Thousands of U.S. military veterans from across the country entered 7-Eleven’s OPERATION: TAKE COMMAND, a franchise giveaway exclusively for veterans. The caliber of applicants entering the contest was so impressive, picking a winner proved to be harder than expected. That’s why 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto decided to name – not one – but three grand-prize winners.
Active Duty U.S. Army Capt. Robert Kemna of Miami (currently stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina), Army veteran Salil Gautam of Chesapeake, Virginia, and U.S. Navy veteran Mark Anthony Page of Granbury, Texas, are the winners and will become business owners of their own 7-Eleven franchises.
“How can you pick just one winner when you can have three?” explained DePinto, himself an Army veteran. “These are the kind of folks we want in the 7-Eleven system, and I look forward to welcoming our three new Franchisees to the 7-Eleven family.”
The OPERATION: TAKE COMMAND franchise giveaway launched last Veterans Day. The top ten finalists were selected from thousands of applicants, and America was given a chance to vote for the top three via Facebook. The three finalists were flown to Dallas for one-on-one interviews with DePinto, with the intent of selecting one grand-prize winner. But DePinto was so “blown away” by the caliber of men, he made an on-the-spot decision to award all three with their very own 7-Eleven store.
When Mark Anthony Page entered OPERATION: TAKE COMMAND, he was working long hours in the oil fields of West Texas, far away from his family living in Granbury. He saw the contest as a way to start a new career – close to home. Page has served four years active duty and another eight years in the reserves. When his military career ended, he put his leadership skills to work, teaching, coaching and mentoring young kids. Although the news of winning still seems a little “unreal” to him, Page’s enthusiasm about becoming a business owner is very real. “This is the American dream,” he said.
Salil Gautam’s military career began just one year after moving to the United States from Nepal. He joined the U.S. Army, where he served four and a half years and was routinely commended for his leadership skills and work ethic. After the military, Gautam used those same skills to succeed in the civilian workforce. As a businessman, he continually pays it forward by giving back a percentage of his income to support fellow veterans, and provide for kids in need in his community of Chesapeake, where he lives with his wife and son. “This honor means more to my family than words can express,” he said.
Robert Kemna is the only active duty winner, currently serving as captain of civil affairs with the U.S. Army Reserves and Guard until September 2015. Kemna, who is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., entered the contest while juggling a wedding, honeymoon, training and his active duty responsibilities. As his 15-year military career comes to an end, he decided to enter the civilian workforce. “I’ve had a lot of experience leading people and managing major operations. I didn’t want to start over with an entry-level position,” said Kemna, who learned about 7-Eleven while researching military-friendly franchisors.
The three OPERATION: TAKE COMMAND winners will receive a waiver of 7-Eleven’s franchise fee, valued at up to $190,000, to franchise any of the company’s 7-Eleven convenience stores available in the continental U.S. Gautam, Kemna and Page look forward to running stores near their homes and serving the communities where they will do business.
Best for vets.
Since 2009, the world’s largest convenience retailer has offered a 10 percent franchise fee discount to all military veterans who meet the company’s franchise qualifications. Last year, it increased to a 20 percent discount on franchise fees for retired veterans who have left the service in the last five years. 7-Eleven offers additional financial support and other benefits that make business ownership possible for the men and women who have served in our U.S. Armed Forces.