As a nation, we love to support our military veterans in honor of the sacrifices they’ve made. So, it’s not surprising that many consumers would go out of their way to do business with a veteran-owned franchise. The challenge, however, for consumers is knowing which ones are veteran-owned.
At the recent #IFA2017 Annual Convention, a panel of experts shared with attendees how to promote and leverage their veteran-owned businesses. The panel was moderated by Gordon Logan, CEO and founder of Sport Clips Inc. and a veteran himself. The panel included: Stephanie Brown, CEO and founder of the Rosie Network; Ralph Yarusso, senior vice president of franchise development and operations, Grease Monkey International, Inc.; and Misty Stutsman, director, Center for Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF).
The session was sponsored by VetFran, a strategic initiative of the IFA that was founded by Don Dwyer, Sr., the founder of The Dwyer Group. Since 1991, VetFran has grown to include more than 650 franchise systems, who voluntarily offer financial incentives to former U.S. military. Since 9/11, there are more than 200,000 new veterans in franchising with 6,000 of them joining as franchise owners.
Spreading the Word
One of the biggest challenges that all businesses face is getting the word out to consumers about their brand and then educating them on the service and/or product provided. It’s no different for veterans who own businesses. They need to spread the word about their business, as well as communicate to the public that it is veteran-owned. According to the Small Business Administration, 2.5 million businesses are veteran-owned and these veterans employ 5.8 million individuals. But, the general public has no idea how to find these 2.5 million businesses.
This is what led Stephanie Brown to create a non-profit organization that addresses this particular issue. As a military spouse, Stephanie was looking to hire a veteran to do some work at her home in California. After searching Angie’s List and craigslist, she came to the realization that there was no way for the American public to locate our nation’s military family-owned businesses. Months later, Rosie’s List was born.
Much like Angie’s List, www.RosiesList.org has more than 10,000 businesses registered and is growing daily. The non-profit organization doesn’t just list businesses, but actively promotes them as well.
In addition to the website, The Rosie Network publishes a quarterly magazine, Military Entrepreneur Magazine (M.E.MAG). There are editorial and advertising opportunities in each issue to promote your veteran-owned business. To learn more, contact: email@example.com
Seek Proper Training
Veterans who own businesses should also look to other organizations offering training and support to military entrepreneurs. There are numerous non-profit groups designed to help U.S. military veterans get their business off the ground and in the public eye.
Misty Stutsman is the director of the Center for Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University. She heads up programs for service members who are transitioning into entrepreneurial careers. The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) has programs that include: Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, Boots to Business, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (VWise), the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business (CVOB), VetNet: The Veterans Network and more.
All of these organizations are geared to veterans who are starting a business. They provide everything from networking opportunities and business plan development training to courses on entrepreneurship and financing. For more information, veterans can visit: https://ivmf.syracuse.edu.
PR & Marketing
There are a number of franchises that do an excellent job of promoting their support of military veterans. Grease Monkey International, Inc. is one of those franchises that actively advertises the fact that they welcome veteran owners to their brand. Ralph Yarusso, senior vice president of franchise development and operations and a former Air Force service member, says they offer a significant discount on the initial franchise fee (IFF), as well as royalty abatements and special financing and scholarships.
He advises all franchises to be very clear about discounts and provide testimonials from veteran franchisees. He also recommends that veterans themselves advertise that their business is veteran-owned.
In all marketing materials, veterans should ensure they mention that their business is veteran-owned. If you have a brochure, poster, flyer, website, Facebook page, vehicle magnet, window cling or other promotional materials, include “veteran-owned” prominently in the copy.
Public relations activities also should include mention of your business being veteran-owned. If you send out a press release, add a line about being veteran-owned and even include some background information on yourself and your military service. And, if you are interviewed for an article or on-air story, also include mention of your veteran status.
If you proudly served your country, there’s no reason not to proudly share this information with your potential customers. And, if you need additional assistance in promoting your business, reach out to those who have experience, training programs, support networks and other support services designed specifically for military veterans.
Kim Ryan is a vice president at Fish Consulting, a full-service PR agency specializing in franchising. She also is a retired Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve and IFA member of the VetFran Committee.