International Franchise Association Recognizes Five Individuals with Highest Awards in Franchising

December 14, 2023

WASHINGTON, December 13, 2023 – The International Franchise Association (IFA) today announced it will award its highest honors to five individuals for their contributions to franchising, the growth of the sector, and service to their communities. These awards, the most prestigious in franchising, will be given at the 64th IFA Annual Convention in Phoenix. 

“This year’s recipients are the embodiment of the franchise model at its finest,” said IFA President and CEO Matt Haller. “Their hard work, drive and entrepreneurial spirit have fueled not only their professional achievements, but also opened the doors for so many others to pursue the American dream.” 

The 2023 IFA major award winners include:  

Hall of Fame Award: Catherine Monson, Propelled Brands, CEO 

The Hall of Fame Award is the oldest and most prestigious recognition conferred by the International Franchise Association, recognizing a franchisor or franchisee who has contributed significantly to the advancement of the franchise business model and to the benefit of the IFA mission. The honoree has been a lifelong leader and is often viewed as a legend in franchising. 

Catherine Monson is a passionate advocate for the franchising business model, serving as a leading voice for the entire industry. As the only two-term chair of the International Franchise Association, Catherine guided not only the organization through one of the toughest challenges it has yet faced, but also the entire franchising community, which came out of the pandemic stronger than ever. Catherine’s unmatched relationships on Capitol Hill, in addition to her staunch advocacy, have helped protect franchising from some of its greatest threats to date. She has received numerous accolades for her business and community leadership and within her own franchise system she is known for an unrelenting focus on franchisee profitability and satisfaction. As CEO of FASTSIGNS, she led the creation of Propelled Brands, the multi-brand franchising company which brought together FASTSIGNS®, NerdsToGo® and MY SALON Suite®. Past leadership roles include Sir Speedy, PIP Printing and Multicopy Europe. Catherine unquestionably devotes her time to the betterment of the sector and is known for being a steward to all the communities franchising serves. 


Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman, Co-Founders and Visionaries, College H.U.N.K.S. Hauling Junk & Moving 

The Entrepreneur of the Year award honors a founder or franchising executive who has successfully built or grown a business in the franchise sector – exemplifying the “entrepreneurial spirit” that franchising represents. The honorees are currently managing and building a successful business and demonstrate a willingness to undertake the risk associated with developing and growing a new franchise business. Their contributions have not only grown a successful business but also helped shape the future of franchising, inspiring other entrepreneurs in their endeavors. 

Starting from humble beginnings in college with a single beat-up cargo van in 2003, Nick and Omar conceptualized and began College H.U.N.K.S. Hauling Junk & Moving. Winning a $10,000 entrepreneurship prize through the University of Miami, they carried out their vision to build a world-class fully branded and systemized operation for serving clients using a centralized call center to boost efficiency, allowing franchisees to handle more jobs more quickly, resulting in more profits for the franchisees. They laid out a plan for company culture, and client experience to ensure repeat and referral business. They have enjoyed much media success, including appearing on the first episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, and more recently on CBS’s Undercover Boss. Their business has grown exponentially into a franchising powerhouse, becoming the largest and fastest-growing junk removal and moving franchise in North America. With an annual turnover of $300 million and over 250 franchises, their accomplishments are a testament to their purpose-driven, values-based, socially conscious, and results-obsessed leadership. Outside of their business acumen, they both prioritize giving back to the communities they serve, donating 2 meals for every completed job (surpassing 4 million meals donated), providing free moves for survivors of domestic violence, and promoting entrepreneurship among the next generation of leaders. 


Bonny LeVine Award: Tamra Kennedy, Twin City TJS Inc. (Taco John’s), Franchisee 

The Bonny LeVine Award recognizes the importance of mentorship in the franchising sector, designed to recognize women leaders who have placed an intentional focus on growing and mentoring future leaders. The honoree is a proven role model who gives back to the franchising community, builds pathways to opportunity for others, and effectively uses IFA and independent platforms and programs to connect and inspire others.   

Starting as a secretary for a Taco John’s owner, Tamra Kennedy worked her way up the ladder and eventually bought the restaurant company. Today, she is now a multi-unit franchisee in the Twin Cities area who has proudly mentored a number of her own employees to become franchisees and works toward inspiring other women to get involved in franchising. An active member in IFA, Tam goes out of her way to give back to advance the business model and support those just coming along in their franchise journey. Tam has made it her mission to recruit and seat women at the franchisee table, striving to ensure adequate women franchisee representation in all aspects of the business model, and regularly encourages other women to pursue franchising. Tam has also testified before Congress, sharing the importance of the franchisee perspective and her unique, inspiring franchising story. More than many others, Tam has given her own time and treasure to work toward the betterment of franchising, and especially helping develop other women leaders within the business model. 


Ronald E. Harrison Award: Paul Pickett, Wild Birds Unlimited, Chief Development Officer, EVP of Franchising 

The Ronald E. Harrison Award recognizes an organization or individual with a demonstrated, tangible commitment to increasing diversity in franchising. The honoree advances active programs to educate, engage, or recruit members of traditionally underserved communities into the franchising community. Their work has served the betterment of the franchise business model and will continue to impact future generations. 

Paul has been in the franchise space for 34 years. Throughout all those years, he has consistently been a champion for inclusiveness and diversity with the results to show it. In 2019, Paul, along with Mark Jameson of Propelled Brands, took the initiative to establish and chair IFA's Pride Franchise Leadership Council stemming out of a desire for the world to know the franchising community is open to all and that franchising is a safe space, while also working to educate others to understand why including all is wise from both a fiscal and social growth standpoint. Paul was also the 2020 Crystal Compass recipient for his support of women in franchising, only the third male to be given this recognition in the history of the award. In addition, Paul was Chair of the Franchise Update 2018 Leadership Conference focusing his chairman efforts on diversity ensuring there was not a single panel that did not have diverse representation, a first for this conference, and a guide for other conferences and leadership positions. In his professional role, Paul has led Wild Birds Unlimited to become one of the most highly rated companies for franchisee satisfaction.  


William Rosenberg Foundation Leadership Award: Tony Valle, Managing Partner of Clear Summit Group (CSG) 

Named in honor of the man whose vision and leadership led to the creation of the IFA Foundation, this award is presented each year to an individual who has made an impact on franchise education, outreach, and helping share the franchising story. 

Tony has spent his career building high-performance leaders and brands and creating learning organizations. He began as a 19-year-old running a College Pro (CP) franchise, and for the next 3 decades he worked in various executive positions in some of the world’s largest multi-brand franchising platforms, including FirstService Brands. Currently, Tony is an entrepreneur and Managing Partner of Clear Summit Group, a portfolio company that helps brands accelerate. He has been a leader in program creation and change in the IFA. He has been a trustee for the ICFE, co-founded the Nextgen Program, and helped launch the Emerging Franchisor Bootcamp. As Past Chair of the IFA Foundation, he stewarded the growth of new program initiatives, led it through Covid and helped realign its focus to support the IFA mission and values. Tony is the Past Chair of YPO Toronto and holds CFE,  MBA, and ICD designations. Tony’s philanthropic pursuits coincide with three of his passions, cycling, education & music . He supports causes like World Bicycle Relief, is an Entrepreneur in Residence for local programs, and his band has an annual fundraiser for the Community Music Schools of Toronto. Tony and his family live in Toronto, Canada. 


The full list of past recipients of the IFA major awards is available here

About the International Franchise Association: 

Celebrating over 60 years of excellence, education, and advocacy, the International Franchise Association (IFA) is the world’s oldest and largest organization representing franchising worldwide. IFA works through its government relations and public policy, media relations, and educational programs to protect, enhance and promote franchising and the approximately 790,492 franchise establishments that support nearly 8.4 million direct jobs, $825.4 billion of economic output for the U.S. economy, and almost 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). IFA members include franchise companies in over 300 different business format categories, individual franchisees, and companies that support the industry in marketing, law, technology, and business development. 


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