Veterans possess specialized leadership, operations, and management skills — all highly sought after in the franchising community. While they may be well-suited for franchise ownership, veterans often lack the initial start-up investment required to open most franchise businesses. Simply stated, these veterans have served their country and now want to serve their community, but they need a “boost” financially.
This is why Sprigster has launched an innovative solution for veterans. Its “Boost a Hero” program is designed with the sole purpose of helping returning veterans raise the capital they need to achieve franchise business ownership. This unique program offers a platform for veterans to tell their story and collect small contributions from “the crowd” to cumulatively fund their project. It’s a creative approach that allows veterans to raise monies that aren’t repaid as with loans. Veterans have the skills and now they have a viable option for obtaining the capital they need to achieve their dream of becoming a franchise business owner.
Since 1998, Mark Mohler, CEO of Sprigster, has been involved in small business formation, operation, and corporate finance. Over the last eight years, Mark has focused on social entrepreneurship-based businesses as a founder, senior executive, and board member for several venture capital and private equity backed social entrepreneurship businesses.
He is a frequent writer and lecturer on matters of “triple bottom line” business models (emphasizing profit along with societal benefits and sustainable business practices), cleantech finance, and policy and impact investing. Mark also serves as a small business mentor for Startup Florida, a division of Startup America, and as a special advisor to the Florida Opportunity Fund, a state sponsored economic development venture fund managed under the auspices of Enterprise Florida.
Mark was previously a founding member of Rotation LLC and Forest Systems, cleantech companies focused on project development in the clean energy and recycling sectors. Prior to Forest Systems, Mark was a member of senior management and general counsel to a public company technology venture group, XL TechGroup. Earlier in his career, Mark was a partner with an AmLaw 100 law firm where he remains as counsel to the firm in the areas of business finance, venture fund formation, taxation and tax equity transactions, joint ventures, cleantech companies, technology licensing, and mergers and acquisitions.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you tell us how you came up with the concept for Sprigster?
Mark Mohler (MM): While working in social enterprises, our founding members participated in the convergence of social media platforms, micro-finance initiatives, and cause-based business models. We formed Sprigster based upon the conviction that these new and powerful tools could be used as engines of economic development in capital constrained times. At the heart of this convergence, crowdfunding has emerged as a preferred method of allowing people to collaborate behind meaningful causes. We decided to focus Sprigster on the growing problem of veteran unemployment. Franchise business models give veterans the best chance to transition their skills into the civilian marketplace by “hiring themselves” as small business owners.
FC: Please explain how Sprigster actually works.
MM: Sprigster is based on the increasingly popular crowdfunding approach in which “the crowd” contributes small amounts that, when combined with many other small contributions, cumulatively funds a project — such as opening a franchise business. As part of the “Boost a Hero” program, prospective veteran franchisees set a funding goal, then “pitch” their project to the public, and through pledges and contributions, raise the capital needed to open their franchise business.
Qualifying U.S. veterans can register for the “Boost a Hero” program at Sprigster’s website. Once approved by their franchisor, a veteran’s profile and funding goals are developed and the project is featured on the website. Sprigster provides resources and coaching to assist the veteran in promoting his or her project to the “crowd” using social media tools. The crowd, which can include friends, family, the local community, other military veterans, fans of the franchisor, and essentially anyone compelled to support the veteran, can then contribute toward the funding goal.
FC: Why did you decide to focus on Veterans for your initial franchise platform?
MM: While veterans have access to discounted franchising fees, they often don’t have the initial start-up investment needed to open most franchise businesses. Many people are looking for little ways that they can support returning veterans. Sprigster provides a viable option for veterans to raise the necessary funds and for people to express their thanks for the service these men and women have made for their country. These brave soldiers have served our country and acquired skills that are readily transferable to operating a successful franchise business. They just need a boost to get started.
FC: If a Veteran is interested in using your platform to raise funds to start a franchise business, are there any other requirements that he or she must meet?
MM: Veterans must be honorably discharged. They must select and be approved by a franchisor. Essentially, they need to meet all of the requirements established by the franchise in which they plan to invest. The only requirement they may not fulfill is the funding they are trying to obtain via the “Boost a Hero” program.
MM: Yes, if the veteran is approved to purchase an existing franchise from the franchisor, then the “Boost a Hero” platform could be used to raise the funds they need.
FC: What are you doing to attract a critical mass of potential donors?
MM: We are leveraging our involvement in the IFA and its VetFran program, as well as other programs designed to help returning veterans start their own businesses. In addition, we are utilizing social media platforms and traditional public relations outreach to spread the word about the tremendous opportunity that “Boost a Hero” provides veterans.
FC: When do you plan to make the platform available to prospective franchisees who are not Veterans?
MM: We have no current plans to expand the platform beyond U.S. veterans. Veteran unemployment is already a huge problem and military down-sizing is projected to displace another 1 million veterans from military service over the next four years. Not only do we owe it to those who served the country to provide opportunities to earn an income outside of the military, it is fool-hearty not to use these trained and disciplined leaders to lead back economic recovery through small business ownership.
FC: What is your business model for Sprigster? How do you intend to make money?
MM: Sprigster’s fee is 5% of the funds raised. We will also offer opportunities for franchisors to have premium partnerships with Sprigster.
FC: What are your growth plans for Sprigster and how do you plan to scale the business?
MM: Today, we are running the platform in beta mode in order to optimize the user experience and build a user base. We have a number of brands participating in the “Boost a Hero” program, including The Dwyer Group, BrightStar Care, CiCi’s, Driven Brands, FASTSIGNS, Global Franchise Group, Granite Transformations, PostNet, ServiceMaster, Tasti D-Lite, and Valpak. Crowdfunding has many applications within the franchise industry both domestically and internationally.
FC: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Sprigster?
MM: We encourage people to visit www.sprigster.com, to “like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter (@sprigsterllc). Help us get the word out on how people can help veterans lead back this economy as franchise business owners. If so inclined, we welcome you to contribute to these veterans. They have served our country honorably and deserve the opportunity of franchise ownership, as well as the chance to employ even more returning veterans.