The IFA Foundation is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, and its flagship VetFran program is not far behind at 27. It all started when my father, Don Dwyer asked an important question: "What if the systems that make strong franchise concepts a success were paired with people who are already deeply educated in following proven systems?" That was his thinking when he conceived of the ultimate way to thank honorable men and women of the U.S. military for protecting the very freedom under which our country's free enterprise system flourishes. These are people devoted to following systems, winning missions, and maintaining order and discipline to protect and serve. Those are great attributes for future franchise owners, thought Dwyer, a military veteran himself.
Don Dwyer was a famously big dreamer. That's true of so many franchise legends, franchise founders and entrepreneurs at heart. And that helps to explain why the pioneering program for veterans at the Dwyer Group expanded into an industry-wide program that today counts more than 600 franchisor members and has helped thousands of veterans find their way into small business ownership.
Soon after the Gulf War ended in 1991, Dwyer introduced the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative (today known as the VetFran program) to give those well-trained men and women discounts on owning a Dwyer Group's service brand franchise. Along the way, he encouraged fellow franchisors to join the cause and offer their best financial incentives to military veterans transitioning back into the civilian world and searching for their next career. His ultimate goal was to see a very big dream become a very big reality. And it happened.
My father saw the potential after the Gulf War in the 1990s, and I followed in his shoes after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The weeks that followed represented a pinnacle moment for IFA to embrace VetFran, give it new life and make a real impact with more participation on a national level. More franchisors. More veterans. More grassroots connections. More futures with direction and meaning. It would make my father proud to see the program continuing to flourish under the leadership of the IFA Foundation.
During the past 27 years, the program has accomplished a great deal and received some real recognition. It has partnered with the White House and the U.S. Small Business Administration and was recognized with awards by the Department of Defense and the U.S...