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Military Veterans Who Became Great Franchisees: Johnny Ahern, Aroma Joe's

U.S. Army veteran Johnny Ahern transitioned to entrepreneurship by opening the first Aroma Joe's franchise in Massachusetts.

Veteran Franchisee: Johnny Ahern

Franchise: Aroma Joe's

1851 Franchise talked with U.S. Army veteran Johnny Ahern about his journey in franchising, his accomplishments in the industry, and the advice he has for other veterans interested in venturing into franchising.

“When you're in a leadership position, you have the responsibility of the lives of multiple people,” said Ahern. “So I think being a franchisee, you have the staff that you're responsible for … You are molding them for their work career. A lot of military training is focused on training and mentor somebody else, and I think that was very important.”

The transcript below has been edited for clarity, style and brevity.

1851: So we're here for our Military Veterans Who Became Great Franchisees series. Can you just share a little bit about your background and what your journey was from military to entrepreneurship?

Ahern: Sure. So I'm born and raised in Massachusetts. I did 10 years active duty in the U.S. Army. I did two combat tours, one to Kuwait, one to Iraq. And then I got out in 2012 and was stationed in Virginia and ended up going to school there for sign language interpreting. And then, about a month after I graduated, my cousin back home in Massachusetts says, “Hey, I want to open up this coffee franchise. Are you interested in joining me?” And I was like, “You know what? Let's do it.” So I moved back up to Massachusetts. They are a Maine based company, so we were the first ones to bring them to the state of Massachusetts.

1851: How would you say your time in the military prepared you for success in franchising?

Ahern: I would say patience — lots of patience — especially in the military. When you're in a leadership position, you have the responsibility of the lives of multiple people. I think being a franchisee, you have the staff that you're responsible for, so you go from either having no kids to 40 kids and then you know about all their relationship troubles and family troubles. So it’s being a mentor to these young individuals. A lot of times it’s their first job, so you're kind of molding them for their work career. I look at it as a lot of military training. I guess you would say that having the focus to train and mentor somebody else, I think, was very important.

1851: What is your favorite thing about Aroma Joe’s?

Ahern: They are people — they're human people. They are very, very friendly. If you look at most establishments that you go to, everything is a transaction. There's very minimal interaction with a customer. We're the opposite of that, so I really do appreciate the fact that we don't do any intercoms and we're face-to-face with a person. It's not just, “What do you want? All right. See you.” It’s, “Hey, what's going on? What did you do this weekend?”

You're having that face to face conversation, so that's one of my biggest things about Aroma Joe’s. But additionally, even at the corporate level and the franchisees, we're a big family.

We are all in this together. So we are there to support each other, whether it's franchisee to franchisee, or if it's anything from headquarters providing that support to the franchisees.

1851: Looking at your franchise journey so far, what are you most proud of?

Ahern: I can't just pick one. There's multiple things I'm proud of. My first location right now is going to be seven years old this year. And we hired a bunch of kids right out of high school or in high school at that time, so now we’re seeing them all graduating college, getting married. Just seeing how they've grown from their 16, 17-year-old selves into young men and women — I think that's the proudest part for me is just seeing like I had some kind of part of their life growing up.

But another thing I'm very proud of is that we're very close to the community. We are very active and very involved, and that is basically [true] across the entire company — whether you're in Maine, New Hampshire, Florida — we like to get involved with the communities. So it's not just, “We're here for business and taking your money and paying our taxes.” It's, “Oh, we're going to help out this organization. We're going to do our part for this.” We're very, very involved, so I think that's probably my second most proud thing about the company.

1851: What advice would you give other veterans considering transitioning into franchising?

Ahern: My advice would be to do your research, ask questions. I know for us, we ask to talk to franchisees and actually sit down one-on-one. And we'll go over things in our experiences and let the decision be based on them.

Speaking on franchising as a whole — not necessarily for our company — I would just say, make sure you're doing your research. Make sure you're finding a good location and don't be a person that is just investing in a company. Actually be involved. So I think that's the biggest thing with franchisees. The success of your business is how much involvement you actually have with your store.

Watch the interview above or on YouTube.

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