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Military Experience Helps CCI Franchisee’s Business Grow


Frank Earnest, a Creative Colors International franchisee and U.S. Army veteran, relies on lessons learned navigating war zones during his decorated military career to help his Oklahoma-based business thrive.


After completing their time in the military, many veterans apply the skills they learned in the service to start their own businesses. There are 2.52 million businesses owned by veterans in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Although veterans make up only about 7 percent of the population, they account for 14 percent of all franchisees in the U.S., and 97 percent of franchisors surveyed believe veterans make excellent franchisees. Many franchisors offer discounts to encourage veterans to tackle entrepreneurship.


Attention to detail, dedication, and leadership skills enabled Earnest to rise in the ranks of the military. Earnest enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1981 to help pay for college. After graduation, Earnest was commissioned as a second lieutenant and retired as a full colonel after 30 years of service. Early in his career, Earnest traveled to Germany with his young family, where he served as an infantry officer, while his wife, Lena, taught classes in the Department of Defense Education Activity school system. 


Once he returned stateside, Earnest attended the Infantry Officer Advance Course and Airborne school with a follow on assignment to Fort Lewis, WA, and his wife continued her career teaching children with special needs. With each promotion, Earnest was consistently tapped for posts in dangerous locations, including Bosnia, Iraq, Columbia, and numerous stints in Central America. Earnest’s leadership skills were put to the test when he coordinated land operations with FEMA to evacuate civilians during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in Louisiana.


While he was stationed in Central America, Earnest had the opportunity to work with the civil authorities, which included a medical readiness exercise where the medical unit was able to treat the local population. At least 1,000 people per day showed up for treatment, and people would receive anything from shots to dental work.


During his military career, Earnest spent more than 14 years deployed away from his family in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones. After his retirement, he searched for an opportunity that would keep him close to home. A Creative Colors International franchisee from Texas inspired Earnest to look at the mobile, on-site leather and vinyl repair service as an option for business ownership. CCI is the leader in the leather, vinyl, and fabric repair business. Certified technicians can fix rips, tears, burns, scratches, and fading. The business is designed to be scalable and offers multiple revenue streams to help build a robust client base. CCI services a variety of industries, including aviation, marine, and automobile. 




Currently, Earnest and Lena operate four CCI vans and have five employees. He fills in as a technician when his employees take vacations, and Lena does the company’s books.


They own exclusive rights to the area north of Oklahoma City, but their vans operate throughout the state, and also provide services in nearby Arkansas and Missouri. “Owning my own business lets me be in charge of my own success,” Earnest said.


Earnest’s tenure in the military required him to be flexible and find unique ways to solve problems. Being adaptable helps his business flourish. Initially, Earnest focused on growing his business in the automobile industry but opting to place a special focus on RVs has been profitable for his company. CCI technicians need to evaluate options to determine the best strategy for a repair. 


In the military, you couldn’t quit because you’d die. It’s not life or death, but each job is unique and requires us to think creatively to get the job done. In the military, quitting was not an option, and I have the same view as a CCI franchisee,” he added.


CCI is dedicated to providing a path to business ownership for veterans. The company takes part in VetFran, a strategic initiative of the International Franchise Association and the IFA Foundation. If you are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, served at least four years of military service, and received an honorable discharge, you are eligible to receive a $1,500 discount off of the initial franchise fee. VetFran strives to connect talented veterans with franchise business opportunities when they return to civilian life.