This July 4th, IFA recognizes veterans who have started careers in the franchise industry



On Nov. 10, 2011, IFA announced “Operation Enduring Opportunity,” a franchise industry-wide campaign to hire and recruit as owners 80,000 veterans and military spouses through 2014.  Since 2011, nearly 65,000 veterans have entered franchising, including 4,314 owners.  On April 30, the White House Joining Forces initiative announced that 290,000 veterans and military spouses have been hired or trained since the launch of the initiative in 2011.   Franchising contributed almost a quarter of this total.

This effort builds on IFA’s long-standing VetFran strategic initiative, founded in 1991.  VetFran now includes a record 580-plus IFA member-franchise companies offering financial incentives, training and mentoring to veterans interested in small-business ownership and/or a career path in franchising.  In association with July 4, IFA & VetFran proudly highlight a few of the veterans to enter franchising in the past year.

Araya clean

Tom Martin:    

Tom Martin served honorably as a U.S. Marine in the presidential honor guard for President George H.W. Bush. One of his highlights in the honor guard was serving at the White House during a visit by Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev. After the Marine Corps, he went to college and worked at a boys’ home. Later, he transitioned to IT work at the Creative Artists Agency where he met Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Martin eventually burned out on Corporate America and decided to start his own business. He worked with FranChoice to find a good match, and eventually found Araya Clean, the nation’s fastest growing mobile pressure washing franchise. Like many veterans, Martin chose Araya Clean because of its proven business model, dedication to protecting the environment and veteran financing program.

bach to rock

Dave Leonard and Ellen Good

bach to rock zee

Husband-and-wife team Dave Leonard and Ellen Good have signed a franchise agreement to open the first Pennsylvania location for Bach to Rock, America’s music school for students of all ages. The school is scheduled to open during the summer of 2013 in Philadelphia’s Main Line corridor (Wayne, Pa.) and will teach a wide variety of instruments and music, from 60s rock to Taylor Swift. Bach to Rock offers professional recording studios for both children and adults to use, as well as jam sessions. Leonard and his wife decided to combine their love of music and education to open their first Bach to Rock. He is a U.S. Army veteran and taking advantage of the brand’s veteran incentives program.

BS care

AJ Cosmo

BS care zee

AJ Cosmo served in Iraq the U.S. Marine Corps from 2001-2005 and was on the front lines during the invasion of Iraq. After being discharged from the Marines, Cosmo transitioned into life insurance and then to the postal service. During this time, he went to college full time and eventually earned his degree. After the postal service, Cosmo stayed in South Carolina for two years before moving back to Georgia. He then decided to go into franchising because he desired the opportunity to run his own business, while mitigating risks by following a proven system with a successful track record.  Cosmo had always been very close to his grandparents and his grandmother eventually had to move into ecumenical housing. There, his grandmother fell while unattended and passed away. Realizing that homecare could have helped her, Cosmo decided to open his own BrightStar Care with his father to help prevent this tragic incident from happening to other families.


Allan Larson

Allan Larson (39 years old) joined the military when he was just 18 years old and spent 20 years in the service. Initially a combat engineer, Larson joined the U.S. Army Special Forces where he spent the majority of his career (15 years). Though stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Larson did three tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan and numerous other tours around the world. Nearing the end of his military career, he began researching his options within the franchising world. A firm believer in the benefits of massage – Larson incorporated massage into his regular routine after shoulder surgeries.  With a desire to help others, he knew Elements was the right fit.  He opened his studio in May 2013 in Brentwood, Tenn. just outside of Nashville.

FS internaitonal

Doug Graham

Doug-FS Doug Graham served in the Air Force and the International Guard for 36 years and retired in October 2012. Once he returned, he tested the job market and realized that his specific skill sets from the military were not what most companies were looking for. With this in mind, Graham began looking into franchising and eventually stumbled across FASTSIGNS.  FASTSIGNS offered the proper amount of training and remained in contact with him throughout the startup process, which he greatly appreciated. Graham’s store is scheduled to officially open in just a few weeks.

Eric Schnitzer

Erica fsEric Schnitzer went into the Air Force in Colorado Springs in 1983 where he was commissioned as lieutenant. There, Schnitzer did pilot training, flying several different kinds of planes. He served in Dessert Storm, in Bosnia and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He retired in October 2012 and decided that he wanted to start a business in which he could be his own boss. Leaning toward franchising because it’s the best way to get the support needed, Schnitzer started seriously considering FASTSIGNS due to his engineering/technology background. During his time in the military, Schnitzer learned leadership and management skills, how to put a team together and how to set objectives to ensure everyone works toward a common goal and he feels that FASTSIGNS provided him with the opportunity to strive in the areas he knows best. His store is scheduled to open in a few weeks.

honest 1

Steve Grimes

In 2007, after returning from a year-long tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 41st Brigade Combat Team of the Oregon Army National Guard, Steve Grimes was trying to decide what to do with the next chapter of his life.  Grimes found Honest-1, a young brand he felt he could grow with and opened his first location in Portland that September.  Six years later and he has been able to open four Honest-1 shops in Oregon and he will be opening his fifth Honest-1 location in Aloha, Ore., on July 5.  As a part of the grand opening, the first 50 customers will get biodegradable plant feed packets, five of which will win the customer free oil changes for a year.  He also has plans to open a sixth location in the next six months to a year.

protect painters

Paul “Buddy” Rhoades

tect painters zeeWhen Paul “Buddy” Rhoades returned from a 12-month tour in Afghanistan last year, he thought his leadership skills would put him near the top of any private employer’s candidate list. After unsuccessfully applying to hundreds of positions, however, Rhoades decided to take matters into his own hands. Eleven months ago, he became a small-business franchise owner when he opened ProTect Painters, a professional painting franchise that combines his home improvement passion with a proven business model. As the owner, Rhoades manages painting crews on both residential and commercial projects. Since opening, he has completed 59 painting jobs and is well on his way to establishing financial freedom.


Mike Lambert

valpak zeeMike Lambert began his career with the United States military, spending six years in the Marine Corps. After he left the Marines as a sergeant, Lambert became a government contractor supporting the U.S. intelligence community, where he has been for the past 16 years. Eager to start his own business, Lambert learned of Valpak through a fellow Marine, Mike Lozier, franchise owner of Valpak of Garden State East in Northern New Jersey, who has had great success with the franchise. Lambert was also able to take advantage of Valpak’s veterans incentive program, initiated last year. Valpak will waive startup fees for qualified, honorably discharged veterans. The savings amount can be up to $32,500.