You may not have heard of JDog Brands, but it could be in your neighborhood soon. You might even be the one to make it happen, if you’re a veteran or military family member.

The company is a franchiser of junk removal and carpet cleaning businesses, but its true mission is to make a small-business owner out of every veteran who wants to be one. Dana Forester, its new president and chief operations officer, is leading that charge.

“I get to sit in this chair and help all of these veterans coming through the door at JDog launch their business,” she said. “That is not even a job to me. It’s a purpose. This is just the best thing in the world.”

Forester knows exactly what it’s like to get out of the military and feel lost. A former enlisted munitions specialist, she didn’t have an Air Force job that easily translated to working in civilian life.

“I went to Raytheon, McDonnell-Douglas, Boeing. I went to all of these places I applied, and everybody kind of looked at me like, ‘Who is this little girl who builds bombs here? Are you kidding me?’ And I couldn’t get a job anywhere,” she recalled. “So I was a receptionist, I worked in marketing, real estate, HR. … I excelled wherever I went, but it was always underemployment, and that was sad.”

When Forester left the military in 1998, there was no cultural emphasis on getting jobs for veterans. Knowing the struggles of vets in today’s job market helps her prepare JDog franchisees for what lies ahead in the world of small business, she said.

“When I met Jerry and Tracy [Flanagan, founders of JDog Brands], and learned what they were doing and how they were helping veterans, I fell in love with the whole concept,” she said.

JDog Brands is an umbrella for home and commercial franchises — a “business in a box,” as Forester calls it — including JDog Junk Removal & Hauling and JDog Carpet Cleaning. Franchises are open to veterans (who receive a startup discount) and to military family members. The company’s goal is to open 5,000 veteran-owned franchises nationwide.

Forester’s newest role in the company is to accelerate the growth of JDog Carpet Cleaning. She was promoted to president and COO after serving as director of operations and “Ramp Up Coach” for JDog Junk Removal and Hauling. Being an executive was never her dream, but it became her calling.

JDog Brands’ Dana Forester is named President and COO of JDog Carpet Cleaning. (Courtesy of JDog Brands)

“I actually started as the operations assistant here. That’s what I was hired for,” she said. “And within a week, I was operations manager. And then within a year, I was director of operations. This is where I belong. I can help people do all of the things that they need to launch their own business. From Berwyn, Pennsylvania, I can help people across the country actually rise up and start making money almost immediately after leaving training.”

Veterans looking to start their own business should take a look into franchising opportunities, said Forester, either with JDog or elsewhere. But she thinks vets should look at JDog first.

“Like I said, it’s a business in a box and we’ve perfected it,” she said. “But when new franchisees come in, we analyze their area. And when they purchase, they come in for a solid week of training. We train them on how to run their back office, their marketing, social media, their books, everything down to how to lift a couch or how to clean a carpet.

“But we are also in constant contact,” she added. “We build relationships and know what’s going on in their lives, while helping them take care of their businesses.”

Forester said she gives veterans who may not be ready to franchise but are interested in getting an executive role in the future or want to join a corporate C-suite the same advice she gives new franchisees.

“Stand up, stand out. Don’t sit down and try to emulate people or fit in,” she said. “It’s important to know when to be businesslike, but veterans don’t always fit in. And at JDog, we welcome that. We thrive on it, and veterans do too.”

For more information on JDog Brands or to learn how to start your own franchise, visit www.jdogbrands.com for your first step toward small business ownership.

— Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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