1. Financial liquidity early on.

Historically, getting a higher education (i.e., university, graduate school, etc.) could actually be an impediment to starting a business. It’s sometimes viewed as a roadblock, layering you with debt — forcing you to work a “normal” job to pay down said debt — and pushing off your entrepreneurial dreams for a long time or forever. Unsurprisingly, no liquidity, or access to capital, is a common reason why people do not start businesses.

Now, it has actually never been easier or more transparent to refinance near term liquidity requirements, especially for someone in their teens or 20s. Young adults are now investing in themselves with respect to proper education and structuring their finances to where they have the flexibility to start a business without having creditors breathing down their necks. If they have an idea, there aren’t any financial chains holding them back from reaching their entrepreneurial potential.

2. Affordable legal and marketing.

Unlike in years past, you don’t need to ask a friend or family member to recommend a lawyer to help you cut through all the red tape to form an LLC. You can set up a legal entity in a matter of days, and pay no more than $50 to help with the filing. That’s not just a slight improvement — it’s a game changer for eager entrepreneurs everywhere.

Once your business gets set up, finding those first customers is not the grind it once was. Have a local service business? List yourself on Yelp, HomeAdvisor or Thumbtack. Sell software to other businesses? Find customers on LinkedIn. Build hardware to sell to consumers? Grow an audience and funds on KickStarter, or drive Googling consumers to your website with AdWords. The art of finding customers has moved online, which has dramatically reduced the legwork to help you grow.

3. Mobilization of businesses.

The days of buying into a multi-year office space lease are over. Coworking spaces, for example, have dramatically reduced the price of office space to accommodate anywhere from one to 20 person companies. Month-to-month desk or office rentals are the norm for any entrepreneur who needs office space, but these days, professionals are increasingly choosing mobile over a physical location.

In 2015, mobile usage eclipsed desktop usage for the first time ever. Across the board, consumers and businesses are turning to mobile for more convenient and real-time actions. Clients no longer expect a physical presence for a business, and businesses now have the ability to access their computers from their pocket. Handheld devices can handle scheduling, payments, marketing, employee management and more.

Not only is this structural shift to mobile more convenient for professionals, but it has dramatically reduced fixed costs for any aspiring entrepreneur.

26
Nov

This Combat Veteran Combined Woodworking Skills and Perseverance to Create a Patriotic Art Company

This Combat Veteran Combined Woodworking Skills and Perseverance to Create a Patriotic Art Company

This Combat Veteran Combined Woodworking Skills and Perseverance to Create a Patriotic Art Company

Image credit: Courtesy of Flags of Valor

This article originally published on April 18, 2016.

Brian Steorts is no ordinary individual or entrepreneur. He began his service in the U.S. in the Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. He had briefly left active duty to attend the University of Alabama, when he witnessed the attacks of 9/11 and felt a calling to return to active service.

After joining the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and eight consecutive combat deployments to the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, Steorts found himself rehabbing a service-related injury. He said that he needed a new way to focus his mind while he rebuilt his body.

Throughout his military journey, he was constantly surrounded with symbols — flags, coins, patches, people, efforts — all reminders of the motivation to serve. During rehabilitation, though, he didn’t wear a uniform or his flag.

His lingering question, “Where’s my flag?” That simple question led him to create Flags Of Valor, a veteran-owned, veteran-operated, veteran-made company that crafts beautiful works of American art.

Now Maj. Air Force Retired, Brian Steorts talks about how his dream became a reality — employing veterans, raising money for veteran and first responder charities and providing Americans with an exceptional product — and what you can learn from his journey.

Q: Tell us about the inspiration behind Flags of Valor.

Steorts: I was inspired by my personal journey as a combat veteran, coupled with the belief in two distinct principals: 1) that “Made in America” still means something, and 2) that if given the right opportunity, our veterans are capable of anything.

Running your own company is an honor. Getting to work with America’s best is a privilege.

Q: You say that you started out woodworking as a hobby, but failed to produce a product that you were proud of. What inspired you to keep going?

Steorts: I began woodworking, devoting myself to build a handcrafted custom piece of pure Americana. Many attempts failed to result in a product I was proud of. My woodworking went from a hobby to an obsession. My abilities transformed from novice to craftsman, and my focus became a passion. I began producing world-class works of art.

The military life teaches you many things. One of the greatest lessons is that small failures shouldn’t prevent you from achieving the overall objective. In this case, I looked at each step as a learning process and wasn’t satisfied until I’d produced a product I would be willing to share with someone else.

Q: You took your hobby and transformed your skills to craftsman-level. How long did that take to do? Do you think it’s important that entrepreneurs have some sort of mastery of skills (business or otherwise) before moving into the entrepreneur role?

Steorts: It took me a year of concerted effort to have enough confidence in what I created. I am careful to call myself a master craftsman, because anyone who loves woodworking as much as I do knows that you are never done improving. I don’t think mastering a skill set is essential. I think passion is essential. Then, surround yourself with people who are excellent. It becomes a circular endeavor, each person improving the other, all for a shared vision.

Q: You are sponsored by DeWALT tools; how did that sponsorship come about?

Steorts: DeWALT is a great company, and we were already using many of their products. We found that a few of our workshop tools were not made domestically, so I wrote DeWALT a letter regarding their “Made in the USA” product line. The next thing I knew, I was speaking directly to a VP of Marketing, and DeWALT met all of our workshop needs. They’ve been incredible to us, and this is a great example of putting yourself out there and telling your story. We believe in the same things they do, and it became a win-win.

Q: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs seeking sponsorships? How do they connect with companies and go from ask to deal?

Steorts: Don’t give up or overly rely on a single contact. We’ve been fortunate to have a very strong network. It’s easy to think that a single person can be the link that gets the big deal done. In reality, it’s impossible to tell as opportunities come and go. You have to pursue every reasonable lead and be grateful for everyone that contributes along the way. We’ve worked with many people who didn’t get us the “deal,” but we learned something from each of them, and that makes us a stronger organization.

Q: You hire mostly combat veterans. Why do you do that, and how does that add to your purpose and mission as a business?

Steorts: From the beginning, we aimed to create a company with a philanthropic foundation. Our founders are combat veterans, and we know firsthand the challenges that face people like us as they transition. We relied on a belief that we could create an environment where they can thrive. Our people are our story and our story is our business. We couldn’t do any of this without the team. It comes back to the shared vision. Everyone on our team buys into the shared vision. We pride ourselves on taking care of our people, and we’ve had zero turnover since we launched.

Q: How did your time in the service prepare you for entrepreneurship?  

Steorts: One word — perseverance. I don’t think it takes military service to learn that lesson, but I do believe you’d be hard pressed to find many quitters in a group of combat veterans.

Q: What skills did you wish you had more of when you started?

Steorts: A deeper understanding of finance and the various statutory issues associated with starting a business. Fortunately, I was able to build a strong team of partners from the beginning that enabled us to focus on each of our strengths. If it weren’t for that, a lot of efficiency and capital would have been lost on non-revenue producing activities.

Q: Talk about the charity component of what you do and why that’s important to your business.

Steorts: Our entire team built their life on the idea of service. Participating with great charities is an extension of that. We donate constantly to various organizations and directly to first responders, veterans, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Navy Seal Foundation, Officer Down Memorial Page, Lift Me Up and Luke’s Wings.

Q: What are the top lessons that you have learned as an entrepreneur that you would want to share with other entrepreneurs? 

Steorts: Your passion for the journey must exceed your desire to make money. Obstacles aren’t dead-ends — there is always another option. And never forget that you will have failures with your successes.

26
Nov

How This Army Veteran Turned His Hobby Into a $20 Million Business

How This Army Veteran Turned His Hobby Into a $20 Million Business

How This Army Veteran Turned His Hobby Into a $20 Million Business

Image credit: Ranger Up

Reader Resource

U.S. Army vet Nick Palmisciano put some funny words on a T-shirt as a hobby while getting his MBA at Duke. Thirteeen years later, that hobby has morphed into a $20 million apparel and media company, Ranger Up.

We spoke with Nick on the day his first feature film, the seriously twisted zombie apocalypse comedy Range 15, hit theaters (and hit them hard.)

Finding that great idea.

“I left the U.S. Army as a captain after serving for six years in 2003. I went to Duke for my MBA. I was surrounded by a bunch of classmates who were guaranteed success, because no matter what they did, they had generations of wealth and connections to rely on. It was a shocking change from the egalitarian meritocracy of the military, so to stay balanced I volunteered with the ROTC, taught them mixed martial arts and small unit tactics.

“The students were always complaining that they didn’t have cool military T-shirts. Everything at the time had been skulls and snakes and ‘Death from Above’ — they looked like biker T-shirts. So I started making funny T-shirts for my students, not charging anything for them. I had one with Saddam Hussein looking just like Ron Burgundy in Anchorman, and it said, ‘You stay classy Iraq.’ My students loved them and said that I should start a company. But I didn’t right away.”

Taking that big risk.

“After I graduated, I got a great job at John Deere. I launched the T-shirt company as a hobby.  And soon, my ‘hobby’ took off and I was getting great notes from people in Afghanistan and Iraq asking for more shirts. I had to hire people because I couldn’t fill the orders out of my house anymore.

“At the same time, I kept getting promoted at John Deere. It got to the point where I was a manager of mergers and acquisitions, which was a couple of billions-dollar division. One Friday I heard I was going to get promoted again. I did some soul searching over the weekend and gave my notice on Monday. I felt like if I took that bigger job, there would be no way I could break away from that money train. I jumped into entrepreneurship for real at that point.”

Under the gun.

“Initially, it was hard. I almost bankrupted myself. It was a big change from making a six-figure salary with a hobby business on the side to running it as my sole business. I went through a divorce and was renting two rooms out of my buddy’s house, one for me and one for my two small children.

“I sold all of my stocks, maxed out two credit cards and I had $1,300 left to my name. Then the next month I had $1,350, then $1,500, and it just went on from there. It was rough in the beginning, but there was no temptation to call back John Deere and ask for my job back. I knew there is nothing worse than regret.”

Business is always personal.

“I’ve always been a person who sets a goal and goes after that goal, and I think I learned that from wrestling more than anything. You get out of wrestling what you put in. It’s such a brutal sport. When you lose, you personally lose. And when you win, you personally win. It is the most emasculating thing ever to lose. And so that sport helped shape who I am.”

Finding lessons in rat turds.

“In the military, what people don’t realize is that you are often put in a position that you’ve never been in before. When I showed up in Kosovo in 2000, my platoon was charged with guarding this Serbian church that the Albanians wanted to destroy. So we lived in an embalming station next to this church. And the first night that it rained, there were rats in the ceiling, and water came through the roof and rat feces poured down on us. We got covered and my platoon sergeant actually got tuberculosis from the whole thing. And we were sitting there laughing at this insane situation and we realized that we needed to fix the roof.

“None of us had ever fixed a roof, but we had to figure it out. The locals saw us doing this and started coming to us with all kinds of electricity issues, work issues, transportation issues — I spent the majority of my first deployment acting essentially as the mayor of a small town. I wasn’t trained for any of this, but I couldn’t call in some expert. You either solve a problem or you don’t.

“When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to understand that no one is going to swoop in and save the day. People think entrepreneurship is exciting and fun, but the truth of the matter is that it is a grind. It’s not about the end zone, sitting on a beach with a drink, it’s about solving problems. You have to enjoy solving problems for your customers and for your business.”

Beyond customer care.

“I make it a point to respond to every email and every Facebook message I get for Ranger Up. It might take me a while, but I make sure to do that. Over the years, I’ve developed a real rapport with some fans. They know that we’re genuine people. So we get everything from people reaching out to us saying that they love our stuff to vets saying that they are in duress and are contemplating suicide.

“We help people connect with organizations that can provide help. I’ve personally gotten on the phone with despondent people. We really care about our customers. They’re more than customers to us, and we’re more than just another company to them.”

Going Hollywood.

“The company always has to evolve. When Ranger Up started, we were the only military lifestyle brand. We now have 26 competitors. So you always want to be growing. First we went into blue jeans, then leggings and liquid metal signs. Now we’ve made a big boy move: a Hollywood movie. Ranger Up’s goals have always been to inform and entertain, and the ultimate way to entertain is through a movie. Ours has William Shatner, Danny Trejo, Randy Couture — this is really the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder.

“This was a huge risk. If this thing flops, it is going to hurt — it’ll hurt our business and it’ll be embarrassing. But I hope we can inspire a group of veterans to see that there is literally nothing they cannot do. We had all kinds of obstacle and were able to overcome them all. For better or for worse, we have made a Hollywood movie without Hollywood. We wrote it, produced it, acted in it, and I think it is pretty good! You can find out where it is playing at our site.

“One word of warning: Don’t bring your kids!”

26
Nov

How the Printing Biz Was a Better Deal for This U.S. Military Veteran

How the Printing Biz Was a Better Deal for This U.S. Military Veteran

How the Printing Biz Was a Better Deal for This U.S. Military Veteran

Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees.

Coming from a career managing multiple locations for a large franchise company, Greg Kingsbury had a leg up on operating a franchise himself.

Just shy of a year ago, the U.S. military veteran signed on with Better Deal Printing, founded in 2001 by Lawrence Curell, a disabled Army veteran. Initially started as a home-based, business-to-broker printing company, it has evolved over 15 years into a full-scale production operation that currently serves clients in 21 countries on four continents.

Larry Curell
Image Credit: Better Deal Printing

Curell’s drive behind the business was to give back to the veteran community and help veterans become business owners in the high-growth area of print, promotional products and corporate apparel. The company offers reduced franchise fees for veterans and disabled veterans. It is competitive by offering lower royalty structures and by owning the manufacturing companies that produce a large portion of the products that the franchisees sell.

Better Deal Printing was officially franchised in 2015 and has been growing fast with plans to add another 50 franchises in the next five years to the system.

Below, Kingsbury describes just how perfect a fit this franchise was for him and his confidence of future growth within the company.

Name: Greg Kingsbury

Franchise owned: Better Deal Printing of Northern Arizona

Q: How long have you owned a franchise?

11 months

Q: Why franchising?

Being part of a franchise offers the benefit of a support system which is valuable to start of your new business and ongoing support throughout the life of your business. I was able to walk into a ready-made business with a proven concept, which makes it easier to get started.

Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I have been managing multiple locations for another large franchise company for the past six years. Before that, I was a national marketing director for International Event Promotions Company.

Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?

With my other position, I had the opportunity to work directly with Better Deal Printing (the production side) as a vendor to provide quality print products to my customers at very affordable pricing. My business relationship with Larry Curell evolved into an opportunity to move into owning my own business without going broke in the startup phase.

They really worked with me to make it affordable and easy to be able to own my own business. Beyond that, the support they offer is second to none. They are always available to me and are proactive and concerned with making sure I am successful.

Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

$13,000 estimated. $10,000 of this expense was the franchise fee for buy-in to Better Deal Printing. The remaining $3,000 covered a new computer, software, business insurance and minimal office supplies and equipment to get going.

This is a “work out of my home” business, so the major things that typically eat at your finances (like a brick-and-mortar building) weren’t an issue here. My house and my car are my office.

Q: Where did you get most of your advice / do most of your research?

Having been a part of a major franchise for many years, my experience became my own advice.

Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Taxes and paperwork. Although I managed other people’s businesses for most of my adult life, I had never owned one. I could not have imagined how important every piece of paperwork was going to be to create a solid paper trail with my finances. Better Deal Printing made it easier, as they have vendors and support in place with discounted pricing negotiated.

Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

Research the company. Read and understand your contract — there is a lot of legal stuff in there. Find a great accountant to get you set up correctly from day one. Make sure this is something you really want to do for a long time. You don’t want to buy into something and find out you hate it. That’s what working for other people is for.

This is your business — and you should love it! Overall, if you are wanting to be your own boss, this is a really inexpensive and safe (safe as owning a business can be) path to follow. Most of the ground work has already been done for you. You just have to put forth the effort to build strong relationships within your area, and good things will happen.

Q: What’s next for you and your business?

Well, I’ve brought on a new independent sales consultant to help me grow my local market and spread out a bit. Beyond that, I am hoping to open another location within the next three years and hopefully one more before I hit the five-year mark.

Grow, expand, enjoy. What else could I want?