From forces to franchising

A new scheme delivered by the Royal British Legion is making becoming a franchise owner even more attractive to veterans who have either left or are planning on leaving the armed forces.

A Government-funded £5 million "Be the Boss" campaign aims at providing ex-service personnel with loans and grants to assist with the costs of starting and growing a business.

Department for Business Minister Lord Drayson said: "In my time at Defence, I have been inspired by the talent, capability and can-do attitude of the armed forces. Those are exactly the qualities you need in business too, but ex-service personnel are under-represented when it comes to start ups and self-employment.

"This scheme puts that right, helping former servicemen and women to be their own boss and go on contributing to our society."

Many people who opt to leave the armed forces do so before the age of 60, which means most will need to find a job in the civilian workforce. After spending years working irregular hours under the strict discipline of the military, doing a job that is varied and often dangerous, working a standard 9 to 5 job is unlikely to appeal to many ex-service personnel.

However, a significant number are choosing to start a business through franchising and with the Be The Boss scheme there is no better time for those who served their country to serve themselves to their best advantage.

As well as the loans and grants available, the Royal British Legion will also increase the information and advice available to those looking to set up a business, including matching to mentors to provide assistance to those in the early stages of their business career.

The Royal British Legion will provide up to £5 million in enterprise support, which can include training, funding to help meet initial costs or financing to help grow a business established within the past two years.

There are many reasons why becoming self-employed through franchising is more suited to ex-servicemen and women than entering into employment, such as the self-discipline and motivation running a business requires. Franchise owners work under a tried-and-tested business model that the franchisor has put in place, which is familiar to ex-servicemen and women used to working in an environment that involves a chain of command.

The transition from a career in the military to one as a civilian can often seem daunting. However, owning a franchise business provides ex-servicemen and women with a challenging career that will enable them to use the skills and experiences they gained serving in the Armed Forces in their working life as civilians.

Carl Arris, who owns the Derbyshire franchise with his wife Maureen for on-site restoration business opportunity Furniture Medics says: "My background with the Royal Engineers definitely helped to give me the confidence required to become my own boss. I learned to problem solve, to think on my feet and I also became self-disciplined - these are all useful qualities for someone starting up their own business."

The variety of franchises available ensures that a person is able to own and operate a business that suits their particular skills, from hands-on jobs such as smart vehicle bodywork repairs to an administration-based franchise.

Alternatively they may wish to try something entirely different. One such ex-serviceman is Bob Wrigley, who has been forging a successful career as a franchise owner for nearly 15 years firstly at Rainbow International and now with cleaning and hygiene franchise Chemex.

"I had been in the RAF for 29 years and at 47 years old, options for a new career were limited," explains Bob. "The Resettlement officers recommended becoming a franchise owner would be my best choice as it was a proven system."

Other attributes essential to a successful career in the military, such as being a self-starter, facing day-to-day challenges, showing initiative, getting along with others and working as a team, are all skills that most franchisors are looking for in franchise owners.

Ex-service personnel who have been discharged since 7 October 2001 will be able to apply for a loan of up to £30,000 and grants of up to £7,500 through the scheme, which builds on the Royal British Legion's Civvy Street website service at

Are You Eligible?

The Be The Boss scheme is open to eligible persons. 'Eligible persons' means former members of HM armed forces (including members of the Reserve Forces) discharged on or after 7 October 2001. This includes former Reservists who were on mobilised service in accordance with the Reserve Forces Act 1996 before 7 October 2001 provided they were also on mobilised service on or after 7 October 2001.

Business Information, Advice & Guidance

Whether you're starting up, already running a business, or looking to grow and develop, we can help you:

  • market and sell your product
  • manage your finances
  • employ people
  • find and keep customers
  • pay the correct tax
  • identify funding and support

Mentoring Support
Be The Boss is working with existing providers of mentoring support to provide ongoing assistance in setting up and running your business. The Be The Boss mentoring scheme is available to all ex-Service personnel that have already started a business within the past two years.

Be The Boss - Grants and Loans
Be The Boss consists of two types of funding

Business Grant
A grant of up to £7,500 can be provided for eligible applicants to assist with the costs of starting up in business. This can include equipment, tools, training, and other costs associated with getting your business off the ground. These costs should be identified in your business plan.

Business Loan
A loan of up to £30,000 can be provided to support your business. Applications for the loan will be subject to normal credit rules and is repayable.

Reported by Fraser McKay