IRVING, Texas -- 7-Eleven Inc. is awarding fee-free convenience-store franchises to all three finalists in Yes W.E. Can, the retailer’s first franchise giveaway contest targeted exclusively to female entrepreneurs.
Alyson Rae Lawson of Dallas, Avalon Young of Castle Rock, Colo., and Evelyn Scott of Chesapeake, Va., will each receive a waiver of the franchise fee, valued at up to $190,000, to franchise any 7-Eleven c-store available in the continental United States.
The three finalists were flown, all expenses paid, to the company’s home office in Irving, Texas, to interview with 7-Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto. The company selected the finalists from seven semifinalists who went head to head in a competitive online video contest for the chance to make it to the final round.
“To say that each candidate was impressive would be an understatement,” said DePinto. “Each brings a unique set of strengths. In addition, all are extremely community-oriented and have strong business, leadership and interpersonal skills. Those are qualities successful franchisees need. Any one of them would make a great independent business owner at 7-Eleven, and I couldn’t see selecting just one, when all three are exactly the type of folks we want as franchisees and as part of the 7-Eleven network.”
7-Eleven will also donate $10,000 to the charity selected by each winner. The charities align with Project A-Game, a 7-Eleven grant program that funds youth programs focused on education, fitness, safety and hunger relief.
“Women own and operate less than a third of franchised businesses in the U.S., a number we want to help grow,” said Larry Hughes, vice president of franchise systems for 7-Eleven. “Because of our extensive training programs, proven business system, favorable financing, exclusive products and globally recognized brand, 7-Eleven offers a great entrepreneurial opportunity for women ... and men.”
To qualify for the Women’s Initiative competition, entrants had to be 21 years of age or older, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, 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.
Here's a look at each of the winners:
Alyson Rae Lawson
Lawson (pictured, right) has three business degrees and lots of enthusiasm. Her MBA and accounting background will prepare her for the financial side of franchising and her wonderful personality for the people part of the business. Lawson follows in the footsteps of her father, who has franchised national chain restaurants. She leads a busy volunteer life as well, one focused on youth. She has served as a First Tee mentor, as well as a youth basketball and soccer coach.
Of the competition to win a fee-free 7-Eleven store, Lawson said, “It has been a long journey and a rewarding one. I’m glad to come to the finish line and seeing not only was I a winner, but all the women were victorious.”
Selected charity: Lance A. Lemons Memorial Foundation
After 30 years in the U.S. Navy, Scott (pictured, center) knows how to run a tight ship. She will soon retire with the rank of commander master chief. Most recently in her military career, Scott has served as a human resources manager responsible for more than 1,900 sailors comprising eight squadrons and staff. She says she will run her business the same way she lives her life—with honesty, self-discipline and efficiency.
“After months of waiting, I still can’t believe it,” Scott said. “Who ever wins a store? This is big! It has already been a fantastic experience, and I can’t wait to open my store and be part of the 7-Eleven family.”
Selected charity: Oscar Smith Middle School
Young (pictured, left) said she has been in retail all her life, “since I was a paper girl at 13.” At another retailer, she almost tripled sales in four years. Currently the business manager of a computer repair service company, Young is collaborating with a local high school to create technology internships and mentor students interested in the technology and electronics repair industry.
“I can’t wait to be an example to other women and show them what can happen when hard work meets opportunity,” she said. “I’ve always planned on being in retail, and it was a challenge to find the right retailer I could build a business with for the next 30 years. The 7-Eleven system is perfect for me, and I’m thankful for this opportunity.”
Selected charity: Montessori Educational Foundation
Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses more than 63,000 stores in 18 countries, including 10,900 in North America.