Congratulations! You’re an entrepreneur now
Feb 3, 2021
Season 5 | Episode 1

Congratulations! You’re an entrepreneur now

Jerry Vazquez always dreamed of owning his own business. But becoming a franchisee of a janitorial services company left him in debt and earning less than minimum wage.

Back in 2007, Gerardo “Jerry” Vazquez was looking for work that would provide flexibility and independence. He needed a way to earn a living that could accommodate unpredictable hours so he could help care for his ailing dad.

This led him to a company called Jan-Pro. It sold him a franchise for his own personal janitorial business, allowing him to clean buildings at night. According to Jan-Pro, he would be an independent contractor. That appealed to Jerry — he’d always dreamed of running his own business. 

Note: This is the first in a three-part series, you can listen to part two here and part three here.

After a few months, Jerry saw things very differently. Rather than feeling like an entrepreneur, Jerry felt more like an exploited employee. He owed Jan-Pro money to cover the franchise fees, he felt like he had little control over managing his business, and Jerry’s earnings, which arrived monthly in the form of a check from Jan-Pro, came out to less than minimum wage.

In this first episode, we’ll introduce you to Jerry, and over the next couple of weeks, we’ll find out what happened next. Later on this season, we’ll hear more stories from folks like Jerry as we explore this thing we used to call employment: what happened to it, why it happened and what this new kind of workforce means for the American dream. 

For even more of “The Uncertain Hour,” subscribe to our newsletter! Each week we’ll bring you a note from host Krissy Clark and explain some terms that have come up in our reporting. This week we’re digging out some historical words that inform today’s conversation about work: servant and artisan.

Click here to read a transcript of this episode. Here’s a list of some additional reading, and material we used in our research:

Correction (Feb. 4, 2021): A previous version of this story misspelled Jerry Vazquez’s name. The text has been corrected.

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The team

Krissy Clark Host and Senior Correspondent
Caitlin Esch Senior Producer
Catherine Winter Senior Editor
Chris Julin Producer
Sitara Nieves Executive Director, On Demand
Erica Phillips Writer/Producer
Marque Greene Assistant Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer