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‘Shark Tank’ fame won’t faze Press Waffle founders


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“One mistake that we could make was to take those 400 inquiries and just say yes to everybody and explode the company and in a year we’d be failing.” —Bryan Lewis (left), 32, with Caleb Lewis, 27, founders of Press Waffle Co.

Tell me about your upbringing.

Bryan: We were born and raised in Richardson, Texas. Mom’s a teacher, dad’s an accountant. I can vividly recall back when I was 10 years old I wanted to be a chef when I grew up. I ended up studying theater in college and acting professionally and teaching theater. Eventually it was time to go back to that dream and start a food truck.

Caleb: I went to the University of Texas, majoring in accounting. As a kid I saw myself in a suit. And the more and more I led toward that reality it didn’t seem as appealing.

Why waffles?

Bryan: My wife and I had been traveling in Europe in 2013. We came across this style of waffles, the Liege style. We wanted to have a waffle bar at our wedding and we couldn’t find anyone to do it. I was trying to re-create these waffles. It became an obsession of mine, and for nine months all my poor wife ate was waffles. Once that recipe had been finalized, we said we’ve got to do something with this. This is too good not to share with people.

Which brother is the boss?

Bryan: This is Bryan and Bryan is the boss. One thing that’s really good about our relationship, I never stop thinking, my mind is always going and I have probably ideas that aren’t that great, and Caleb is good at reining those in.

Caleb: I’m the younger brother, and Bryan has always been the role model and someone I look up to. He’s the captain of the ship and I’m a co-captain to help guide it. We have a similar view on a lot of things. We play devil’s advocate with each other in the right ways.

What was it like to go on ABC’s ‘Shark Tank,’ with your episode airing in April?

Caleb: The whole experience was kind of surreal, a pinch yourself Hollywood experience. It was just about the most hectic hour and a half you could imagine. It is a shark tank and they’re out for blood.

You ended up with a deal with Barbara Corcoran, the real estate guru?

Caleb: We ended up negotiating with Barbara, and she was our target going in, and we did $300,000 for 15 percent.

Bryan: This episode was filmed so long ago. ‘Shark Tank’ aired and overnight we had 400 qualified leads coming through our website. So the last three weeks have been drilling down on those.

Beth Ewen

Beth Ewen, senior editor, learns if it’s lonely at the top and other lessons from franchise leaders, and presents their edited answers here in each issue. To suggest a candid C-level subject, e-mail
bewen@franchisetimes.com.

How do you handle that much sudden attention?

Bryan: The thing is we have proven our concept. We had three company-owned stores before the ‘Shark Tank’ airing and they all run extremely well. We have been able to dedicate ourselves to the franchise opportunity. One mistake that we could make was to take those 400 inquiries and just say yes to everybody and explode the company and in a year we’d be failing. We said we’re not going crazy here. We’re going to find 10 great people and open 10 stores.

Caleb: It goes back to the fact that until three years ago we had never been in restaurants. We had never been afraid to ask anyone for advice. When they give us advice and tell us the quickest way to fail is to view that franchise fee as income, we’re going to listen to that.

We don’t want to have a hundred open this year and 100 close two years from now.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned about leadership?

Caleb: Something that has been important to Bryan and myself from the beginning just because of who we are and how we were raised, is proper treatment of people. If you can just listen to your team members and show some empathy, flexibility, and realize that they are humans. So often in the service industry people are treated like crap. When you invest in your people, they pay it back tenfold.

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