IFA Hosts Annual Leadership Summit in Washington

IFA Leadership Meeting 2022

23 IFA Members Receive First-Ever Open for Opportunity Awards at Event

More than 300 franchise industry officials pressed their concerns with officials representing some 200 members of Congress during the International Franchise Association’s Summit and Franchise Action Network Meeting in Washington D.C. At the event, 23 IFA members received inaugural Open for Opportunity Awards.   

IFA President and CEO Matthew Haller pronounced the Capitol Hill meetings “critical to protecting the franchise business model. Lawmakers and regulators gave great insight to attendees, and panels of IFA members shared their experience and expertise with their peers. Everyone in attendance left D.C. feeling inspired and motivated to continue to fight for franchising and the opportunities it creates.”

The Leadership Summit featured sessions to inform members about important policy areas as well as insights about possible regulatory changes that could occur during the next year. Franchising leaders also suggested approaches for increasing industry opportunities for minorities, veterans, women and other underrepresented groups during the late September gathering.

Meetings with A-List Lawmakers

The IFA contingent met with legislative and regulatory VIPs including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); U.S. Reps. Troy Carter (D-La.), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) and Barry Moore (R-Ala.); James Rodriguez, assistant labor secretary for Veterans Employment and Training Services; Jessica Looman, administrator in the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division; and Jennifer Abruzzo, general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board. 

During the discussions, franchise owners, executives and suppliers pushed for preservation of the Federal Trade Commission’s Franchise Rule and sought support for the Employee Retention Tax Credit Reinstatement Act. Both issues underpin franchise success. 

Open for Opportunity Campaign Celebration

IFA Open for Opportunity Awards
Photos: International Franchise Association

The Washington fly-in conference also marked the one-year anniversary of the IFA’s Open for Opportunity campaign. That campaign, which included events in various U.S. cities, informs people about how the franchise business model works and how franchising gives back to society via employment, initiatives for veterans, equity for all, support for communities’ nonprofits and individuals in need, and more. 

Keeping the campaign’s mission in mind, IFA selected 23 members to receive the organization’s first Open for Opportunity Awards. The honorees, all participants in the campaign, were chosen for their positive influences within their communities, on their workers and in spreading word about opportunities in franchising. 

IFA Open for Opportunity Award Winners 

The following franchise professionals were recognized at the first-ever IFA Open for Opportunity Awards during the International Franchise Association’s Summit and Franchise Action Network Meeting.

  • Ruth Agbaji, Code Wiz founder and CEO. Agbaji established the coding franchise to help children and teens learn the importance of coding and robotics.
  • Jerry Akers of Great Clips hair salons. Along with his wife, Mickey, Akers develops locations for the Great Clips franchisor. 
  • Ellen Bryant-Brown, CEO of Hope Rising Child Learning Center. The Pennsylvania-based business provides early education and child care services.
  • Steve Danon, vice president and head of U.S. Government Relations and Community Affairs for Restaurant Brands International. Danon develops and executes the corporate franchisor’s government relations strategies. 
  • Clint Ehlers, owner of FASTSIGNS in Willow Grove and Cherry Grove, Pa. FASTSIGNS is a custom sign, banner and graphics franchise. 
  • Leslie Fields, communications director for Authority Brands, parent franchisor of home-services brands. 
  • Ericka Garza, president of Au Bon Pain, a fast-casual restaurant under the Ampex Brands umbrella. Garza is also chairwoman of the IFA Hispanic Latino Franchise Leadership Council.
  • Alex Johnson, a second-generation Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s franchisee in California.
  • Joe Johnson, a multi-unit franchisee with the Papa John’s pizza brand.
  • Tamra Kennedy, a multi-unit Taco John’s franchisee. Kennedy’s restaurants are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
  • Joe Lindenmayer, a California Closets franchisee in the Gulf Coast region. His custom-storage franchises are located in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
  • Devon Mitchell, CEO of DSN Corp. and operations manager at the Anytime Fitness of Newark, Del. DSN Corp. is a private equity firm.
  • Scott Nowak, director of state and local government affairs for the Hilton Hotel franchise.
  • Tracy Panase, franchisee for Just Between Friends – a pop-up resale franchisor – in Reading and Western Mainline (Oaks), Pa. 
  • Andri Purkanto, a co-owner of BrightStar Care of Baltimore County. The BrightStar Care franchise provides in-home care and medical staffing.
  • Gary Robins, SuperCuts hair salon franchisee with locations in Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley area.
  • Azim Saju, CEO and president, HDG Hotels, a hotel management and development company for franchised hotel brands.
  • Jyoti Sarolia, president and CEO of Ellis Hospitality Group. The franchise provides services to the hospitality industry.
  • Lori Shaffron, senior director of development at Rita’s Italian Ice, a frozen dessert franchise.
  • Richard Snow, vice president, SBA national franchise relationship manager of WSFS Bank, a financial services company. Snow is chairman of IFA’s Black Franchise Leadership Council.
  • Cheryl Stanton, chief legal and government affairs officer at BrightStar Care. 
  • Carolyn Thurston, president of Wisdom Senior Care. The franchise offers a wide range of care to older citizens, including memory-care patients.  
  • Clement Troutman, franchisee for Tropical Smoothie Café restaurants in Capitol Heights, Md. 

About the International Franchise Association

The International Franchise Association (IFA) is the world’s oldest and largest organization representing franchising worldwide. IFA works through its government relations and public policy, media relations, and educational programs to protect, enhance and promote franchising and the approximately 775,000 franchise establishments that support nearly 8.2 million direct jobs, $787.7 billion of economic output for the U.S. economy, and almost 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). IFA members include franchise companies in over 300 different business format categories, individual franchisees, and companies that support the industry in marketing, law, technology, and business development.

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Mary Vinnedge is an award-winning journalist who has served as editor in chief, managing editor and senior editor at national and regional publications, including SUCCESS and Design NJ magazines. She also held reporting and editing roles at The Dallas Morning News and Charlotte Observer newspapers.

Before Mary began covering franchise news and trends as a staff writer for FranchiseWire and Franchise Consultant Magazine, she developed articles on topics ranging from lifestyle, education, health and science to home projects, horticulture, gardening, interior design and architecture. These articles included her reporting on academic news at her alma mater, Texas A&M University, when Mary worked in the marketing department of the Texas A&M Foundation. She continues to be a news junkie and subscribes to several publications.

Today Mary and her husband are empty nesters living on Galveston Island near Houston. The couple’s blended family – scattered around the United States – includes five children, four grandchildren and two very spoiled, very barky miniature schnauzer rescues.
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