Ask Jennifer Kushell how she got into franchising and the answer is really clear. She was literally raised around entrepreneurs.
“The International Franchise Association’s (IFA) conventions were our family vacations,” Kushell said. “I grew up running around the convention floor. In fact, between my cousin Doug, my uncle Bob and my dad Edward, who was actually a former Chair of the IFA, I’ve basically been in franchising my whole life.”
However, there was one night in particular that stands out as the seminal moment when Kushell knew her life would revolve around entrepreneurship and franchising. When she was 15 years old, Kushell attended an IFA dinner with her family and was sat next to Frank Carney, the co-founder of Pizza Hut and former president of the IFA. During the meal, she struck up a conversation with Carney’s wife about the business of making pizza.
“Frank’s wife turned to me and whispered, did you know that Frank was not much older than you when he started Pizza Hut,” remembered Kushell. “That’s when I knew that I wanted to dedicate myself to helping young entrepreneurs achieve their goals.”
Frustrated by the lack of support and leadership available for young entrepreneurs to incubate and develop their first ideas, Kushell decided to do something about it. In 1993, she created the first online community for young entrepreneurs on the CompuServ network known as the International Directory of Young Entrepreneurs. This early social nexus eventually grew into the Young Entrepreneurs Network and has now evolved into the current YSN.com (Your Success Now), which presently builds tools and resources to help connect tens of thousands of entrepreneurs together across more than 160 countries.
Her first opportunity to work with the IFA came shortly after she began The Young Entrepreneurs Network when the IFA Educational Foundation sponsored a psychographic research study of young entrepreneurs that asked them about their interest in franchising. Then Kushell met Subway founder Fred DeLuca and everything changed.
“Fred was an inspiration to a lot of us in franchising,” said Kushell. “He truly understood what it was to be an entrepreneur. With Fred’s support, we created the Subway Global Challenge with the underlying goal of showing young participants that restaurant franchising could be a desirable and achievable path to entrepreneurship.”
Fast-forward a few years and John Reynolds, president of the IFA Educational Foundation, reached out to Kushell about connecting the younger generation to the business of franchising. After a few months of brainstorming and discussion, the IFA’s NextGen campaign was born.
“We knew we had to make a real and tangible connection for millennials to franchising and it started with building the nextgenfranchising.org site,” said Kushell. “Then we launched the NextGen in Franchising Global Competition to engage entrepreneurs around the world who had scalable and unique ideas.”
Winners of the NextGen in Franchising Global Competition were awarded scholarships and trips to the first NextGen in Franchising Summit at the IFA Convention, a now annual event at the IFA’s largest gathering of franchise industry executives. Winners were afforded the opportunity to directly network and learn from some of the biggest entrepreneurs in the industry while discussing their submissions and the unique business challenges and opportunities in front of them.
“The millennials we’ve been able to attract into NextGen in Franchising represent an amazing cross section of original thinkers and market disrupters,” said Kushell. “They are the new leaders and it’s their type of thinking that will produce the next generation of global franchises.”
Winners of this year’s NextGen in Franchising Global Competition were just announced on December 3, 2015 and these young entrepreneurs, which range from the U.S. to Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Australia, Malawi and beyond, will be provided with the opportunity to attend the upcoming IFA Convention in San Antonio, TX from February 20-23, 2016.