JDog Brands – Creating Business Opportunities for Veterans
Photo Provided By hellomainland.com
Story By Christina Heintzelman – firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the Pew Research Center, job placement after military service is an issue affecting nearly 200,000 veterans every year, with only one in four veterans having a job lined up after leaving the Armed Forces.
Jerry Flanagan, a Pennsylvania native living in Berwyn, PA, is one of those individuals who found the civilian job market to be daunting after his return from military duty, but because of his ingenuity and perseverance he was able to not only generate a lucrative business for himself but also create a business model that assists veterans every day of the year. An Army veteran, CEO, and founder of JDog Brands, Flanagan, along with his wife Tracy, founded JDog Junk Hauling & Removal and JDog Carpet Cleaning & Floor Care as a way of creating business ownership opportunities exclusively for veterans and their families.
Flanagan’s story is one of perseverance for himself and his family, but even larger than that it is a story about his much larger goal of supporting veterans in many different areas as they struggle to acclimate to life outside of the military.
Flanagan served two years active duty in the Army as a wire dog, a nickname used for the tactical switching operator or combat signaler who runs communication lines. His Army buddies called him JDog, hence the name of his future business. He also served two years in the Pennsylvania National Guard as an Infantryman. But after his service, as he tried to transition back to civilian life, he found it difficult to find a job as none of his military skills translated well into the civilian sector.
Without a college degree and with a military background that didn’t translate well into civilian jobs, Flanagan found himself to be eligible only for lower-level jobs. “I came from a low-income background and wasn’t raised with the expectation of having a high-level position,” he says. After some time being a dishwasher for a restaurant, working in a gas station, and a bouncer in a bar, he got a job as a dock loader for a retail company that specialized in Halloween items and watched the company grow to become a muti million-dollar organization. “I wanted to be that guy – an entrepreneur. I went out on my own, but it didn’t work out as planned.” He then got involved in a business in 2006 that specialized in equipment for kids – swing sets, moon bounces, birthday party paraphernalia for kids. The recession of 2008 knocked the bottom out of his business. “In 2010, I had to file for bankruptcy, I was 43 years old, without a college degree and I was panicked.”
After this setback, Flanagan began to research ‘recession proof businesses’ on the internet and junk hauling popped up. He states, “I said to myself, ‘I have a jeep, I’m a strong guy so I’ll get a trailer and go around picking up people’s junk.” I began doing this in 2011, thinking I’d do this on the side while looking for a job.”
This is where Flanagan’s military values of respect, integrity, and trust came into play. “I had a junk pickup scheduled, arrived fifteen minutes early, cleaned up after I finished, and addressed my customer as ‘sir’. The customer was amazed and asked if I had been in the military. I answered that ‘yes, I had been,’ and he then said I should tell all my customers that I was a military veteran because this was something that would appeal to my customer base.” Flanagan took that customer’s advice, changed his marketing, and created the bulldog logo from Rocky the bulldog, mascot of the 3rd Infantry Division of Fort Stewart Army Base in Georgia. His business became JDog Junk Removal and Hauling, veteran owned and operated, and his phone blew up with calls for his business. Before he knew it, the business became full time, and he no longer was looking for other types of work.
“I was at the VA hospital in Coatesville and went to a job fair and worked out a program where I was hiring all these veterans who were coming back from combat and who were struggling to find work. I formed a relationship with the VA hospital and came to realize that there were many veterans out there who needed help in finding jobs.” At the same time, Flanagan’s wife Tracy told him that, according to statistics, post 9/11 veterans were facing an unemployment rate of 12% and that perhaps they should consider franchising their business to veterans. After much consideration, Flanagan decided to franchise his business and sold the first franchise in 2013 – and by 2014 had sold a total of five franchises. “At this point I had to make a decision if I was going to be the franchisor of this business or if I would continue being the junk remover myself.” He met with a local investment firm, Julip Run Capital, who agreed to work with him while he and his wife retained majority ownership of their business. The investment firm raised over one million dollars in capital for the growth of the JDog brand. Today JDog has nearly 300 franchises in the U.S. and more than forty in Pennsylvania. Local JDog hauling franchises are in Southern Lancaster County, Lancaster, Reading, York, Hanover, Carlisle, and Harrisburg.
In addition to the junk hauling business, the company has expanded to include carpet cleaning and floor care. “We now can suggest to our customers that after the junk has been hauled, we can clean the dirty carpets and floors that were hidden under the junk. We will even power wash the deck if they have one,” Flanagan laughingly adds. Flanagan states that not only do customers want to hire veteran owned businesses to provide services but that customers also have a deep trust for the former military people who come to their homes to supply those services.
Flanagan states that the three main objectives for the JDog Brand are: most importantly, to provide business opportunities for veterans; get the veteran unemployment rate to under 1%; and finally, through the JDog Foundation, to heal mental health and help prevent suicide. Flanagan states, “If you want to support JDog Brands these are the three main pillars that sum up our services.”
But the services do not end here. There is a JDog Foundation which supports veteran suicide prevention services and higher education programs, JDog Apparel powered by Grunt Style, and a TV series, Operation Hidden Treasures, shown on Discovery Channel and The American Heroes Channel. Veterans can also apply for a job or a franchise or create a strategic partnership with JDog Brands through their own businesses by using the website www.jdog.com or www.jdogbrands.com.
Harrisburg JDog Franchise
Vernon Bingham is the Harrisburg franchisee for JDog Hauling. Bingham went into the army right out of high school in 1999. He was a part of 11 Bravo Infantry and went on a training deployment in the summer of 2001. He came home on a two week leave and the Monday he reported back to duty was the day before 9/11. He was immediately deployed to the Iraq border and in 2016 he was medically retired. After this he became the GM for a JDog location here in PA. He enjoyed the veteran focused business so much that he went on to open his own location here in Harrisburg. Contact Bingham directly at the website www.jdogharrisburg.com.