Here To Serve: Military veterans often find a perfect fit in the world of franchising

Seventy-year-old Kelly White waited a long time before exploring the world of franchising. In fact, he came out of retirement at age 66 to open his HoneyBaked Ham store in Silverdale, Wash.

"Retirement was just too boring for us," says White, referring to himself and his wife Sue. Together they manage the store and a staff of eight part-time and full-time employees. White's hands-on style and love of running the business have served him well. That's probably because he founded and operated his own construction company for 25 years, much of that while concurrently running an apple orchard.

When White got out of high school in the mid 1950s, he was immediately drafted into the Army. "In those days, if you didn't have good grades and weren't headed for college you were going into the service," he says. He spent four years in the service, trained as a Russian linguist, and served overseas in Tokyo, Japan before leaving as an Army Lieutenant. "The pay was not there," he says. "I was making $250 a month when I got out."

White was born into a "construction family" and so after his time in the service he started his own company, building roads as the highway system was rapidly expanding across the U.S. At one point, his company employed more than 300 people. He made a good living. In 1997, White decided to shift gears and try his hand at retirement. Not satisfied, he considered "a retirement business." He says he and Sue looked at several franchises before deciding upon HoneyBaked Ham. "We had always loved eating the hams and had given them as gifts to our employees over the years, so when we found out they were looking for a franchisee in our area it seemed like a perfect match."

Their store opened in May of 2004. White says there have been challenges. "I had no retail or food experience, I just built roads and grew apples," he says. But franchising offers a proven system and with a little hard work the White's have made it successful. "I lacked any marketing experience but the franchise model really offers a lot of assistance with that."

Like many who spend time in the service, White says it helped him "grow up" and mature and he knows the experience has benefited him throughout his life.

He says he is very customer driven and focused on providing a good experience for all of his customers. "And we try to instill this attitude in all of our employees," he says. Typically, White's employees are teenagers and he often gives them their very first job experience. "We do a lot of training and we do have turnover, but we've had some good kids," he says.

As for day-to-day business, Kelly handles paying the bills, payroll, marketing, purchasing, and even delivers all of the catering orders. He says "Sue handles the cafe and the front and back of the house."

The couple must be doing something right, the franchise office has recognized their store as franchisee of the year.

That's quite a benchmark for a "retirement business."

When Scott Engstler and his wife, Valerie, decided they wanted to have a business of their own, they knew how perilous a start-up could be. "That's a risky prospect and can be very costly," says Engstler. So it was a natural progression that led them to franchising - and ultimately Money Mailer.

"We used FranChoice to help us figure out exactly what franchise would be the right fit for us," he says. After establishing the Engstler's profile and criteria, the couple used the information to help them decide on Money Mailer. They opened up shop in February of '07 serving the territory of southern Florida that includes Sunrise, Plantation, and Ft. Lauderdale. They haven't looked back.

"The great thing about franchising is that the model is already in place and the brand and name recognition is there," says Engstler.

Prior to franchising, Engstler spent six years on active duty in the Army ('95-'01 in the 13 Bravo Field Artillery) and then spent time with the Florida National Guard ('01-'05). Since then, he has had a career in law enforcement that he continues to be involved with. "That's where my wife has been so helpful," he says. "She handles a lot of sales for us." He says Valerie is a respiratory therapist but they hope soon, their Money Mailer will be so busy that she'll begin working for their business fulltime.

The business has been doing well for the Engstlers. They've recently added Destin, Davie, and Cooper City to their territory. "I know that in business, you get out of it what you put into it." They're putting a lot into it right now. Engstler says he works his day job and then handles some sales and all the operations and financial responsibilities for the Money Mailer after 5:00 and in the evenings. "If we grow anymore, we'll probably have to add staff," he says. "But right now it's just the two of us."

The military background has served Engstler well. He says that by spending time as a supervisor (E-6) he learned how important it is to be able to work with people. "Working, talking, managing people are essential skills in any business," he says.

As you might expect with only two employees, Scott and Valerie, the Engstler's management style is very hands on. "We know everything that goes on here because we're the ones doing everything," he says.

He says Money Mailer has been a great fit and that he gets a charge out of helping local businesses in his area with their marketing needs. "There's nothing more rewarding than hearing 'thank you' from a customer."

The Engstler's have two children (ages 2 and 4) and they love to spend time together fishing, boating, and hanging out at the park or beach.

Engstler wants to continue growing the business "with every mailing we do." He says they're always on the lookout for new customers - he uses a telemarketer to help drum up business. In the meantime, "We're looking to add to our customer base and avoid standing still."

Published: November 25th, 2008

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