Franchises are an excellent opportunity for aspiring business owners in general, but veterans are uniquely qualified for this kind of entrepreneurship. Running a franchise successfully requires grit, determination, analytical skills and leadership ability, which service members have in spades. Succeeding in the franchisor’s mission also requires that the franchisee works within the franchisor’s proven business model and properly executes their training. Veterans are no strangers to the reliability and decisiveness required of successful franchisees. And thanks to their unique skillset, veterans can enter, and succeed in, franchises in industries in which they have no prior experience.
That explains why service members make up an entire 14% of American franchisees, even though vets only make up 7% of the country’s population. And thanks to the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program — whose mission it is to “facilitate the transition of veterans into franchising” — over 600 franchises offer incentives for veterans to join their systems, such as discounting or waiving the initial franchise fee.
Here, we’ll highlight just 19 of the best franchise opportunities for veterans to consider. These franchises represent a range of industries, so you can get a sense of which types of businesses you’d be interested in entering. What all these franchises have in common are their strong name recognition; a robust, nationwide presence; excellent ratings on VetFran’s opportunity database; and, of course, generous discounts and incentives for veterans who join their franchise systems.
19 top franchise opportunities for veterans in 2021
In this list, we’ll tell you a little bit about each franchise we’ve chosen, including their startup costs, franchise fee and the discount or incentive they offer veterans.
Note that initial investments vary depending on where you’re located, so the startup costs we’ve provided are estimates for franchisees located in the New York area. If you’re interested in a particular franchise, we recommend searching the company on Franchise Direct, Franchising.com, or TopFranchise.com, which will provide you with details about relevant startup costs, fees and investments, often tailored according to your area. We’d also recommend taking a look at our franchise fees guide to better understand how to evaluate potential franchisors from a financial standpoint.
1. Edible Arrangements
Estimated total initial investment: $173,600 to $373,450
Initial franchise fee: $20,000 to $30,000
Veteran benefits: Current active military personnel and honorably discharged veterans receive a $10,000 discount off their initial franchise fee.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, specialty food company Edible Arrangements boasts over 1,200 stores worldwide. Edible Arrangements specializes in floral-sculpted gift baskets, bouquets, platters and boxes made of fresh and chocolate-covered fruit, but they’ve recently expanded into other treats like smoothies and truffles.
Estimated total initial investment: $93,550 to $401,800
Initial franchise fee: $12,500 to $25,000
Veteran benefits: The 20-year initial franchise fee is waived on the first restaurant. Royalty fees are reduced for five years (Year 1: 0%; Year 2: 0%; Year 3: 1.9%; Year 4: 2.9%; Year 5: 2.9%), then the standard royalty rate of 5.9% resumes in the sixth year. There's a 20% VetFran program discount off each 20-year initial franchise fee 10-year payment plan on up to four additional restaurants.
Baskin-Robbins is one of the oldest and most established franchises on this list. Since its beginnings in 1946, Baskin-Robbins has become one of the largest ice cream chains in the world. They’re headquartered in Canton, Massachusetts, but the franchise has over 7,900 locations worldwide.
3. The UPS Store
Estimated total initial investment: $138,433 to $470,031
Initial franchise fee: $9,950 to $29,950
Veteran benefits: $10,000 off the franchise fee for the first store and 50% off the initial application fee for the first store.
A leading name in packing, shipping and printing services, The UPS Store has an estimated 5,075 locations and has been franchising for 40 years. So in addition to reaping the benefits of their reliable business model, you’ll also participate in the company’s proven franchisee training and support system.
Estimated total initial investment: $95,700 to $1.6 million
Initial franchise fee: $40,000 to $90,000
Veteran benefits: Veterans who purchase a Store Development Agreement for up to five stores receive a 20% discount on the initial franchise fee.
Dunkin’ is practically synonymous with coffee, fresh doughnuts and generally starting your day off on the right culinary foot (especially if you live in the Northeast, where Dunkin’ is basically a cultural touchstone). If you want to own a slice of this 65-year-old franchise, you’ll be joining a network of over 12,500 Dunkin’ locations based in over 45 countries.
Read more in our guide to opening a Dunkin' franchise.
5. ProSource Wholesale
Estimated total initial investment: $509,649 to $518,258
Initial franchise fee: $46,450
Veteran benefits: The initial franchise fee is reduced to $20,000 for veterans, which is a 57% discount.
ProSource Wholesale is the country’s largest wholesale home improvement franchise, whose independently owned showrooms cater to contractors, designers and other home improvement professionals. In 2017, the Earth City, Missouri-based franchise snagged "Entrepreneur’s" winning spot as the top franchise in the flooring industry, though their showrooms also feature kitchen, bath and plumbing products.
6. Pirtek USA
Estimated total initial investment: $346,800 to $782,300
Initial franchise fee: $20,000 to $50,000 (based on the tier selected)
Veteran benefits: Qualified veterans receive a 30% discount off their initial franchise fee.
Headquartered in Rockledge, Florida, Pirtek USA specializes in hydraulic and industrial hose repair replacements from their 90+ service and supply centers worldwide. The company services customers in a wide range of industries, like engineering, agriculture, defense, manufacturing and earthmoving.
7. Link Staffing Services
Estimated total initial investment: $112,500 to $199,000
Initial franchise fee: $35,000
Veteran benefits: $10,000 off the initial franchise fee
Houston, Texas-based Link Staffing Services provides people seeking employment with job placement services and career development training. With about 50 locations across the country, Link Staffing Services is fairly small relative to franchises with greater name recognition, but they carry among the lowest initial franchise fees and estimated upfront investments on this list (which is lowered further by their veteran discount).
8. Mathnasium Learning Centers
Estimated total initial investment: $112,750 to $149,110
Initial franchise fee: $49,000
Veteran benefits: Veterans receive a 25% discount ($12,500) off the initial investment fee.
If you’re passionate about helping children succeed in math, consider buying a Mathnasium Learning Center franchise. As the name suggests, this Los Angeles-headquartered franchise provides “math-only” tutoring for K-12 kids using a proprietary educational method. Mathnasium began their franchising program in 2003, and they’ve already grown to over 900 learning centers located worldwide.
9. Fetch! Pet Care, Inc.
Estimated total initial investment: $19,967 to $28,167
Initial franchise fee: $6,000
Veteran benefits: Veterans receive a 25% discount off the initial franchise fee.
Fetch! Pet Care provides dog walking, pet sitting, cat visits, pet boarding and other pet services from their 80+ locations in 27 states across the country. Joining this Dayton, Ohio-based franchise would be an excellent option either for pet lovers, or for veterans looking to enter a franchise with a low financial barrier to entry — Fetch! Pet Care boasts the lowest upfront investment on this list, as well as a generous incentive for veterans.
10. Qdoba Mexican Eats
Estimated total initial investment: $754,000 to $1.56 million
Initial franchise fee: $30,000
Veteran benefits: Qualified veterans receive a 20% discount off the initial franchise fee.
Qdoba Mexican Eats is one of the country’s most popular fast-casual Mexican restaurants in the country, emphasizing their use of fresh ingredients and dishes made in-house. This San Diego, California-based franchise currently has over 700 locations in 47 states, both in conventional restaurants and takeaway spaces such as airports and universities.
11. Home Helpers Home Care
Estimated total initial investment: $84,750 to $136,900
Initial franchise fee: $48,900
Veteran benefits: Qualified military personnel and veterans receive $5,000 off.
Cincinnati, Ohio-based Home Helpers Home Care provides in-home medical, personal, monitoring and companion services for seniors, pre- and post-natal mothers, people recovering from strokes and other medical conditions and a host of other people who need intensive or occasional in-home care. In all of their operations — from franchise opportunities to veteran and military spouse employment to veterans who need in-home care — Home Helpers is especially committed to serving current and former service members.
12. AAMCO Transmissions and Total Car Care
Estimated total initial investment: $223,600 to $330,500
Initial franchise fee: $39,500
Veteran benefits: Veterans get $5,000 taken off the initial franchise fee.
With origins dating back to 1963, AAMCO is one of the most trusted and established names in comprehensive and complex car servicing and repairs in the country. This Horsham, PA-based company has over 2,000 locations across the country, all of which are equipped to service traditional, hybrid and electric cars.
13. Eye Level Learning Centers
Estimated total initial investment: $59,388 to $126,750
Initial franchise fee: $5,000
Veteran benefits: Qualified veterans receive a 50% discount off the initial franchise fee.
Eye Level Learning Centers originated in South Korea in 1976, but they’ve since grown to a network of well over 1,000 locations around the world. Eye Level provides children with supplemental education and enrichment programs, where they emphasize self-directed learning so that each child can learn at their own pace. The franchise fee is also one of the lowest on this list, and their veteran incentive is incredibly generous.
14. Dream Vacations
Estimated total initial investment: $1,795 to $20,300
Initial franchise fee: $9,800 for a new franchisee
Veteran benefits: Retired and active service members, military spouses and first responders receive 20% off the initial franchise fee. They also waive the training fee for a business partner and waive the associate fee for veteran and military spouses.
If you want to join the $8.8 trillion travel industry, you could do a lot worse than buying a Dream Vacations franchise: Founded in 1992, this Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based home-based travel agency is the world’s largest seller of cruise vacations. The franchise boasts several accolades and awards, and it’s the only travel agency with a five-star ranking from VetFran. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable franchises we came across in our research.
15. U.S. Lawns
Estimated total initial investment: $39,800 to $81,300
Initial franchise fee: $29,000 to $34,000
Veteran benefits: Veterans receive a $5,000 discount off the initial franchise fee. Qualified veterans can also receive 90% financing on the franchise fee.
Orlando, Florida-based U.S. Lawns is the largest commercial landscaping and lawn maintenance company in the country, and the fastest-growing landscape franchise in an industry worth $99 billion. U.S. Lawns counts “strength, discipline, efficiency and service” as their top priorities, so many veterans will find that this franchise’s values align with their own.
16. Snap-on Tools
Estimated total initial investment: $172,207 to $375,265
Initial license fee: $8,000 to $16,000
Veteran benefits: Honorably discharged veterans receive a $20,000 discount off the initial inventory purchase.
Snap-on Tools has provided tools for professional technicians in a range of industries for 100 years. Now, they’re the world leader in designing, manufacturing and selling these crucial products.
17. Merry Maids
Estimated total initial investment: $89,616 to $125,023
Initial franchise fee: $37,500 to $51,500
Veteran benefits: Honorably discharged veterans receive a 20% discount off the initial franchise fee.
Merry Maids provides virtually any in-home cleaning service a consumer could need, including apartment, home, specialty, detailed, holiday, green and organizational cleaning services. As the safety of their clients is top of mind, all Merry Maids professional housekeepers are highly trained, background-checked, bonded and insured.
18. Anytime Fitness
Estimated total initial investment: $58,870 to $521,437
Initial franchise/development Fee: $21,000 to $42,500
Veteran benefits: Anytime Fitness offers several discounts for veterans, depending on the number of units purchased and unit locations. One such discount is 20% off franchise fees.
As the name implies, all 3,500 Anytime Fitness gyms across all 50 states and 20 countries are open 24 hours a day. Anytime Fitness is the world’s largest and fastest-growing fitness franchise, and you don’t need prior experience in the fitness industry to qualify as a franchisee.
19. Midas International
Estimated total initial investment: $191,650 to $460,482
Initial franchise fee: $30,000
Veteran benefits: Midas waives the $30,000 initial franchise fee for veterans.
Since its origins in 1954, Midas has become one of the largest and most trusted brands in car repairs. Now, the company has over 1,000 branches across North America, and another 2,000 locations worldwide.
The bottom line
This list only scratches the surface of veteran-friendly franchises. For more information, we’d recommend hopping on VetFran’s company directory, where you can search franchise opportunities according to industry (and rest assured that all companies included in the directory are vetted by VetFran).
If you’re on the fence about joining a franchise, you can also take a look at this guide to the advantages and disadvantages of franchising. And if the upfront cost is the biggest deterrent — even with the veteran discounts — know there are franchise financing options to take some of the burden off your own bank account.
This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.