Zachary veteran to celebrate Memorial Day as one of first franchise owners under Troops in Transition program

For 23 years, Walt Byars served his country in the United States Navy. Now he’s serving customers in the Zachary area as one of the first veterans to become a franchise owner under national custom window chain Budget Blinds’ Troops in Transition program, which was launched in February.

Byars and his wife, Melissa, opened their franchise just last week. The Troops in Transition program offers post-9/11 veterans the opportunity to open their own business without paying the initial $75,000 franchising fee. For Byars, who has always wanted to start his own business, the program provided him a realistic path toward obtaining his dream.

“WIthout this opportunity we’d have had to get a small business loan,” says Byars, who earned a master’s degree in business while in the military. “They give you the tools and training you need to succeed. I have a 23-year-old daughter, and to get the business going to the point that my daughter could move down here with her husband and work, that’s the goal.”

Budget Blinds co-founder Todd Jackson says every veteran to open a franchise under the Troops in Transition program must bring in $100,000 in sales during its first six months to continue operations. Three veterans are currently in the program, but Jackson hopes to reach out to veteran groups and expand the number of veteran franchisees.

All potential franchisees go through training with Budget Blinds for two weeks in California and learn all aspects of the business before returning their homes to start selling blinds. Most franchises are operated out of the franchisee’s home, and Budget Blinds provides the veterans with all of their startup materials.

“We get them through every step of starting a business, marketing efforts, things they can do to get their franchise up, how to hook it up with the local campaign,” Jackson says. “We also have a 21-week support system. We try to be with them during this time.”

Jackson says the franchises are arranged in ZIP code zones so each has its own territory. Veterans in the Troops in Transition program also have a mentor who also owns a franchise to help them. He says the business has been involved with veteran organizations for a number of years, assisting veterans with getting jobs after leaving the service.

“I’m amazed at the caliber of people that we’re getting. Our goal would be to get 100 of these a year,” Jackson says of the program’s participants. “They are ethical, they are moral, they are used to dealing with people who all want the same thing, they want to better their lives.”

Byars says he looks forward to growing his business and wants to eventually hire an installer to work for him and someone to work in the office.

“I knew I wanted to start my own business,” Byars says. “I’ve always liked business, and in the military I kind of ran things, and I really didn’t think that I wanted to go back into a corporate setting. It’s the American dream.”

—Deanna Narveson

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