Why This Veteran Joined a Franchise Built Exclusively for Veterans
There’s nothing better than the smell of freshly cut grass. Especially, if that smell is included in the list of perks for your job. For Susan Wong, Air Force retiree and the first franchise owner of FIELD OPS Athletic Field Markings, getting out of the office and having the flexibility to spend time with her three daughters were her top priorities for a post-military career.
Susan started her Air Force career as one of the few enlisted women in C-17 aircraft maintenance, working long shifts on the flight line, no matter the weather. From there, she joined ROTC, entered into cyberspace operations, and later became a foreign area officer. And, while she enjoyed those positions, it was tough for her to see the immediate results and impact of her work.
“As a cyberspace operator, we always got called when systems were down; never when things were working properly.”
Susan also felt that she was pulled in a lot of different directions by multiple additional duties that were outside her scope of responsibility. Not only did these extra activities distract her from her primary job, they were required to compete for promotions. She looked forward to the day when she could simply focus all her energy on just one thing.
When Susan retired from the Air Force, she experienced a lot of anxiety during her transition from military to civilian life. She moved from Hawaii to Texas, out-processed from the military, and closed on a house. All of this on top of trying to figure out what to do next and how to support her family as a single mom.
Given her military background, it would have been relatively easy for Susan to step into the defense industry, or work with international allies or partners. But the idea of going back to an office environment or into a sensitive compartment information facility (SCIF) cut-off from her daughters, was far from ideal.
“I realized that I wanted to work for myself,” she said. “But when I thought about owning my own business, it was a blank slate, and I would have to create everything from scratch. That’s why I chose FIELD OPS instead.”
As Jack Child, a 10-year veteran himself, and founder of Veteran Service Brands (VSB), knows full well, it’s not easy to start your own business, particularly for many veterans. And that’s precisely why he formed VSB.
VSB sprang from his experience as franchisor of G-FORCE Parking Lot Striping. Awarding franchises since 2018, G-FORCE now has almost 40 locations and is already the largest brand in the Pavement Marking space. Importantly, G-FORCE was the very first brand to award franchises exclusively to veterans.
“There’s so much more to starting a business than people realize,” he said. “Most think ‘Well, I’ll file my LLC, get a business card and, boom, I’m in business!’.” Having launched a number of my own businesses and having been previously franchised, I knew many of my fellow veterans could benefit from my experience starting and running successful service businesses.”
A great way to enter the business world is by owning a franchise, which was the main point of the G.I. Jobs webinar Susan attended in early 2022. She heard a presentation from VSB and inquired about their newest brand: FIELD OPS.
FIELD OPS is a low cost, emerging franchise (starting at just $19K) within the VSB network (along with G-FORCE, MACH ONE Epoxy Floors and PAINT CORPS) and specializes in athletic field markings for schools, municipalities, recreation centers, and athletic facilities.
“It was really courageous of Susan to be our first franchise partner,” said Jack. “Until you have a number of happy franchise owners, it’s really an unproven concept. I happen to know it works because of the many leads we receive for fields through our G-FORCE brand, with several of our G-FORCE partners already performing these services. But, still, there are many who would say, ‘No way am I taking that risk.’”
On the contrary, Susan was excited to take on a new challenge. Not only would she be able to focus on the business, but she could also share in the venture with her daughters. And, she genuinely liked being first.
“My daughters get to help me,” she said. “I can teach them the trade and we can learn together. I am paying them for their work, while they get practical skills. It also gets them outside!”
Susan’s daughters aren’t the only ones who lend a hand. Susan’s parents wish to help when they come to visit.
And then there’s Wall-e, the name her daughter gave Susan’s brand-new robot that automates the markings on the fields with incredible precision. Wall-e dramatically reduces installation time while simultaneously improving results. Wall-e is a game changer for Susan’s business.
Beyond her immediate family (and Wall-e), Susan feels a bond with the other VSB franchise owners too. Because every business in the VSB network is veteran-owned, there’s an immediate sense of camaraderie among the franchise partners, just as Susan experienced in the Air Force.
“The biggest thing for me is I get to work with other veterans,” she said. “I feel comfortable being around them and we talk the same language. When I came into this franchise, it felt like a family. Like a PCS (Permanent Change of Station), when you move to a new base, I don’t feel like a stranger here.”
And she’s certainly not alone when it comes to figuring out how to run her franchise. The whole goal of VSB is to help veterans contribute in a meaningful way after their military service through business ownership.
“We take them from zero to 100 miles per hour,” Jack explained. “We’re all about building their confidence, helping them make connections, and gaining customers.”
For the moment, Susan is taking it one day at a time and learning the intricacies of the business. In the future, she wants to expand her franchise and employ high school and college students.
“I want to influence students to have a good work ethic,” she said. “I’ll pay them a decent wage, get them outside, and help students who are just starting out in the workforce.”
Jack is excited for the future of FIELD OPS, too, as well as the entire VSB network.
“As we build out FIELD OPS, we easily envision 50 to 100 locations. For VSB, we see upwards of 500-700 locations across all of our brands, as the only franchise network of its kind, focused exclusively on veterans.”
Now, when Susan is outside working, that smell of freshly cut grass also smells like freedom.