Entrepreneur says military instills work ethic
By Candace S. Hughes
Special to The Arizona Business Gazette
Gilbert resident Sam Cruz was awakened every morning at 5 starting at age 17 by the sound of two tin cans hitting each other. He credits his military service with helping him develop a successful business.
“I’m 50 now and I still wake up at 5 a.m. every day,” laughs Cruz, who purchased an Aire Serve Heating and Air Conditioning franchise through the VetFran program. It offers a $5,000 discount to veterans who wish to purchase a franchise.
Cruz, who bought the business last year, served two years with the Air Force. “I started at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas in the electronics field. When I went in at age 17 it did help me grow up quite a bit and instilled that work ethic,” he adds.
“That’s my drug – working,” Cruz says, adding, “I wish I had found this years ago. I enjoy this so much. I believe in the concept,” adds Cruz, who also owns a plumbing business and had a small air conditioning firm before purchasing the franchise.
He projects that he will have $1 million in business this year and has set a goal of $5 million in five years. The business has quadrupled over a year ago with from $10,000-$40,000 per month above activity by the previous owner of the franchise, he says.
Cruz, who operates the business with bookkeeping help from his wife Lorena, also encourages his 13-year-old daughter to help in the office with answering the telephone, sending faxes, checking invoicing and doing filing. His 7-year-old son occasionally stops by the business. They have nine employees.
Ted Kuziela 44, also of Gilbert, moved to the Valley from Southern California in 2004 to open DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen. As a Navy veteran, he also received a discount through the VetFran program.
He enlisted in the Navy in 1979 and served for two and one-half years before going to the Naval Academy. He was a surface warfare officer on two frigates and served in Operation Desert Storm.
After leaving active duty in 1993, he affiliated with the Naval Reserves and is still a commander.
About 500 veterans in 45 states have used the program since 1991 to buy small businesses through the International Franchise Association’s Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, or VetFran. More than 120 are negotiating purchases.
The two were among 2,000 franchisees atten