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“…if it’s an ongoing enterprise and it’s out there, that was number one to us because clearly there was revenue coming in.”

Hey everyone, I’m Mike Sullivan. This is MO.com. Joining me today is Champe Granger. Champe has quite a diverse entrepreneurial background. She owns two Grease Monkey franchises, as well as an interior design business.

Champe, thanks for joining me today and let me start off with this question. You really have no background or interest in cars. What inspired you to purchase a Grease Monkey franchise?

Champe: We really looked at the fit. We spent a lot of time looking at how to pick a business that was right for our lifestyle. Your lifestyle changes over time. But I do some business consulting, and I talk to people more about what’s the fit, what are you looking for. Are you looking for something that is fun? You have a wealthy husband or wife and you want to own a restaurant or a wine shop, which we all want to own and we think it’s going to be making a million dollars, and sit at the bar and drink wine all day, which is what I like to do.

Or do you want to earn a living? Which is just I’m going to make good money. I’m not going to be a millionaire, but this has to carry me through and take care of me and my family. Or do you want to be rich?

Those are kind of the three things, and you really have to think about those seriously. That’s exactly what we did think about in addition to looking at lifestyle. We knew immediately, I don’t want to do any retail. Don’t like the retail hours and not working at Christmas season. We immediately knew we didn’t want to do food. I don’t want to work 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and own a Hardee’s. Love to eat there, it’s fabulous, but no, thank you.

So we just weeded things down, and we ended up with three contestants, three potential opportunities. The last one, the difference in this one and this is something that I would really urge people to look at, although I think people might think this is a little bit boring, is this was an ongoing enterprise. It was up and running. It was failing. It was actually in bankruptcy when we bought it, but it was an ongoing enterprise.

So, number one, if you can find an ongoing enterprise out there that is a good long-term business, hello, don’t go buy a Borders bookstore or wherever you rent movies, Blockbuster videos anymore. But if it’s an ongoing enterprise and it’s out there, that was number one to us because clearly there was revenue coming in.

As I said, it was in bankruptcy. It was in the bottom 50 percentile, ranked nationally. Now we brought it to the top 10 percent in the country, all the time.

But I think that’s the key for people that are looking to become entrepreneurs is the fit your lifestyle and what are you trying to achieve financially.

Mike: You used the word “we” a couple of times in that answer. Who does that include?

Champe: My husband. He actually . . . and that was part of the fit concept. I left my job. I worked for the Federal Reserve. I was a big important officer over national IT and their information security web-based infrastructure. As I said, I went crazy and left my job. But he had a job and he was continuing to work. But of course, we went through the process together, to look at how this would fit for our life.

That is one thing I will really share with people who are watching this. Double dip as long as you can. I wish I had probably left the Fed later. No offense to the Fed. Of course, no one would double dip on the Fed.

But whatever your job is, look beyond. Double dip as long as you can. Get your business up and running because it’s going to be tough, and things like health insurance and challenges like that, double dip as long as you can.

Mike: You also have another business, My Design Guide, which is an interior design business, which you also have no background in. Tell me about this.

Champe: That actually took, again, both my husband and I back for our IT background. After having the Quick Lube franchise for seven years, you kind of miss the IT world. We actually opened another Quick Lube in the past year, and I’ll share a little bit about that with you. But we both missed the IT world. We both knew we had a lot to offer in that arena and had been there and done that. We’re also both cheap, and we both love to do home renovations and have a lot of rental property. We wanted, particularly in our own home, professional interior design service, but we didn’t want to pay the going rate for those types of services.

So we built what is basically an expert system, a web app that allows interior designers that we have in our employee and they live around the country to come together and service our customers with professional, real, traditional interior design services over the Web. Our customers live in California. They live in Maine. I don’t know that we have had anybody internationally. We have one woman in Australia who can’t quite make up her mind yet. But we’re a national entity, and our designers are national as well. So it really took us back to our IT background and we got that fix, if you will.

Mike: You left corporate America at age 40. Tell me what went into that decision, what kind of risks and factors you kind of weighed in as you made that decision.

Champe: We don’t have kids. So that’s the big difference for some people, because there is so much more financial challenge when you have kids. The other is, again, health insurance. Although that’s that and you hear that all the time.

Our health insurance, probably in the next year or two, is going to be more expensive than our mortgage. So whatever you think it is, it isn’t. Particularly when you look at a franchise of any type and I love franchises, I think they are a great way to go for most people. Whatever you think you’re going to make, you’re not going to make that. Whatever the cost they present to you are, they’re going to be higher. So just be very, very conservative in any of your projections.

Mike: How has your background helped serve you as an entrepreneur?

Champe: Really I think the IT background, the fact that I had both undergrad and grad finance and IT, technology is in everything. Technology is everything. Every business is going to be highly based or run by computer applications. The only thing that it isn’t is our Quick Lube. My husband and I try as hard as we can to automate everything we possibly can there.

So having that background and particularly when you marry it with something like interior design, where there is incredible dearth of technology, I mean, honest to god, designers are so creative, and they do things that you never do, but those poor people can barely use email. So it’s just like the complete and utter understanding and use and adoption of IT that is necessary for anyone. I think if you aren’t pretty savvy in that domain, you’re going to have a challenge in today’s business world.

Mike: Champe, what’s next for you?

Champe: We started another Grease Monkey. Similar story. It actually is a shop that had been closed down. Started it up in April. We’re projecting our first month of profit this month. So incredibly psyched about that. It’s wonderful and on target. I think my husband would like to do three or four more of those.

My Design Guide, we have to continue to grow our revenue, but we’re really looking for partners out there. Tell your MO’sters to call me. Call your peeps. We need to partner with firms that sell home decor products. In my wildest dreams, the Home Depots of the world, the Better Homes and Garden of the world, those are the people who have the products, who have the voice, but they don’t have what we have, which is the design infrastructure to allow them to service Middle America.

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