This year’s winner of OPERATION: Take Command hopes to franchise a store close to his family in New York state.
The winner of the second annual OPERATION: Take Command franchisee competition from 7-Eleven Inc. has been announced. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jean Cetoute of Richlands, N.C. has now been named the 2016 winner of his own 7-Eleven convenience store.
As the winner, Cetoute will receive a waiver of the franchise fee, valued at up to $190,000, to franchise any 7-Eleven store available in the continental U.S. Cetoute hopes to franchise a store near his family in New York state.
Cetoute was one of three finalists who interviewed with 7-Eleven president and CEO Joe DePinto, a U.S. Army veteran himself, at the company’s home office in Irving, Texas. The interview was the culmination of a multi-month contest that included a social media video showdown to select the top three who were flown in, all travel expenses paid, for the interview.
“I want to congratulate Jean, and thank all the veterans who entered. We are grateful for all our military veterans who selflessly give so much for our country,” DePinto said. “OPERATION: Take Command allows 7-Eleven to recognize and salute them. 7-Eleven is also a winner, as is any company that chooses to work alongside these men and women who have demonstrated the leadership skills, team approach and core values to succeed.”
An immigrant from Haiti, Cetoute served 20 years in the Marines, retiring in 2014 as chief of utilities. He was deployed twice to Okinawa, Japan. As utilities chief, Cetoute oversaw a department of 50 people to provide utility services for more than 30,000 people. Since retiring from the military, Cetoute has been working as an independent real estate agent. He has a business degree from the University of Maryland.
“Winning a 7-Eleven franchise is a tremendous opportunity for my family,” Cetoute said. “I get to have a second career and be a part of an internationally known brand. I spent 20 years in the military, and now, with 7-Eleven, I can become a contributing member of a civilian community.”
“Jean represents the best of the best,” said Larry Hughes, 7-Eleven vice president of Franchise Systems, a West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran. “Based on his drive, enthusiasm and initiative throughout this competition, I have no doubt that Jean will be an excellent 7-Eleven franchisee.”
Some applicants in the contest have chosen to continue through the franchising process to own their own business and open a 7-Eleven store. Five of the top 10 finalists in last year’s contest are now 7-Eleven franchisees.
Through its military veterans franchise program, 7-Eleven offers up to a 20% discount on the franchise fee for first-time qualified veterans on the first 7-Eleven store they franchise. This discount can be as much as $50,000, depending on the store. The company has waived approximately $2 million in franchise fees for veterans. In addition, 7-Eleven provides the land, building, equipment and a turnkey operation for its franchisees, ideal for retired or separated military veterans.
To qualify for the contest, entrants had to be 21 years of age or older, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, an honorably discharged veteran, have excellent credit and at least three years of leadership, retail or restaurant experience. Contestants went through the same qualification process as all 7-Eleven franchise applicants including interviews, credit evaluation, a leadership test and preparing a business plan and budget.
Response to this year’s OPERATION: Take Command surpassed last year with 11,000 entries, an 83% increase.
“I think we had such a strong showing because veterans recognize what a great opportunity owning a 7-Eleven franchise can be,” Hughes said, “and that 7-Eleven is a military-friendly company on all fronts.”
In the video round of the competition, 7-Eleven contributed $1 to Hire Heroes USA for every “Like” or vote cast on social media, netting $8,000 for the nonprofit veterans’ assistance organization. Hire Heroes works to transition service members, veterans and spouses from military service into civilian success.
7-Eleven has been recognized by veterans’ organizations and publications for its military-friendly business opportunities, hiring practices and philanthropic support for military families. Military veterans serve in every level of the company from corporate store sales associates to headquarters personnel. The retailer also has supported military assistance organizations including Hire Heroes USA, the USO, Reserve Aid, Warrior Gateway and Operation Mend.
The company was selected a 2014-2015 “Best for Vets” franchise by Military Times, a Top 100 Military-Friendly Employer by G.I. Jobs and Military Spouse magazines in 2014, 2015 and 2016, one of U.S. Veterans Magazine Top 100 Veteran-Friendly Companies, and MVE (Most Valuable Employer) by civilianjobs.com.