Jerry Lewin's passion is his work as a pastor. However, Lewin wanted to find a way to increase his income to free up more time for service and to teach his four kids entrepreneurial skills. Sandwich chain Erbert & Gerbert's seemed like the perfect fit – especially because Lewin was a pastor for both the CEO and one of the chain's first franchisees.
After seven years in the business, Lewin has developed his Erbert & Gerbert's location into a profitable location and discovered a new way to serve his community. Here's how he did it.
Name: Jerry Lewin
Franchise owned: Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop, in De Pere, Wis. We also operate a seasonal concession location in the Resch Olympic Pavilion in De Pere.
How long have you owned a franchise?
Just over seven years
We were going to open our own coffee shop. Our family did not have business experience and decided that franchising would give us a system from people who had more experience than we did in the quick service arena.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was a pastor for 22 years and still serve in that capacity, as well as owning an Erbert & Gerbert’s franchise.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I was introduced to Erbert & Gerbert’s when the owner of the second ever location attended the church I pastored in St. Cloud, Minn. The future CEO of Erbert & Gerbert’s also attended our church. I never dreamed our family would own one at that time but when the opportunity came for us after moving to Wisconsin, I trusted both these individuals and their integrity which made the biggest difference for us in choosing our franchise.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We learned the most by researching opening a coffee shop first. When we transferred the data to the franchise approach, the benefits of owning a franchise with our lack of business experience became clear.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Managing labor was our greatest challenge. We had to choose between fewer full time employees or more part-time employees. We chose the latter and went to about 21 employees so we could offer them more flexibility in scheduling. Taxes for any business owner are also always challenges.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
At the time we had four up-and-coming teenagers. We wanted to teach them about the type of business that they would not have to be personally present at all the time.
“Owning your time is a greater asset than money,” is something I have taught them. In this way, they could use more of their time to serve in charitable ways. Owning a successful franchise like Erbert & Gerbert’s has allowed us to do that.
What’s next for you and your business?
We have used our business to help people. We recently hired two formally homeless individuals. When the economy was worse we hired a couple of people to get them back into a job so they could support their families. I anticipate we will do more of this, as well as shape our two locations to run with greater efficiency.