When Patrick Kelly recently retired from the Air Force after nearly 24 years of service, he knew he wanted to go into business. He liked the idea of owning a franchise. He’d be part of a team, just as he was in the military, and get “a complete package, so I didn’t have to put things together by myself.”

Kelly found an IT company that appealed to him, CMIT Solutions Inc. But he worried about the five-digit asking price.

Along came Andrew Twynham, a franchisee in Atlanta about to leave CMIT for another company.

Twynham didn’t know Kelly. But he’d heard about his application and decided, with CMIT’s approval, to give Kelly his franchise – free of charge – in honor of Kelly’s service. That saved the veteran $75,000.

CMIT sealed the deal by allowing Kelly to operate the franchise in Virginia Beach, where he and his family have lived since 2009.

“I’m very grateful,” said Kelly, who launched CMIT Solutions of Virginia Beach Metro last month. “What better gift than the ability to create a new career for yourself?”

Twynham, now head of global customer support for North America at Siemens Enterprise Communications in Dallas, couldn’t be reached this week. But last week, he provided a copy of a videotaped speech he gave at CMIT’s annual convention in April.

“I have traveled extensively,” said Twynham, who was born in Canada, “and the patriotism towards our servicemen and women has always amazed me and gave me reason to be proud. I believe, however, that more can be done to support our troops, and most of that support needs to happen after they come home.”

Matt Haller, a spokesman for the International Franchise Association in Washington, which has nearly 15,000 members, said it’s not unusual for franchisers to offer franchises at a discounted rate or for free to veterans. But for a franchisee to donate a franchise – and to someone he’s never met?

“I’ve never heard of this in my time in the industry,” Haller said. “It’s great to hear – maybe groundbreaking.”

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