Entrepreneur Johnathan Lacy went about becoming a 7-Eleven franchisee the old-fashioned way: hard work, followed by more hard work — no outside investors.
Thirty-year-old Lacy, who studied finance at Cal Poly Pomona, a university in Pomona, Calif., chose the convenience store industry because he liked the business model.
“I have a little bit of experience in the restaurant and bar business, and this just seemed like a bit nicer of an opportunity, so I went ahead and took it,” he said.
Lacy opened his 7-Eleven store on Tropicana Ave. in Las Vegas on April 29, 2021.
He has been hailed by a number of news websites, including the Las Vegas Sun, as being the first Black owner of a 7-Eleven franchise in Las Vegas as well as Nevada. However, a spokesperson for the 7-Eleven Franchise Owners Association of Southern Nevada told CStore Decisions they do not believe that Lacy is the first, but they do believe he is the only Black owner of a 7-Eleven franchise in the region at the present time, which is a distinction nonetheless.
With his c-store now up and running, Lacy is setting his sights on growth, with a goal of owning four 7-Eleven units by the time he turns 40. He plans to open his second location in 2022. And he’s looking to inspire others along the journey.
Driven to Succeed
While the path from inspiration to grand opening had hurdles along the way, Lacy never lost sight of his goal.
The first roadblock came when he learned that financing would be an issue, after several lenders turned him down for a loan.
“They always tell you that if you are able to use financing, use it to your advantage,” he explained. “However, it was a little bit more difficult because SBA (the Small Business Administration) wouldn’t finance the convenience store I was looking at. It was difficult to find traditional financing for purchases such as mine.”
Despite that, Lacy was committed to making his dream a reality. He began saving the capital necessary to fund the venture on his own. “It took about five years of savings from my previous positions, plus money earned through investments (stocks), which I invested in while in college,” Lacy said.
Eventually he was able to secure loans to help carry him across the finish line. “I used the services from Revenue Capital Financing to help navigate through and find loans that were available to my special needs,” he said.
One thing Lacy had in abundance was drive.
“Honestly, I have always had that passion in me, that chip on my shoulder,” he said. “It has definitely always been something that I have had to overcome, to always be better and better and better. It took me time to figure out what I wanted to do, but ultimately it worked out.”
Having to learn the c-store business from the ground up was another hurdle he overcame with determination.
“Going through training definitely prepared me,” he recalled. “My location is open 24 hours, so it’s a little bit more difficult; a 24-hour c-store is definitely more challenging.”
The 2,000-square-foot location in east Las Vegas has also had to contend with the labor shortages and supply-chain issues that have plagued the industry since the COVID-19 pandemic began. But today, business is looking up.
“Customer counts are up, and sales are improving quickly, but truly the best days are those that I share with the employees,” he said. “A good team truly makes a night-and-day difference.”
Paving the Way
Lacy is intent on helping pave the way for other aspiring business owners in the community, especially minorities and women. His primary message is not to let lack of investors, prior experience or expertise stand in the way. And he is determined to help others overcome the obstacles he faced when he embarked on his business.
“It was really difficult for me because I did not have the resources in terms of people around me that I could ask, say, how to purchase a business like this,” he noted. “What are the steps? How can I do it? That’s why I hope to be a resource for others.”
His message to other young entrepreneurs interested in the c-store industry is to keep going after your goal.
“Don’t be scared because of lack of knowledge,” Lacy said. “You should be able to put your best foot forward, and if you want it, the information is there. You’ve just got to go for it.”