According to the Pew Research center, nearly 200,000 veterans struggle to find a job after leaving the military each year, and only one in four U.S. veterans will have a job lined up when they return to civilian life. Many veterans have a hard time transitioning from their life in the military to a life in corporate America. Several often describe it as similar to learning a new language and have a hard time finding an occupation that aligns with the interests that drove them to serve.

Most military veterans typically join the military in their early twenties, and don’t get much business experience before then. Having been born in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee, I attended Ole Miss where I was a part of their ROTC program. After graduation I enlisted in the military, and served a total of eight and half years. Afterward, I was hungry for entrepreneurship, and was ecstatic when I won PJ’s Coffee’s Annual Veteran Franchise License Giveaway.

Using Military Mindset for Next Venture

During my years of active duty, I was sent to Jalalabad, Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. During this time, I was both an Army Officer and helicopter pilot, and at one point flew an AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter. I then transitioned to a recruiting company commander, before finishing the last two years of my military career in the Mississippi National Guard.

Once I retired, I was not sure which direction I wanted to go next. I enjoyed the leadership experience I gained in the military, and the strong work ethic they helped instill in me. As a member of a team, it was essential to collaborate and communicate effectively to one another. We had to be ready for anything and can adapt to any scenario that came our way. With that, you also had to be self-sufficient, in case unexpected circumstances arose. I knew that this was the type of environment that I wanted to incorporate into my career, and what I could create as an entrepreneur.

Find the Right Support  

My first endeavor after the military was becoming one of Amazon’s first delivery drivers in Memphis. Not feeling quite as fulfilled, I decided to shift towards more traditional business ownership. Having always been interested in coffee, my wife Jenn and I purchased a local shop in town. We very quickly realized that we took on a lot doing this on our own, and that if we wanted to do this, we were going to need some guidance.

I knew what Jenn and I really needed was a franchise that could help guide us through opening a business, and educate us on the industry. Once we saw PJ’s Coffee’s model, we knew it was the perfect fit for us. We were initially drawn to their infrastructure and offerings, but we never expected the amount of franchise support we’d receive from their development team. They’ve helped with every aspect, from lease procurement, training, education, operations, marketing, etc. Working with PJ’s Coffee has helped us streamline our business model significantly, and has helped us evolve as business owners.

Build a Strong Business Portfolio

Many veterans want to be able to build and diversify their business portfolios, and are interested in owning several businesses or franchise concepts. This is important to keep in mind when you are researching different business models. Some franchises allow for more flexibility than others, and many encourage multi-unit owners. It is typically beneficial to make sure your businesses complement each other, and operate in a similar space.

Find a Fit for the Community you Serve

When Jenn and I were looking for a business to bring to town, we noticed that there was only one dominate coffee concept serving the area. I wanted to be able to bring the community variety with a product I knew would be unique to the area. Not only is it rewarding to be able to contribute this way, but becoming a business owner has provided me with a vessel to be able to give back. PJ’s Coffee allows us to sponsor sports teams, support charities, and be a gathering place for friends and families.

Provide Opportunities for Others

Our goal is to become the go-to coffee shop of Memphis, and we know we can’t do it alone. Jenn and I are looking for a team full of like-minded individuals who are motivated and passionate about helping people. The motto they value is E.A.T—Effort, Attitude, and Teamwork. They expect all of their employees to put their best foot forward when they come in. With a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and the ability to work together, and business can run efficiently.

Surrounding ourselves with a team that embodies these values and matches our goals will help lead us to success. We value our employees, and are always here to listen to their needs to find ways to improve. We are the first to admit we’re not perfect, and the first to make a change when it’s needed.

Kyle McElhaney is a military veteran who served as an Army Officer and helicopter pilot. After eight and a half years of service, Kyle and his wife Jenn turned to entrepreneurship. The pair had a passion for coffee and knew they would benefit from support from a franchise, and PJ’s Coffee aligned perfectly with their business philosophy. Kyle was then nominated for the Veteran Franchise License Giveaway, where he won a free franchise license for his first PJ’s Coffee location.

Business Advice, Fast Casual, Franchising, Outside Insights, Story, PJ's Coffee