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NextGen Winners: Where Are They Now?

By David McKinnon, CFE

This article was originally published in the July issue of Franchising World. You can read it and other Franchising World articles here.

The franchise model allows entrepreneurs across the globe to grow their companies at a rapid pace, while providing the opportunity to own a business for themselves, but not by themselves. Recognizing that thousands of exceptional business concepts from young entrepreneurs exist without the resources or expertise needed to succeed in franchising – and our strong desire to help them – stimulated the idea to create the NextGen in Franchising Global Competition five years ago.

In 2013, the IFA Foundation identified a niche way to connect with millennials by investing in emerging business owners who possessed the passion and drive that would inevitably fuel the future of franchising. While veteran brands remain at the forefront of the industry, these young concepts have far exceeded their ability to not only stay afloat, but to prosper, and NextGen has proven to be the vehicle that connects these businesses to franchising opportunities.

Since the inception of the NextGen in Franchising Global Competition, nearly 2,000 millennial entrepreneurs from more than 75 countries have applied. NextGen in Franchising has continued to evolve each year and has introduced thousands of applicants to franchising. The franchising community maintains an incredible level of support and through the years has continued to be an asset to the growth of the previous winners of the competition.

Finalists have hailed from countries around the world, from Canada to Uganda, Nigeria, Australia, and the Philippines – to name a few. We’ve welcomed both traditional franchises, as well as social concepts that often were forged out of pure necessity and creativity. As we enter the fifth year of the competition, we took the time to connect with past winners to reflect on the growth they have garnered from their connection with NextGen and IFA since presenting their concepts at the annual IFA Convention years ago.


Galen Welsch, Founder of Jibu

2015 NextGen in Franchising Grand Prize Winner

Galen is a social entrepreneur who founded Jibu in 2012. Based in Africa, the company provides thousands of customers with the ability to access affordable drinking water. When Galen traveled to the United States to participate in the competition in 2015, Jibu had only two successful franchisees.

“The experience was eye-opening! We continue to learn more everyday through all the mentors and investors who have joined Jibu since. Being connected with franchising experts in various departments like legal and strategic support was the differentiator in the level the success we’ve reached over the past three years,” he said.

Today, Jibu has grown to more than 200 franchises located in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. The company is projected to open an additional 50 franchises and will launch in two new countries by the end of 2018.


Carmelo Marsala, Founder of Spray-Net

2016 NextGen in Franchising Grand Prize Winner

Carmelo founded Spray-Net to fill a special niche — providing a solution for painting vinyl and aluminum doors, windows and other challenging surfaces. In 2016, Spray-Net operated in a total of 37 franchise territories across every major city in Canada, coast to coast from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

“At the NextGen Summit, I quickly realized that structure and process are at the core of franchising scalability,” he said. “We quickly shifted gears to focus on solidifying that aspect of our business before adding too many new franchise partners. Through NextGen we formed an amazing advisory board that continues to help us avoid potentially costly mistakes, being introduced to the right people has helped guide our franchise development efforts.”

Today, Spray-Net has 45 operating territories in nine of Canada's 10 provinces with plans to open four additional Canadian locations by the end of the year. Recently finalizing an Item 19 and registering in the United States, the franchise is positioned to open its first U.S. locations in 2018.


Jennifer Beall Saxton, Founder of Tot Squad

2015 NextGen in Franchising Winner

Tot Squad is a mobile service that provides car seat installation, baby gear cleaning, and stroller repairs to parents and businesses. After participating in the NextGen competition in 2015 and being recognized by CNBC as a “red hot concept,” Jennifer successfully sold the first Tot Squad franchise in Washington, D.C., a few months after the Summit.

“Tot Squad was an idea I had come up with in business school. Being named one of the grand prize winners was validating,” she said. “It was truly hard to believe that so many prominent business leaders were interested in the concept. The feedback from the judges and mentors on my pitch was invaluable. After the Summit, I repositioned my pitch and expanded my fundraising horizons, which was game-changing.”

The NextGen in Franchising Competition contributed to opening the first franchised location in Washington, D.C., and helped raised an additional $1.5 million along with securing new partnerships with large entities. The company recently opened the first in-store service center inside the buybuy BABY in NYC, where they are launching Tot Squad memberships that moms can add to their registries. Throughout 2018, Tot Squad plans to ally with multiple B2B partners such as online retailers, ride-share companies and car rental agencies that will enable the company to improve car seat safety nationally.

Help find the next generation of entrepreneurs that will impact the world. Building the pipeline of franchise talent and concepts is one of the most important and exciting responsibilities of the Foundation, and we need your help to do it.

The IFA Foundation is now seeking the next group of impressive young founders to apply for the chance to compete and attend the NextGen Summit at IFA 2019, which takes place Feb. 24-27, 2019, in Las Vegas. As the only business competition in the world focused on franchising, the NextGen in Franchising Global Competition is uniquely positioned to recruit the next generation of top franchisors from around the world.

To qualify, applicants must be age 21-35 and have a business in operation for 1-5 years at the time of application. Companies do not need to be franchising currently, but should have an interest in and the opportunity to scale through the business model.

Please share this opportunity with your network of emerging franchisors and help us find the next generation of franchise leaders. Applications are open through Aug. 31 at


David McKinnon, CFE, is founding sponsor of the NextGen in Franchising program, 2nd Vice Chair of the IFA Foundation, and Chair of the NextGen in Franchising Committee.