Featuring Champ & Chef Fran, co-owners of HM Lounge
I have to admit, I was excited about going to HM Lounge, cause I wanted some greens, mac n cheese, and some sort of confection of the cake or pie variety. Of course interviewing this power couple was going to be nice too. I knew I was going to get some how to grow in partnership, staying connected, keep the fire burning type conversation, but I’m single so I really wasn’ttotally there for all that. I was there for the food. And food I got, but not that edible food, the food you eat. No. I got some food for thought (that’s an Erykah Badu reference that fit so appropriately with this intro, right?).
Before I start into the interview, allow me to share with you my personal affinity for the coziness that is HM Lounge. I’ll start and end with this, there isn’t another spot in the city that compares. Ambiance, atmosphere, and art…nuff said
I presented Champ and Fran with a few short-answer questions, but so passionate was their adoration for each other and so thrilled they were for the future of their business partnership, that short answers became conversations, and conversations morphed into coaching.
Champ, how did you meet Fran?
At a city-wide leadership conference in 9th grade. She looked older than the other girls. I thought she was one of the parents. I was trying to press my luck…in the 9th grade! She seemed smart and when we spoke, I cracked a joke and she laughed, so I knew I had her. I knew someone who went to the same school she went to, so I couldn’t wait to get home to call around and find out who she was and get her phone number. She just looked so much more intelligent and so much more brighter. She stood out.
How has Fran been a role model for your children?
Fran brought up the whole idea of entrepreneurship. I was comfortable working in corporate. The idea of being an entrepreneur changed the outlook of how the whole family looked at things . I even have a son who’s not thinking of going to school to work for someone else, he’s thinking of going to school to learn business, so he can open his own business. That’s the mindset our children have. I don’t think they would have that if Fran had not been all about entrepreneurship.
Fran, what attracted you to Champ?
Well he was cute, and all the girls were kind of going crazy, but I was like whatever. What really attracted me to him overall was his ambition and persistence. He’s very persistent. When he makes his mind up, he’s going to get it done. That and his his ambition. I saw all that in him at the age of 14. I knew when I got married, I was going to marry him. He was just a really good friend, very loyal.
How does Champ show his appreciation for you?
I have to say he provides one of the most easy-breezy lifestyles for me, and I say that because everything I need, and everything I want, he provides it. He’s going to make sure that it happens. My life is very easy because everything I don’t like to do, he loves to do. That’s just one way.
He also appreciates me by coming to see to about me. He makes sure that I’m good. Those are the little things that matter the most. In reference to our children, we have 4 sons. He’s really a very good dad, and that too makes my life easy-breezy. I’m not going to basketball or football practice, and I’m not going outside to play basketball. I’m not teaching them how to do this, that, and the other out on the field, so it’s been such a benefit to have Champ there.
In regards to the business, he’s a thinker. While I’m the visionary, he’s thinking through my vision, and making sure that when it’s time to execute it, we cover it all. That’s really good for me from a business perspective, because I’m an Aries. We jump off in the water and figure out how to swim. He’s more of the person that says hold on, wait a minute. Do you know how to swim? How long did you have swimming lessons before you jumped in this ocean? I’m going to jump with you, but I need to know we’re going to be safe. He balances me from that perspective. He’s able to see things from a different perspective.
Then, from a friendship point of view, he’s a watcher. He picks up energies and he tells me what to watch out for. I’m very open when he says you need to caution yourself against this or that person. He helps me think before I jump. For a long time, I didnt see that as a benefit. I always thought he was showing me the negative things, but in order to be successful we have to anticipate the negative. We have to anticipate negative responses. I’m always positive. I’m all like, we can do this, we can do that, we can do it all! He stops and says, hold on, we need to look at that. To me that’s showing appreciation. To top that, he took his savings – his 401k for 20 years, in order for us to open this place. He believed in my vision. Those are some things that we just can’t put a price on…they’re priceless. We can’t replace those things, and that’s how we ended up here, and how we’re planning to grow. I truly believe whatever we put our hands on together, we will prosper.
Speaking on challenges, when he had his corporate job and I had my catering job, we spent 12 hours away from each other. When we came back together at the end of the day, of course we were happy to see each other! We’ve gone from being away from each other for 12 hours a day, to being together all day. I wake up, I see him, I go to work with him, I go to sleep with him. I wake up, I see him, I go to work with him, I go to sleep with him. It’s like that 24 hours, every day! That in itself is a whole other lesson on how love works. It was spontaneous combustion the first three months! It was like, oh my God, we have to find a way for this to work. This is my workspace, this is your workspace, this is how you work well, this is how we work well together. We have to win together, so we’ve learned each other’s work ethic. We argued, I mean we fought bad over recipes. Who would have thought? I mean, we were ready to walk away. So we had to literally go back, and recommit our love to each other.
It was like the first year of marriage all over again. Being in business together is like another marriage. It was the adjustment to different styles, the adjustment to different personalities and temperaments. Once we got tired, we had to sit down and say look, we’ve got to figure out how to make this work, because we didn’t get in this to grow apart, we got in this so we can grow together and be old together. Coming to the table and saying hey, here are our push points, and here’s what we’re going to do to ensure that we don’t get to those points again. That’s really working well for us. And we’ve been here for a year, so hey, we’re good for another 10 years!
Champ: That’s how you make a business relationship work, by coming together the same way you would in your personal relationship. Neither of us had expectations of working together. We had no concept of having to talk about what this looks like.
Fran: To go from being away from each other for 12 hours to being together 24 hours, could get on your nerves. Champ talks to me all day, and he talks all the way home, and when we get home. But when basketball is on, he doesn’t talk to me at all. I’m happy about that because I pull up in the driveway and I’m like you go in, and I’ll sit in the truck for 30 minutes and just decompress. His talking is the reason why the banana pudding cake is back on the menu. He’s been talking to me all the time about that. When we added it back, the people went crazy. I told him I hate when you’re right! Love works in business when we define our roles. That’s how we got to this point where we can now look at each other, smile at each other, and flirt with each other. The food even tastes better now that it’s coming out because it’s got so much more love. Now I don’t feel like I’m about to die from being here all day!
Champ: We believe in each other and we even fasted for 30 days. We weren’t trying to lose weight, but we held each other accountable. After and during the fast, we saw that our business started to increase. We didn’t argue as much, and we learned to invest in each other. You know, you have to take care of your investment, because you’re looking for a return. So in return I got what I expected from her, and she got what she expected from me.
Tell us what you love about your restaurant being in Midtown Memphis?
Chef Fran: We love the diversity! The people that we see, and the people that walk through these doors. They come from every ethnicity and every socioeconomic background. We really have an opportunity to touch a lot of people when they walk in here. There’s no better way for me to be able to impact somebody than to feed them. I make sure their stomach isn’t growling and they listen to what I have to say. Since the inception, Midtown has always been our dream location. It was the art, the music, the variety of people. We knew we wanted it to be on Madison. So for us to be here is a divine order.
Champ: Yes the location is great, we get to see everybody. There have been days that people will come in not even being hungry, they just want to talk. They’ve had marriage problems, or they are having problems at home. We talk to people and we never know how much we’re going to impact them. So being able to talk to them through releasing that burden, it helps a lot.
To add to that, our opening was November 6th. That was the same day I met her 25 years ago. It was not planned.
Fran: I wanted to open in October!
Champ: But it kept getting pushed back.
What’s on the 2017 horizon for HM Lounge?
Champ: Expansion. As of now we can’t tell you when, we can’t tell you where, or how. We just believe it.
Fran: I didn’t dream of this. I had this sketch in my head, but I didn’t dream of the revenue we would have in our first year. I didn’t dream of the people we would meet, or the resources we would have in our first year. I’ve been speaking positive affirmations. One thing I say is wealth is coming to me easily and frequently. I don’t want to have to jump through any hoops to get it. I want to see it daily and I want to see an abundance of it.
Example…we got down to our last project and the construction workers decided they weren’t going to do any more work unless we paid them more money. We decided against that and my husband said he would do it himself. We had to do whatever we needed to do because we had to get the doors open. Literally, standing in here and never walking outside the door, we just opened our mouths to say what we needed and the people walked inside the door. Angela Jackson, the radio DJ, she saw on Facebook that we were getting ready to open. She asked some questions about the construction project and she called this guy. The guy came in and built this table in a day and a half. Then his nephew came in and said he knew somebody who could do the floors. The guy who did the floors worked right down the street at Turner. He came down and did the floors for free! Then we had electrical work that was not complete. There was a guy watching the construction that was going on over here. He came in everyday for the next two weeks and completed all of our electrical work and the baseboards, for $10! We have not seen him since.
We opened our mouths. We never walked out that door, we just opened our mouths, and what was needed came to us. So that’s how we know it was divine. That’s how we know we’re walking in our assignment.
We’re both witnesses that walking in your assignment and doing what you’re called to do causes things to work out for your good. Understand the power that you have when you speak. If you want to change, think it, say it, be it. It’s not that negative thoughts won’t come into play, but what you have to do is cancel out those thoughts. I literally tell myself I cancel that thought out of the atmosphere. Instead of saying something like I don’t have money, say instead, I cancel that out of the atmosphere, and say, I have an abundance of money. Wealth is coming to me frequently, easily, and abundantly!
It takes a power couple to dispense powerful knowledge like that. Champ and Fran, thanks for showing us that love literally works.
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