In 2011, during the height of the Great Recession, Flanagan came up with the idea for his company, convinced it was a recession-proof business. It's a rarity amid the armed forces franchise boom that a franchise is being offered exclusively to members of the military, their families and veterans.
JDog currently has annual sales of approximately $1.5 million from its 12 franchises, and five more franchises are committed to opening throughout this year. Its goal is to have 400 more territories in the next five years, which would amount to about $36.7 million in sales. The company projects JDog will create 2,000 new jobs for veterans and military families.
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"Veterans and military families are trying to assimilate back into civilian life, and there aren't many choices for them," Flanagan said. "This is not just about getting a job; it's about a veteran being able to run his or her own business and hire other veterans."
Four current JDog franchise owners have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, while the others served in the military in other capacities.
The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001—a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans—declined by 1.8 percentage points over the year to 7.2 percent in 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The jobless rate for all veterans, at 5.3 percent, also declined. There were 573,000 unemployed veterans in 2014, out of the total population of 21.2 million veterans that are in the civilian non-institutional population.
Citing Census Bureau data, the IFA estimated that more than 66,000 franchises in the U.S. are owned by veterans. In 2014, 52,333 veterans found employment opportunities across 13,446 franchise business locations, according to the IFA survey. Additionally, 62 participating franchise brands recruited 416 veterans as new franchisees during the year, and an additional 350 veteran franchisee candidates are currently under consideration.
George Eldridge, a U.S. Air Force veteran who is the program manager for VetFran, said that after several years in the military—and especially after decades of service—the experience provides perspective that transfers well into life, and business.
"Veterans know what a bad day looks like, Eldridge said. "An event that may occur isn't seen as a dead end but rather as the next challenge." He added that veterans are looking for opportunities to excel on their own within a system, so the franchise model's "independence with support" is attractive to them.