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Three finalists stood on stage at the International Franchise Association Convention in Orlando. The IFA's NextGen All-Star competition, where past winners pitched their plans for the next five years, had been whittled down to clean drinking water franchise Jibu, created by Galen Welsch; STEM franchise MakerKids, created by CEO Jennifer Turliuk; and exterior home-painting franchise Spray-Net, led by founder Carmelo Marsala. Turliuk and Marsala tied for first, and we caught up with each finalist to find out what they've learned since first winning a NextGen title.

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At the time of writing, we were about a month and half deep into COVID-19 protocols, which created unprecedented business disruption for many franchises across the globe. As the famous quote from Plato suggests, “necessity is the mother of invention,” and many franchise systems have taken brave steps to enhance, innovate and pivot so that their businesses could survive the tumultuous pandemic conditions.