Veterans as entrepreneurs

Many are opting to become franchisees, and are likely to hire ex-service members, a growing group.

Posted: May 25, 2013

Robert Rummells, a U.S. Army Ranger for 22 years, says it was a natural transition when he opened a Mosquito Joe pest-control franchise in Richmond, Va., earlier this month.

"I'm an outdoor type of guy, and I didn't want to be chained to my computer in an office, talking on the phone," said Rummells, 49, who tried jobs such as installing equipment at a community college and simulating firearms training after retiring from the military in 2009. "I learned I needed to work for myself."

As more former service personnel turn to entrepreneurship, they're generating jobs that helped cut the unemployment rate for veterans to a four-year low of 6.2 percent in April, lower than the 6.9 percent rate for adult non-veterans. The boost to the labor market matters: The White House projects more than a million Americans will leave the military through 2015.

One growing option is franchising. Veteran-owned franchise openings reported last year increased by 11,469, compared with 6,081 in 2010, according to the International Franchise Association, a trade organization in Washington.

Veterans own about 2.4 million businesses, or 9 percent of all U.S. businesses, employing 5.8 million workers, data from the Small Business Administration show. More former military personnel may consider starting a business as hiring elsewhere remains uneven.

Among franchise owners, veterans are 30 percent more likely than non-veterans to have hired a former service member, according to the franchise association's 2012 survey of 791 businesses. Yet 80 percent of franchisees weren't aware of special tax credits for employers who hire ex-military people.

Rummells said his enterprise began in earnest after his bright-yellow van, outfitted for bug-control equipment, arrived this month. He snagged 15 customers at one trade show, is working on a contract for an outdoor wedding in July, and looks forward to more business.

"It feels like I'm on patrol," he said. "This time, I have a new enemy. Mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas."

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