November 11, 2008 // Franchising.com // DETROIT - The Little Caesars Veterans Program continues to exceed expectations and is making a difference for U.S. veterans as they become independent business owners as Little Caesars franchisees. "We are excited that the Little Caesars Veterans Program has been so well received and, based on its success, we're pleased to announce that we're extending the program for another two years," said David Scrivano, president, Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc. "The Little Caesars Veterans Program is helping veterans change their lives and build for their futures, and we are enhancing the program with additional benefits."
The program was launched in 2006 with the intent to review the level of interest and results after two years. Nearly three times the expected number of veterans are participating in the program. Currently, 45 veterans collectively are applying more than $1.25 million in credits and benefits to help them grow their Little Caesars businesses. To date, 2,400 inquires have been made about the program.
The Little Caesars Veterans Program provides business opportunities to veterans as they transition to civilian life or seek a career change. It offers honorably discharged service-disabled veterans who qualify as Little Caesars franchisees a benefit of up to approximately $68,000. The benefit for honorably discharged non-service-disabled veterans who qualify as Little Caesars franchisees has now increased to up to approximately $20,000.
The Little Caesars Veterans Program got its start when Little Caesars chairman and founder and U.S. Marine Michael Ilitch read about Army Staff Sergeant Robbie Doughty, who lost his legs while serving in Iraq. Ilitch was impressed with Doughty's attitude and strength of character, and after getting to know him, felt that Doughty could be an entrepreneur. Wanting to show his appreciation, Ilitch gave Doughty a Little Caesars store, which he runs in his home town of Paducah, Ky. Inspired by Doughty's story to do more, Ilitch asked the Little Caesars management team to develop a program that would provide business opportunities to more veterans. The result: the Little Caesars Veterans Program.
"I love being a business owner and I want to provide a way for veterans to become entrepreneurs," said Ilitch. "Veterans bring many skills that are transferable to the business world; it's a win-win situation for both the veterans and for Little Caesars."
Building on the early success of the program, Little Caesars is working to expand and enhance it by helping veterans become business partners with other veterans. "Veterans bring great skills to the business, and sometimes they can benefit from partnering with another veteran who has been out of the service for some time and is more established financially," said Scrivano. "Little Caesars is developing a complementary program that will connect veterans who want to become store operators with those who are looking to invest in an opportunity, and grow the business together. This innovative approach can be especially helpful during tough economic times when it is more difficult to secure financing."
This aspect of the program is under development, and veterans interested in exploring business partnership opportunities can find more information on LittleCaesars.com. Little Caesars is also developing additional training for veterans in the areas of finance, marketing and operations.
In addition to Little Caesars' contributions to the program, several companies are also providing benefits including Pepsi, Monster, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Crossroads Financial, ADCOLOR, ADVO, Printworks and MARS Advertising.
Little Caesars continues to work with other companies to provide additional credits and benefits to make the program even more significant. "We are talking with several organizations that are interested in supporting the program to create opportunities for veterans," said Scrivano. "We encourage all companies to consider what they can do to help provide benefits for our veterans, either by participating in the Little Caesars Veterans Program or creating programs of their own."
P.A. Products, Inc., which supplies kitchen products to the restaurant industry, recently joined the program and is providing 150 pizza pans valued at $2,300 to service-disabled veterans who are participating in the program. "This program is a great example of how people can work together to help make a difference, and we're excited to be involved," said Tim Pilzner, owner, P.A. Products, Inc.
"My wife and I are pursuing our own American dream of owning a business, and the Little Caesars Veterans Program has made that possible," said Elmer Gandionco, Iraq war veteran and Little Caesars franchisee. "I'm excited to start the next chapter of my life and build a business for my family as an entrepreneur with a widely recognized and successful brand. It's a dream come true."
Several veterans have already built a second Little Caesars store, with plans to build more. "Providing benefits to veterans is a critical first step toward their becoming entrepreneurs," said Scrivano. "But the fact that they are starting to build their second stores really demonstrates the strength of the program."
The Center for Veterans Enterprise (part of the Department of Veterans Affairs), Marine For Life (an organization that helps Marines and Sailors transition to civilian life), and the International Franchise Association (through its VetFran program) are points of contact for the Little Caesars Veterans Program. They can provide information about the requirements and qualifications of becoming a Little Caesars franchisee.
Little Caesars Pizza founders Michael and Marian Ilitch opened their first restaurant in Garden City, Michigan in 1959. Little Caesars built more stores in the U.S. in 2007 than any other pizza chain and today is the largest carry-out chain internationally with restaurants on five continents. Little Caesars is growing in prime markets across the country, and is offering strong franchisee candidates an opportunity for independence with a proven system. In addition, Little Caesars offers strong brand awareness with one of the most recognized and appealing characters in the country, Little Caesar.
In addition to Little Caesars Pizza, Ilitch companies in the food, sports and entertainment industries include: the Detroit Red Wings, Olympia Entertainment, Olympia Development, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, Ilitch Holdings, Inc., Uptown Entertainment, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program, and a variety of venues within these entities. Michael Ilitch owns the Detroit Tigers. Marian Ilitch owns MotorCity Casino Hotel.