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Only vets need apply: New company offers franchises exclusively to ex-military

Courtesy Jerry Flanagan

Jerry Flanagan poses with a Hummer 2 and cargo trailer emblazoned with the JDog Junk Removal logo and decorations.

You might view Jerry Flanagan’s entrepreneurial vision for jobless veterans as junk economics. That’s fine. He certainly sees it that way.

The Army veteran has launched what he says is the first company to offer former service members — and only former service members — a chance to buy one of his fledgling franchises. The business: hauling away people’s unwanted appliances, furniture and other household rubbish. In crude terms, junk removal.

Before you trash his plan, listen to Flanagan’s strategy to tidy up the 10.9 percent unemployment rate that’s been dogging post-Sept. 11 veterans (as compared to the 8.1 percent rate afflicting the rest of the nation in August). 

“Offering the franchises only to military veterans gives them the opportunity to know, ‘In this program, I don’t have to compete against this guy who has a college degree or against that guy who just went to business school.’ Right now, these people need a leg up,” said Flanagan, who served in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 1989.

“So many veterans are going to be hitting the work force by 2014. I asked myself, ‘How can we put them back to work?’ They’ll be owning their own businesses and hopefully they’ll be hiring other veterans.”

He calls his enterprise JDog Junk Removal. The tasks, territorial duties, and even the logo are purposely intended to carry a military feel, a welcome-home gift, Flanagan said, for ambitious veterans with at least $15,000 to invest. That’s the cost to buy a franchise.

The fee — plus adequate credit to lease or finance a hauling trailer plus either a green H2 Hummer or Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (the only allowable vehicles, each painted with JDog’s trademarked bulldog emblem plus a local phone number) — puts veterans in the driver’s seat to self-employment, Flanagan said.

“I know there are these guys and women coming back, and if they’re jumping into a big, military-style vehicle, if they have some space, I think it helps with the transition,” Flanagan said.

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Each franchisee will be assigned his or her own exclusive market — amid population pockets of at least 75,000 people — as well as a social networking push from corporate headquarters, local leads generated by the company website, and advice on peddling the service to area real estate firms, warehouses, commercial properties, churches and senior living facilities.

“There’s no office, no retail space to lease, and within 90 days, you’re booking jobs,” Flanagan said. “I’ve spent the past 17 months building his concept. But I also wanted to keep it simple. A lot of veterans are going to step right in and follow the system, just like they followed the system in the military every day. Veterans are the best qualified franchisees out there because they’re used to following orders.”

Flanagan saved one niche for disabled veterans: They can buy a franchise and hire one or two muscled-up pals to do the heavy lifting while the veterans run the businesses on their mobile devices.

“The cash flow is immediate because you’re paid on the spot. You go out and do four or five jobs that day, and you average $200 to $300 per job because I’ve structured the margins very well,” he added. “I started studying this (business sector) during the recession — junk removal was one of the few areas that did better after 2008. That’s what drew my attention. There’s junk in every state. There are military veterans in every state.

“We’re getting good feedback from the entire (salvage) industry that once veterans — and active duty members who are about to come home — get their heads around what I’m doing, we’re going to have a large turnout interested in franchises,” added Flanagan, who is based in Wayne, Pa. “I want 300 to 500 of these units up in 10 years. Of course, I could be underselling myself there. We could have 10 just in Long Island. We could have 50 in Texas."

According to the International Franchise Association in Washington, D.C., the only other American franchisor that offers buy-in opportunities solely to former service members is an outfit called Veteran Tech Brigade, which supplies IT services.

Kelly Crigger, co-founder and CEO of Veteran Tech Brigade said, however, that his company is aiming for an 80 percent veteran-owned franchise rate. (Veteran Tech Brigade currently is vetting its first potential franchisees — two veterans, both residing in Florida). The company mainly does government contracting and business-to-business IT consulting.

“But that’s why we started this company — to put a dent in the unemployment rate for veterans,” said Crigger, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served in Afghanistan. “We have 25 veterans now doing IT consulting.

“Especially when you consider the immense responsibility levels many veterans had while in combat, you would think” scores of companies would be clamoring for their skills, Crigger said. “I remember one guy told me: ‘Over in Iraq, my responsibility was kicking doors in all day, looking for the enemy. But I get back here and I can’t even get a job laying cement’ ”

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