Korey Kaigle is one of the youngest franchisees in The Dwyer Group® family. At 23-years-old, Korey is employed fulltime by the Army and owns his own The Grounds Guys® franchise, a business he started at 22.
Born and raised in Swanton, Vt., Korey served in the Army National Guard for six years as a medevac Crew Chief on Blackhawk helicopters. He served in Iraq from 2010-2011. Upon his arrival back to the United States, Korey began researching opportunities to own his own business and saw opportunity in The Grounds Guys.
“They allow me to be myself, but made me an entrepreneur and gave me potential. I see a lot of groundskeepers in the area but they limit themselves because they can’t expand,” Korey said. “The Grounds Guys gives me an opportunity to grow and have a support team. I’ve never been in business, and they gave me the tools I needed.”
Recently, The Burlington Free Press featured the incredible story of the local soldier turned entrepreneur.
Korey is one of more than 230 military service men and women and veterans that own a Dwyer Group franchise business. Through the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative the company has given nearly $1.5 million in franchise discounts to transitioning military personnel and current veterans.
In 1991, The Dwyer Group the founded the VetFran program, a voluntary effort of International Franchise Association (IFA) member companies to encourage franchise ownership by offering business franchise opportunities and financial incentives to honorably discharged veterans. The company’s mission with VetFran program is to help veterans achieve their dreams and goals by being in business for themselves. Learn more at http://www.leadingtheserviceindustry.com/VetFran.asp.
The franchising industry has a long-standing history of supporting veterans. In 1991, IFA launched VetFran, a program to give Gulf War veteran’s access to business ownership opportunities through franchising. In 2011, Operation Enduring Opportunity was launched to expand that initiative to include hiring and the franchising industry began to support the White House Joining Forces initiative.
Recently, IFA President & CEO Steve Caldeira joined President Obama, Vice President Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden onstage to announce the hiring of 290,000 veterans and military spouses who have been hired or trained since the launch of the initiative. Impressively, franchising has contributed almost a quarter of the total hiring.
Hiring our veterans and military spouses is so important because it not only helps them adjust to a new lifestyle but also shows them that our nation honors them with actions, not simply words. In a recent FranBlog, First Lady Michelle Obama commended the work the International Franchise Association has done to help veterans and said, “The IFA has helped more than 4,300 veterans [find jobs] since 2011.”
The franchising industry, led by IFA and 562 other franchised businesses from IFA’s VetFran strategic initiative, were the first to commit to the White House Joining Forces initiative in 2011. The IFA and its association pledged to hire and recruit 80,000 veterans and military spouses in three years. In the first year alone, 65,000 veterans had started careers in franchising using discounts offered by VetFran member companies.
IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira offered his opinion on this franchising initiative saying, “With its rapid training opportunities, scalability, and need for operational execution and excellence in following proven systems, franchising provides an ideal structure to enable returning veterans to become leaders of and productive participants in the U.S. economy.”
Franchising is clearly a promising decision for many job-seekers today. For current franchising opportunities, veteran discounts or to learn more about the impact of franchising you can visit The Dwyer Group’s website www.leadingtheserviceindystry.com or contact The Dwyer Group® at 1(866)-656-1504. For more information regarding the IFA and the work that they do you can click visit their website at http://www.buildingopportunity.com/index.aspx.
On February 20, Mr. Rooter® President Mary Kennedy Thompson accepted the Bonny LeVine Award, the highest award for women in franchising, from the International Franchise Association at its 53rd Annual Convention in Las Vegas, Nev. Click here to watch a video of Mary accepting the Bonny LeVine Award.
I am humbled, honored, and grateful to be here today. It’s an honor to be in the company of such amazing franchise leaders like Joanne Shaw, the first Bonny Levine recipient, Melanie Bergeron, who leads with grace, Catherine Monson, who leads with a lion’s heart and Dina Dwyer-Owens, who leads with values first.
There are really only two kinds of people in the world. There are those who walk in a room and say “Taa-Daa, here I am!” and then there are those rare few who look right at you and say “There you are!” Dina is that person who makes everyone she meets feel truly special. Dina, your friendship and mentoring through the years has meant the world to me. Read more
For more than a decade now, young military veterans have been returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and re-entering the civilian workforce. For veterans, this means a flurry of job fairs, interviews, extra schooling for some, and a re-orientation of career goals.
For employers, this often means sifting through military jargon on a resume or perhaps making hard decisions about accommodating veterans with PTSD or other war-related injuries. Read more
This Veterans Day, we at The Dwyer Group are choosing to celebrate new hope for returning veterans amidst discouraging veteran unemployment numbers, particularly young and female populations. Rather than focus on the negative, we’re proud to join with the International Franchise Association and fellow member companies in recognizing veteran success stories– bold men and women who have been able to find business opportunities, franchise opportunities, and new careers in the face of obstacles, economic or otherwise.
Rowley Mayo, Mr. Appliance owner in Twin Cities area of Minneapolis, is one such individual. After serving in the Marine Corps from 1970 to 1974, Mayo entered into a corporate career as an executive in finance and IT. However, in the August of 2009, like many other Americans he found that his position had been eliminated. Late in his career, wtih lots of experience and higher salary requirements, he knew that it would be difficult to find a comparable position, so he decided to open a business. Read more
The International Franchise Association announced this week that the number of veteran-owned franchise businesses among the top military-friendly franchises jumped 35% in the last year. The number of veteran-owned franchises among this elite group rose by nearly 4,000 to total 11,469 franchises across the country. All of The Dwyer Group®’s brands were listed among G.I. Jobs’ top 10% of Military Friendly Franchises in 2012. Read more
Every franchisee has a story. Each new franchise owner brings a host of skills and leadership abilities to his business that is different from the last.
Future Aire Serv® franchise owner Larry Colley is no exception. Colley joined the Army at the age of 17 and began a 21-year career in the 82nd Airborne Division and the U.S. Army Special Forces. With deployments spanning from Somalia to Iraq, Colley received many accolades over his military tenure, including the prestigious Bronze Star. However, Colley had always dreamed with his father of starting his own business.
A TIME article recently highlighted why veterans make excellent entrepreneurs—both are “hard working, dedicated, disciplined, multi-skilled, and self-sufficient… they are strong-willed individuals who put the mission before the man.”
Colley had the leadership skills it takes to own and manage a business: “I’ve spent my entire career leading, teaching, and mentoring,” he says. He also has experience in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry, but didn’t have the tools it took to strike out entirely on his own. After hearing about The Dwyer Group and Aire Serv®, he saw franchising as his solution.
After being approved to open an Aire Serv franchise, the greatest barrier to entry remaining for Colley was the initial franchise fee. Even with his 25% VetFran discount, a daunting figure of over $50,000 still remained. Colley pledged to pay down 20% of the fee, but stumbled across an innovative solution to raise the remaining $42,000.
Boost a Hero is a brand new program powered by startup company Sprigster that allows veterans to raise funds for franchising through crowdfunding, a means of soliciting micro-donations from large groups of people through social media. Through Boost a Hero, Colley will be able to tell his story to a mass audience and will connect with potential donors online.
Boost a Hero’s official fundraising website launched on Saturday, Feb. 11, and is gaining traction online and in the franchising and military communities. Donations start at $1, and result in increasing “perks” as a thank you from The Dwyer Group and Colley personally. For donors, the program allows them to support transitioning veterans in a tangible way. For franchisors, the program helps decrease barriers to entry and in turn, grows their franchise network.
Colley’s wife, Tracy, is also a veteran, and his son, Justin, is currently serving in Afghanistan with plans to return to Florida and join his parents’ new business. Larry Colley’s story as a business owner is just beginning, and we’re looking forward to welcoming him officially to The Dwyer Group family.
To find out more or to make a donation, please visit http://boostahero.com.
By Laura Shaheen
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Mary Thompson, the president of Mr. Rooter and the chair for VetFran, about the VetFran program. It was an eye opening chat, and one that I believe deserves to be advertised as much as possible.
VetFran was founded after Desert Storm in 1991, by Don Dwyer, the founder of the international franchise company, The Dwyer Group. After 9/11, Don Dwyer’s daughter, Dina Dwyer-Owens, the current CEO of the Dwyer Group took it upon herself to revitalize the VetFran program. There are over 400 members of VetFran, all franchisors looking to give discounted franchises to veterans. The current chair of the program is Mary Thompson, the president of Mr. Rooter. So far there have been over 2100 deals given to veterans throughout the years. And Mr. Rooter, Thompson’s own company, has been named by USA Today as one of the Top 50 Companies in American to work with veterans.
“I was a franchise owner before, and I’ve done every job since. I’ve been on every side and seen it from all levels,” Thompson said. “That’s why I’m so passionate. I know I would not have had the success I’ve had without the marine corp. and the franchising business teaching me how. Veterans make the best franchisees: they are disciplined, but follow a system. We are looking for leaders who want to lead toward a common goal.”
Indeed, a marine sword flashes from the walls of Thompson’s office, a flash of deadly silver and ivory handle polished until it glows in the late afternoon sun. Thompson herself speaks on the subject with true passion, as evident by her recent travels to Washington DC to support the new Help Veterans Own Franchises Act.
“The bill is a win/win situation,” Thompson said. “It gives veterans tax credits up to $25,000 of the franchise fee. This money is cash that veterans can then invest back in the company. It pays taxes back into the community. The veteran now has a job, and also has created jobs, and the franchisors end up with a great franchisee.”
As the chair for VetFran, Thompson has spent her time trying to expand the program to its limits. Through her leadership, the website has been redone and a portal is being created to marry veterans with different job opportunities. Their goal is to increase the number of franchisors on VetFran 15%, and they’re already part of the way there to next year’s goal.
“At a recent event, VetFran experienced 4 percent growth at a single event,” Thompson said, relish in her voice. “The greatest thing about the program is that VetFran isn’t just doing ‘the right thing to do.’ VetFran is the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do. Franchising is a great medium and a great match between veterans and franchisors. Veterans ‘get’ the system. Most people have to be taught that.”
Through her many engagements, like speaking at the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, Thompson has had the opportunity to spread her knowledge about the world of opportunities available for veterans and franchisors alike. Having wounded warrior, Staff Sergeant Shilo Harris there, however, as living proof of her words, made the impact all the more tangible.
“I always have said ‘If not now, when?’ when it comes to VetFran and veterans programs, and Shilo said something that has really stuck with me. He told me ‘That’s not a question, that’s an imperative.’ And he was right.”
Shawn and Andrea Wilson met about 13 years ago in a bar in Collingwood, Ontario. Shawn had just retired from the Navy after more than 10 years of working in naval acoustics. Not long after their meeting in 1997, he joined the Canadian Army for two and a half years as a mechanic, only to be trade-reassigned to the Air Force for about the next seven years to work in air-traffic control as an air defense tech.
“He never would tell me what he really did… He said he would have to kill me,” Andrea said, laughing, of her husband’s multiple employments.
Andrea, described as a “fireplug” by her husband, worked in a bank’s administrative branch for around eight years and quit about a year ago to help run their business. She’s been in customer service since she was 21, a key asset in running their landscaping business.
Their 9-year-old son, Jack, plays hockey and resembles Shawn’s personality, but Andrea’s looks. “He is really, really smart. But I’m biased. He’s my kid,” Andrea said.
Although he is only 9, Jack is more than willing to help. “He’s a bit money-hungry. Any job he can help out with, he does, just to earn money. He’s lucky because I pay him well over minimum wage!” Andrea said.
Just as in many family-run businesses, Shawn has high hopes their franchise will stay in the family. “I’d like to be able to leave my son a little bit of the legacy, maybe have him work beside me, learn more about it and eventually take it over,” Shawn said.
Shawn spent over 20 years in the Canadian military and Andrea worked indoors, directly with customers, so…
How Did They End up in Lawn Management?
They began Greener Pastures about 3 years before Shawn retired from the military, as Shawn felt the need for something to support his pension once he retired. (The name was thought up by Andrea, although Shawn disputes it, only willing to compromise by saying they “collaborated on it.”)
During the first two years in the military, Shawn held a part-time job selling John Deere equipment. “I was selling to landscapers and decided to research it out a bit. Then I decided, ’When I get out, this is what I want to do.’”
A Military Toolkit
“The Navy was like a well-oiled machine, much like The Dwyer Group and The Grounds Guys,” Shawn said.
The military instills many principles and characteristics that are claimed to be the most useful tools in running one’s own business. Among those are self-discipline, desire, will and the ability to face challenges daily.
“You have to be taught these and the military will do that. There are many life-skills I brought with me. I found it was very easy to adapt some of my military life into my business, although sometimes, it doesn’t work too well with employees,” he joked.
“Sometimes, I slip and bark an order, and they stand there and say, ‘We aren’t in the military, you know.’ I catch myself when I do it, for the most part.”
Trouble in Paradise, then Even-Greener Pastures!
About 2 years ago, the third year in business, it began to seem as if they didn’t have time to run the business the way they wanted to.
“We were going after people who were late or behind on payments. It was hard for us to get the money,” Shawn said.
They began to feel like it was taking too long to get quotes out, which is quite time-consuming.
“Once we joined The Grounds Guys and their system, we immediately saw how streamlined and more efficient the business was. It was just that much better for us,” he said.
What truly pulled the Wilsons toward aligning with a brand name was the commercial business. They just weren’t able to break into the commercial jobs in their city; the local businesses wouldn’t let them.
“After about two years on my part in researching which franchise I wanted to buy, I narrowed it down to about two or three,” Shawn said.
That first potential franchise waited too long to call him back. He was already in the midst of signing with The Grounds Guys. Shawn had initially decided to go through the process with the second franchise, until they performed a huge deal-breaker.
“This guy phoned me at 7: 30 in the morning on Saturday, the only day I really and truly have off. He started asking me did I have all the paperwork done, the whole nine-yards. That was when I knew, all he wants is money. He could care
less if the franchise survives. He just wanted the cash,” Shawn said.
After two dead ends, the Wilsons called The Grounds Guys and went to Orangeville for Orientation. “When I left, I knew I wanted to be part of it. I would have been heartbroken if they said no. Right off the bat, it was totally professional. That‘s where I wanted my business to go. That’s where I wanted to be,” Shawn said.
Shawn and Andrea attended Orientation twice. The first time, they didn’t feel as though they had all of their finances in line. The first time, he went down with a promissory note, though Andrea didn’t feel comfortable doing that.
So they took all of their money out of savings and went down about a week later to finish the deal. “Andrea was a little worried at first. I’ve never seen someone do a turnabout as fast as she did. I think she would be a great spokesperson for The Grounds Guys, as much as she likes them,” Shawn said.
The Wilsons were the first Canadian VetFran franchise awarded by The Grounds Guys.
Those van Stralen Boys …
“Orientation was amazing. Everyone was just so positive. You know how most people walk around depressed and miserable? Not them. The brothers have surrounded themselves with lifelong friends and family, always willing to help them in the business. It’s all so family-oriented. They have this amazing outlook about what your life can be,” Andrea gushed.
I teased Andrea that she sounded smitten by the 10 brothers, who she described as “not hard to look at.”
Continuing the joke, I asked Shawn if he was just as smitten by the brothers, jokingly, of course!
Very directly, but will a small inflection of humor, he informed me that no, he wasn’t smitten by them, but it would be hard to say he wasn’t impressed. (Although, while he was saying this, Andrea was yelling, “YES YOU WERE!” and laughing in the background.)
Shawn retorted with a laugh that, “we don’t say that sort of thing when you have been in the military, you know?”
And now …
Andrea said they are now giving the larger companies a pause for thought, those
that wouldn’t leave their contracted construction companies managing their landscape.
“They weren’t even using landscaping companies! Just construction companies who needed to keep their guys and equipment busy in the slow months,” Andrea said.
Because they weren’t a larger, brand-name company, the companies wouldn’t give them a chance.
“North Bay is a bit backwards, like you’re living on the moon. But we’re going to turn the industry on its ear. That’s exactly what is going to happen here,” Andrea said.
Andrea and Shawn are planning a trip to Hawaii soon to renew their vows … And it looks like they’ll have plenty to celebrate.
To review the original e-mail, see below:
Shawn said you wanted me to e-mail you about going from being scared out of my wits and putting my life savings into something I really didn’t know anything about, to being amazed and honored to be part of something so great.
When Shawn and I started out on this journey, I was supportive but skeptical. As the months passed and the banks didn’t believe in cashing in our life savings, I became very apprehensive and honestly the night before we were to go to training I wanted to back out. But I had committed to supporting Shawn so down to Orangeville I went.
Then I met the Van Stralen brothers and the team that they’ve surrounded themselves with.
Day one of training: pretty scared. Day two: starting to see the potential. Day three: I took off the life jacket and jumped in with both feet right up to my neck in the excitement of what my life was now going to be.
Now, one month later, I am blown away with what Sunshine/ The Grounds Guys can accomplish. Two months ago, Shawn and I were struggling to keep our company afloat. Now, we are planning a trip to Hawaii to renew our marriage vows.
You can use this testimonial for any non-believers who can’t see the potential in joining our team.
When a veteran is leaving the military service or retiring, perhaps the last thing on their mind is buying a franchise. But why not? Veterans are pre-equipped to succeed in the franchise market!
The U.S. military ingrains in each of their disciplined members a set of ordered principles. Veterans have had extensive training in following procedures and systematic rules. They have also already identified their specialty through the Military Occupation Specialty training.
Veterans have access to more advantageous loans, credit and discounted franchise costs. The idea of moving to reach an opportunity does not scare most veterans either, as they are used to traveling.
There are many companies who are willing to facilitate a veteran’s transition, like Recruit Military. The multi-day programs offered to those transitioning out of the military invite speakers from many different brands to come and speak. Another opportunity is to learn entrepreneurship and job-hunting skills.
One of the International Franchise Association’s most successful programs is called VetFran. This program was founded by the late Don Dwyer Sr., founder of The Dwyer Group, to help guide those returning home to what is next in life for them.
When a franchise participates in this, they provide discounts to veterans acquiring a franchise in their company. There is a list of all participating franchise companies on VetFran.com. Nearly 400 franchisors have taken advantage of the program. Since tracking began in 2002, more than 1,700 veterans have purchased a franchise through the program.
A veteran may also find franchise opportunities at events like the West Coast Franchise Expo in November, which offers a Franchising 101 for Veterans session.
With these resources available, veterans may easily see the benefits and advantages to beginning their own franchise.