IFA Major Awards Presented at 2023 Annual Convention

IFA Hall of Fame Award-Neal Aronson

Recipients Were Acknowledged for Significant Contributions to Franchise Industry

The International Franchise Association has presented its top honors to six individuals for their contributions to the franchise business model, to the growth of the franchise industry, and to their communities. The awards were presented during the 2023 IFA Annual Convention held Feb. 26-March 1 in Las Vegas. Over the years, IFA’s Major Awards have been given to notable and distinguished leaders in franchising, including McDonald’s Ray Kroc and KFC‘s founder Col. Harland Sanders.

2022 IFA Major Award Winners

IFA Hall of Fame Award

Neal Aronson, founder and managing partner of Roark Capital Group

IFA Hall of Fame Award, Neal Aronson, Roark Capital

The Hall of Fame Award is the IFA’S oldest and most prestigious award. Aronson shaped Roark’s franchise investments – including Inspire Brands, Driven Brands, FOCUS Brands and Primrose Schools – which have driven the brands’ growth. Before founding Roark Capital in 2001, Aronson was co-founder and chief financial officer of U.S. Franchise Systems; he helped transform that company from one brand with 22 hotels in nine states to three brands with more than 500 hotels in 50 states and five countries. Aronson also has served as the chairman of the board for the Wingstop franchise.

Past winners include:

  • 2021 Dina Dwyer-Owens, CFE, Neighborly
  • 2020 Jerry Crawford, CFE, Jani-King International, Inc.
  • 2019 Gordon Logan, Sport Clips
  • 2018 Steve Romaniello, Roark Capital Group
  • 2017 Tariq Farid, Edible Arrangements
  • 2016 Russ Frith, Lawn Doctor.
  • 2015 Mike and Marian Ilitch, Little Caesars

IFA Bonny LeVine Award

Sherri Fishman, co-CEO and co-founder of Fishman Public Relations

IFA Bonnie Lavine Award, Sherri Fishman

The IFA Bonny LeVine Award is for women who star as mentors to other women in business. Since 1991, Fishman Public Relations has worked exclusively with franchises. Through her co-CEO role, which was announced in spring 2022, Fishman guides young professionals who handle public relations for franchising. She has served on the IFA Board of Directors, the IFA Franchise Supplier Forum Board and the FranTech Task Force; she currently leads the IFA Marketing and Innovation Committee.

Past winners include:

  • 2021 Dena Tripp, Nothing Bundt Cakes
  • 2020 Shannon Wilburn, CFE, Just Between Friends
  • 2019 Amy Cheng, Cheng Cohen, LLC
  • 2018 Jania Bailey, FranNet
  • 2017 Jo Kirchner, Primrose Schools
  • 2016 Rhoda Olsen, Great Clips
  • 2015 Therese Thilgen, Franchise Update Media Group

IFA Ronald E. Harrison Award

Richard Snow, vice president and SBA manager of WSFS Bank

IFA Ronald E. Harrison Award, Richard Snow

The IFA Ronald E. Harrison Award is an honor that celebrates a person or organization that has supported minorities in franchising and has increased diversity, equity and inclusion within their franchise organizations or within the franchise community. Through his work at WSFS (and previously at Benetrends Financial, where he was an SBA funding specialist), Snow has guided franchise executives and entrepreneurs through the SBA loan process. He has, in particular, assisted underrepresented groups in obtaining capital. Snow is a member of the IFA Foundation’s Diversity Institute Board and chairs the Black Franchise Leadership Council. In his acceptance speech, Snow said, “Our commitment as members of the International Franchise Association is to ensure that diversity remains etched into the franchise industry’s DNA. I will remain committed to creating opportunities and access for others to achieve the American dream of business ownership through franchising regardless of skin color, gender or sexual orientation.”

Past winners include:

  • 2021 Wanda Williams, Yum! Brands Inc.
  • 2020 PepsiCo
  • 2019 Daniel Halpern, Jackmont Hospitality
  • 2018 Earsa Jackson, Clark Hill Strasburger
  • 2017 Ali Nekumanesh, Deli Delicious 
  • 2016 Ferenz Feher, Feher & Feher
  • 2015 Rick Davidson, Century 21 Real Estate

IFA William Rosenberg Foundation Leadership Award

Mary Kennedy Thompson, chief operating officer of Neighborly

IFA William Rosenberg Foundation Leadership Award. Mary Kennedy Thompson, Neighborly

IFA’s William Rosenberg Foundation Leadership award is named for the man who led the establishment of the creation of the IFA Foundation. The award goes to someone who has exerted a major influence on franchise education and outreach as well as spread the word about franchise industry opportunities. Thompson has been a staunch advocate for veterans in franchising through her duties with the IFA’s VetFran program, which she formerly chaired. A veteran herself, Thompson assisted in launching the Operation Enduring Opportunity, a pledge by the franchising community to recruit 75,000 military veterans. Her many years in franchising include serving as Mr. Rooter president. 

Past winners include:

  • 2022 Gordon Logan, Sport Clips
  • 2021 Jerry Crawford, Jani-King International
  • 2020 David McKinnon, CFE, Radiance Holdings
  • 2019 Michael Isakson, CFE, Insight to Execution
  • 2018 Steve Romaniello, CFE, Roark Capital Group
  • 2017 John Reynolds, CFE, International Franchise Association
  • 2016 Lawrence “Doc” Cohen, CFE, Doc & Associates
  • 2015 Dennis Wieczorek, DLA Piper LLP (US)

IFA Chairman’s Award for Distinguished Service

Phil Zeidman, Retired partner in DLA Piper

Phil Zeidman, Chairman’s Award for Distinguished Service

The IFA Chairman’s Award for Distinguished Service honors franchise industry leaders who, after retirement from active franchising, generously give their time and talents to promoting franchising and IFA. Zeidman has had many impactful roles in the franchise industry. He was general counsel for the Small Business Association, where he helped develop programs that connected franchise owners with SBA loans. After that, Zeidman opened a law firm with IFA as his first client. When he later joined DLA Piper, Zeidman advised companies, trade associations and governments regarding franchise law. 

IFA Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Jo Kirchner, CEO of Primrose Schools

IFA Entrepreneur of the Year Award

IFA’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes an individual currently building and managing a successful business through franchising. Kirchner was honored for visionary leadership that enabled Primrose Schools to grow from four Atlanta schools to a 480-unit franchise in 33 states. Kirchner joined Primrose Schools in 1990 and became CEO in 1999. 

Past winners include:

  • 2021 David Barr, Franworth
  • 2020 Scott Svenson & Ally Svenson, MOD Pizza
  • 2019 Chuck Runyon & Dave Mortensen, Self Esteem Brands
  • 2018 David Long, Orangetheory Fitness
  • 2017 Eileen Huntington, Huntington Learning Center
  • 2016 Gordon Logan, Sport Clips
  • 2015 Guillermo Perales, Sun Holdings

Praise from Matt Haller, CEO of IFA

IFA President and CEO Matt Haller collectively praised the award recipients, saying that “franchising wouldn’t be what it is today without their contributions. They have devoted their careers not only to their businesses but also to growing other leaders and upholding the highest standards in franchising.” 

Founded 63 years ago, the IFA serves all aspects of franchises around the globe. It works to influence government policies affecting franchising and public opinion about the industry. Some 790,000 U.S. franchise businesses produce more than $825 billion within the nation’s economy, according to IFA statistics. 

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