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IRVING, Texas — 7-Eleven Inc. named U.S. Marine Corp veteran Jean Cetoute of Richlands, N.C., as the 2016 winner of a 7-Eleven convenience store in the second OPERATION: Take Command franchise competition.
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 United States.
Cetoute, who hopes to franchise a store near his family in New York state, was one of three finalists who interviewed with 7-Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto. The interview was the final stage of a multi-month contest that included a social media video showdown to narrow down seven semi-finalists to three finalists, as CSNews Online previously reported.
"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," said DePinto, who is a U.S. Army veteran. "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 before retiring in 2014 as chief of utilities. He was deployed twice to Okinawa, Japan. As Utilities Chief, Cetoute oversaw a department of 50 that provided utility services for more than 30,000 people. Since retiring from the military, Cetoute has worked as an independent real estate agent. He holds 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 this year's contest have chosen to continue the franchising process. Five of last year's top 10 finalists are now 7-Eleven franchisees.
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.
7-Eleven received more than 11,000 entries to this year's contest, an 83 percent increase over last year.
"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."