U.S. Army Captain Robert Kemna reported for duty to his new assignment in South Dade in December. Dressed in civies, Kemna embarked on a new career, that of a business owner.
Barely two months out of active duty, Kemna is a 7-Eleven franchisee for a brand new store and gas station at 12720 SW 200 St. in south Miami-Dade County.
Kemna was one of three winners of 7- Elevenís national “Operation: Take Command” franchise giveaway. When he opened the doors of his franchise on Wednesday, Dec. 16, Kemna became the first vet in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to become a 7-Eleven franchisee and one of 17 in the state.
“I dreamt of owning my own business once I left the military. To have won a franchise gets me started a lot sooner than I expected,” Kemna said.
Kemna spent 15 years in the U.S. Army Reserves, 10 of those on active duty, including one tour in Afghanistan. He served as a U.S. Army captain and worked as a civil affairs officer. He moved to Miami several years ago after getting. His wife, Liliana, is an engineer at FPL’s Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant.
As a franchisee, Kemna plans to use his service leadership skills in a new life as an entrepreneur. His store has eight employees, one of whom is his mother-in-law. On his first day, business was brisk inside the store, and lines were out to the parking lot for gas. 7-Eleven lowered the price of a gallon of unleaded gas to $1.99 to generate a buzz in the neighborhood, and it worked. “I have spent the last several months training to assume my new store’s operation. The funny thing, the training isnít unlike military training. 7-Eleven puts you through every possible scenario to make sure you’re ready to lead. I’m excited to get started,” Kemna said.
Kemna’s ownership of a new 7-Eleven store at 12720 SW 200 St., is the culmination of nine months of competition to win the national contest. Operation: Take Command launched on Veterans Day in 2014 as a multi-phased competition for first-time, prospective franchisees retired or separated from the military. Entrants first had to be interviewed and qualified.
The top 25 of 1,700 qualified entrants competed for the public’s votes in a Facebook video competition, with the three finalists interviewing in person with 7- Eleven Inc. president and CEO Joe DePinto at his Dallas office only a few months ago. The prize was an available 7-Eleven store of the winnerís choice at a discount, valued at up to $190,000. DePinto was so impressed with the final candidates that he decided to award each a store.
Kemna is last of the three winning veterans to take possession of his 7-Eleven store. Other winners: Mark Anthony Page, a U.S. Navy veteran, took charge of his Burleson, TX, store in August, and Salil Gautman received the keys to his store in Norfolk, VA, in September.
Kemna’s store took the longest because it was a new store under construction.
“Robert Kemna represents what we look for in a franchisee,” said 7-Eleven Franchise Systems vice president Greg Franks. “He’s smart, hard-working and a servant leader. Kemna also is one of many highly qualified military veterans that are joining the 7-Eleven franchisee ranks this year. We are very gratified with the outcome of our Operation: Take Command program and the caliber of applicants and finalists the campaign attracted.”
7-Eleven celebrated the grand opening of Kemnaís store with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring the ROTC from Southridge Senior High School, representatives from the local business community, community leaders and military personnel from various organizations. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava awarded Kemna a proclamation, and Kemna donated $711 from 7-Elevenís Project A-Game grant to Caribbean Elementary School K-8 Center. The donation is part of 7-Eleven’s national Project AGame grant program that benefits non-profit youth education and sports initiatives.
Find out more online at www.7-Eleven.com.