February 25, 2008 // Franchising.com // Kenex Corp. COO Jeanne Kennedy, Meineke Car Care Centers' first franchisee, was honored today by the International Franchise Association with the Bonny LeVine Award during its 48th annual convention being conducted at the Marriott World Center in Orlando.
IFA, the world's oldest and largest organization representing franchising, created this award in 1994 in memory of IFA member and Postal Instant Press co-founder Bonny LeVine for her accomplishments and mentorship to women in franchising. Female franchisors or franchisees who contribute to the professional advancement of women are eligible to receive the award. The association's members operate in more than 80 industries and in more than 100 countries.
Kennedy, while raising a family, developed business skills through jobs in sales, as a general manager for health clubs, housekeeping and ballroom dance instruction. When her children grew older, she decided to pursue a career in the automotive industry because her son was a car enthusiast.
A woman's place in the male-dominated automotive repair business was of concern to Sam Meineke, the founder of Meineke Discount Mufflers when he first interviewed Kennedy as a potential franchisee. But her determination, motivation and relentless dedication made a lasting impression, and in 1973, Kennedy became the company's first franchisee. Her Houston shop was just a starting point as she utilized her shrewd sales and people skills to expand her family holdings to include 18 establishments by 1990, the most held by any Meineke franchisee at the time.
Before Meineke had its own training facilities, Kennedy was enlisted as a teacher, mentor and role model to incoming franchisees who came to her shop for instruction. She particularly assisted a number of women to become efficient and profitable franchisees. For many years, Kennedy served on the Meineke Dealers' Regional Council as an elected regional dealer representative for nearly 100 dealers from Texas and surrounding states.
Kennedy's leadership and generosity continued through volunteer work at Houston's Ben Taub Hospital, a charity facility for the underprivileged, and through teaching English to Spanish-speaking children at her church. After 35 years with Meineke, Kennedy's company continues to operate nearly a dozen centers and she remains actively involved. Following her leadership, Kennedy's daughter, Donna Black, has taken the reins of the family business.