When they met at Davenport University in 2004, Chris and Kristen Komara could never have predicted they’d go on to be partners both in life and in business. As owners of two Honey Baked Ham stores in Midland and Grand Rapids, Michigan, the couple has faced and overcome their share of adversity. The pair gave us some insight into their experience as spouse franchisees.
Honey Baked Ham: How did you decide to get into the franchise industry?
Chris Komara: We had a few ideas. We weren’t as confident that we wanted to launch something brand new because neither one of us had real experience operating a business at the time. So, we decided we should probably rely on a system that already exists, that already has a proven business model, and decided franchising was going to be the route to go.
After a lot of brainstorming, we decided that foodservice would be ideal for us, but we hadn’t decided which franchise would be the right fit.
HBH: With so many QSR options, what brought you to Honey Baked Ham?
Chris: One morning in 2007 we were sitting down drinking coffee and reading the newspaper and there was an ad in the classifieds: ‘Honey Baked Ham’s looking for franchisees in Midland and Saginaw.’ When I saw that, an image popped into my mind from when I was a child.
My father, who was a physician, worked with the same pharmaceutical sales rep for years, who would bring my dad a Honey Baked Ham every year for the holidays. It became tradition at home that we’d have this ham for the holidays. As kids, we weren’t allowed to eat it until Christmas, but I would sneak out of bed and go downstairs to sneak a piece. And, of course, mom would get mad because there’d be pieces missing from the ham – mainly from the glaze.
It brought back these fond childhood memories. So, we called the number in the ad and a month or two later we were down in Georgia for Discovery Day and signed our franchise agreement the following summer.
HBH: 2008 was a tough year economically. Was it difficult opening that year?
Chris: Boy, was it ever. We were waist-deep in construction when that first economic crisis hit. We spent many a sleepless night wondering how we’d survive because we couldn’t stop. We opened right in the midst of it, and although sales weren’t where we’d budgeted them to be, we were able to pay our bills.
It was during that time that the Honey Baked Ham system really proved our theory that franchising was the way to go. Lunch sales kept us up. And corporate was so supportive during those times and really bent over backward to help us and those other franchisees who were struggling because of the economy. They really helped us get through it.
HBH: Do you find that your marriage has influenced your ability to tackle challenges as business partners?
Chris: We found out very early on what we’re good at and what we’re not good at, and we respected those boundaries. We each bring our own qualities to the company. That’s so important for any couple that goes into business together – knowing what each is good at and respecting that. We don’t always see eye-to-eye on things, but we respect that the other of us knows what’s best.
HBH: What does the future hold for you?
Chris: The future’s very bright – how we get there, we’re still deciding on. I’d like to open up more stores; Kristen would probably tell you she’d like to continue to grow the two stores we already have. We’re trying to figure out what our future looks like, but the brand’s future is very bright. I have a lot of faith in Honey Baked Ham.