I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Shannon Bramlington and Blake Hambleton of Sweethearts Jazz Club the other day. They are our Avi Choice Award sponsors and were so enjoyable to talk to! Below is our little chat. Hope you enjoy!
Joonie Jatho: Hi Shannon! Hi Blake! Nice to meet you both.
Shannon Bramlington: Likewise, Joonie.
Blake Hambleton: Hello.
Joonie: Shannon, I noticed you rezzed into Second Life 9 days before Blake.
Shannon: Yes ㋡
Joonie: What brought you to SL and was it difficult getting Blake to follow?
Joonie: I mean follow you to SL… not.. erm… follow in general!
Shannon: Lol. Well, I’d seen an advertisement on TV about Second Life, and I thought, why not. I was hooked from the first day after I saw how creative things could be. Blake couldn’t pry me away, so I guess “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” was his motto.
Joonie: Awesome! Well, I’m glad to see you both here. It looks like you’ve accomplished some very cool things, for instance, Sweethearts Jazz Club. How long were you here before Sweethearts came about?
Shannon: It’s been an amazing ride.
Blake: Here before we came to Sweethearts to visit or to work here or to buy it?
Shannon: Sweethearts was founded in 2008. I started working here as a hostess in June 2009. Blake sat on the couch and gave me a hard time until I told him to get off his butt and help! Lol. So he started in December of 2009.
Blake: When Shannon started working at Sweethearts, I came everyday to harass her on the job because it was a blast, and to flirt with her. But then she basically said to make myself useful if I was going to take up space, so I applied and started as a host, too.
Shannon: That’s exactly right! Lol.
Joonie: So Blake came to flirt and stayed to work. Then what happened?
Shannon: And then we lived, ate, slept Sweethearts. I was promoted to Co-Manager, and not long after, Blake was, too. After a while, I was promoted to General Manager and so was Blake.
Joonie: Wow you guys! Was it fun?
Blake: It was great! A lot of social banter and messing with folks and joking around in a PG manner, of course. It was just a lot of fun socializing with people.
Joonie: Would you say it came naturally? Are you social in RL?
Shannon: Naturally social? mmm… probably not. We’re “at home” hermits now and Sweethearts IS our social outlet. At first hosting was lots of fun, one of my favorite things to do. Then it became work.
Blake: Yes, it was a lot of fun and as time went on and we became more seasoned, it was more like work. A little less fun you could say when you can see behind the scenes and how it works as a business and less like a game.
Shannon: Thats exactly right. It feels like you’re standing behind the puppet stage and can see the strings.
Joonie: What would you say some of the challenges are in running a business in SL. What are the rewards?
Shannon: Challenges: Making guests and designers happy at the same time. The guests don’t want to see the commercial aspect as much and the designers WANT to be seen by the guests as much as they can. That balance is a challenge. We bought Sweethearts in Feb. of 2012 and hit the ground running. There was a lot to freshen up and make our own.
Blake: That’s all true. Another of our challenges is not having enough hands and time to do everything that we would like to have done. There’s never enough time when we constantly strive to breathe new life into everything we do here or everything we have to maintain on a daily basis, so finding balance for all of that at once is hard and sometimes overwhelming during our “growing pains.”
Joonie: Growing pains are all part of learning and making things better.
Shannon: Yes they are. As far as rewards, oh there are so many, but the two greatest are the charity events we have and the notecards we get from guests that met here at Sweethearts and RL marry. THOSE are the best!
Joonie: Oh! Has that happened often? I love hearing about those couples!
Shannon: Oh heavens, if I had a dollar for every SL marriage we’ve heard about from meeting here, we’d be rich. As for the RL couples, it’s been about 4-5 per year so far. And to be a part of people’s real lives like that… ohhh priceless!
Blake: And for me, too, best part is knowing we’re able to use Sweethearts as an entity to help others. We love that we can do that for people.
Joonie: That brings me to the fact that you have so graciously agreed to sponsor the Avi Choice awards. Thank you so so much! What made you decide to get involved in Relay For Life of SL?
Shannon: We’ve been watching the Avi Choice awards for the last couple of years. Last year we weren’t able to be a part of it, but since then, I’ve been stalking the website and waiting to get involved. We like to be a part of SL as a community. We see Sweethearts as its own community inside SL… almost like a suburb of a major city. SL is NYC and we’re the Hamptons. Lol! As part of the community, we love to get involved, give back to SL because SL has given US so much. We want others to know we’re here, to get involved with our charity events, our social aspect, become part of our family and touch people… not just as avatars, but in their real lives.
Blake: Yes. We get involved in 2-3 charities per year. Our 3 major charities that we support each year are Relay For Life of SL, Creations For Parkinson’s and The Alzheimer Association. Each time we do one of these fundraisers, they last for a full 12 hours each and include live performances, djs, and other events like catered dinners and art auctions. Every linden donated goes directly to the charity we’re doing at the time.
Shannon: So far, Sweethearts has donated over 2.4 million lindens in the last 18 months to these three charities. We’re so proud of our generous Sweethearts. It’s really heartwarming to us to be able use Sweethearts as a platform of encouragement.
Joonie: That’s amazing! ): I think sometimes we hear the negative aspects of SL and not the good, like what you are doing here and what RFL is doing. My Mom died of cancer when I was young so I Relay for her. It seems everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another. Is that true for you guys as well?
Shannon: For me yes. My grandmother was a double breast cancer survivor and just last year she lost her battle with lung cancer. She is the one that we went through treatments with 3 times. And she’s my Relay for Life inspiration. I’m sorry about your mom.
Joonie: Thanks Shannon. I’m sorry about your grandmother. I really think it’s touched everyone in some way.
Shannon: It has… the statistics on cancer are staggeringly high. And I truly believe there will be a preventative vaccination one day and our future generations will only read about cancer in books.
Blake: I haven’t been directly affected by cancer in any form, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be in my lifetime, so we feel it’s important to support those and speak up for those who can’t. I’m sorry to hear about your mother, too. Each of the charities we support, we support because those are close to our hearts for a reason, whether it’s directly and personally or not. We’ve met wonderful people in SL who have inspired us to help because there could never be enough help or support, but THIS is a start.
Joonie: Yes it is a start. I’ve found people in SL to be extremely generous of their time and talents. If you weren’t involved in Sweethearts, what else do you think you would be doing here in SL?
Shannon: Wow um… maybe have a life… a third life maybe? Lol.
Joonie: Hahaha! That’s too funny.
Blake: I’d be doing some horse breeding and exploring anything and everything in the world of SL with Shannon, anything romantic that we haven’t done or places we haven’t been in SL. I’d still be harassing her on a daily basis and probably still dj’ing from time to time. Lol.
Shannon: Lol! True, he would be. I’d build a lot more; it’s one of my biggest SL passions.
Blake: She loves building and she’s wonderful at it. When she can see a build in her mind, she can create it.
Joonie: Awww that sounds fun. I tried building but I was terrible at it! I just don’t have the patience. I don’t like failing and building was a big FAIL! Lol. So you’ve done Breedables in SL?
Shannon: Yes. We jumped into Amaretto Horses on the first month they started. We had the biggest Arabian and Mustang barn in Second Life at that time.
Joonie: Really? Do you still have some of them?
Shannon: Sure do. Some of the version 1.
Blake: We loved breedable horses.
Joonie: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done in SL?
Shannon: Craziest thing ever done… well, we’re always PG since Sweethearts resides on a G rated region. One day we decided to go to a garden, and the pose balls there had some non-PG actions on it, so we cammed around and took advantage of the Adult pose balls. We were busted by the region owner and asked to put our clothes back on. *sighs*
Joonie: Hahaha! That is so SL!
Blake: Yeah that was kind of crazy but I hesitated when we were asked to “put your clothes back on” because I thought, what’s the worst that could happen… we get banned? Lol. Romantic place though and a good memory.
Joonie: How did you hear about RFL?
Shannon: I’ve been in RFL in RL walks since 2004 after my grandma’s 2nd round.
Joonie: How did you guys become involved with RFL of SL?
Blake: We heard about RFL in SL when someone approached us about doing a fundraiser at Sweethearts and we genuinely wanted to do one. We also had a friend at the time in SL who had cancer, and that helped to inspire us because we wanted to help however we could.
Shannon: That was almost 2 years ago.
Joonie: I love how we are so touched by other people here in SL, some from other countries and cultures, but all with similar struggles.
Shannon: Yes. Mallorie Floresby who bought her first Amaretto Arabian from us and now owns a huge auction house called Mystic Bay Breedables, got cancer in RL and it touched us so hard we knew we had to bring RFL to Sweethearts.
Blake: Everyone’s similar deep down, no matter where they come from, yes.
Joonie: We so appreciate what you’re doing this year for Christmas Expo and the Avi Choice awards. Have you been to Christmas Expo before?
Shannon: We’re just happy to be there. No it will be our first. We missed last year altogether.
Blake: We appreciate the opportunity.
Shannon: Yes, very much so. We love being involved with others that support causes like we do.
Joonie: Why did you choose the Avi Choice Awards to sponsor over other sponsorship opportunities?
Blake: One of the reasons is because the people who are behind the scenes seem like very fair individuals with good hearts. When we sponsor we look for those that we feel can do the MOST good.
Shannon: We wanted to help like-minded communities in SL; the folks, like us, that use their platforms for something other than themselves. That’s what we do at Sweethearts and the people at the Avi Choice Awards and Christmas Expo do the same; they not only honor the best of the best but they also give back THEIR best to the deserving. That’s in line with what we do at Sweethearts Jazz.
Joonie: Are there any future plans for Sweethearts? Anything coming up you’d like to tell us about?
Blake: Many. Some we can’t divulge and others… we don’t know yet, but we’ll make up as we go along. Lol. We do know that we will continue to grow and take on more and more. Probably more than we can handle at times, but we’ll never be bored doing it, that’s for sure. We’ll continue to find new ways to bring people together.
Joonie: Awww Blake… no “exclusive” for us?
Shannon: Oh wow… yes. We just crowned our new Ms Sweethearts 2013, Omalley Farspire, last week and we will have our next pageant in January. We have our Alzheimer Dementia fundraiser in January, as well. We have big plans for the region and expanding as well as doing a few things never before seen in SL. So we’re excited about that.
Shannon: We also have a special holiday theme coming this year, that will be more than your normal holiday “Merry Christmas” theme, that we’re really excited about.
Blake: Shannon’s divulging. lol Shhh baby!
Shannon: A little. lol
Joonie: It all sounds like fun! Is there anything else you’d like to add before I get to the “serious” questions?
Shannon: Oh shoot! LOL
Blake: Er… we’re not in the serious questions? lol
Joonie: Lol! I’m not letting you guys off that easy!
Shannon: Yes actually! I’d like to add our staff. When i talk about them I always feel my hand going up to my RL heart. They are above and beyond what anyone could ask for in a staff, team or family. They are our blessing and we couldn’t do anything without them.
Blake: That’s true. They’re our family and if we didn’t have them we’d be lost.
Shannon: Our motto at sweethearts is, “Sweethearts is All Heart” and they truly are all heart. We talk to them every day, we laugh at what they say an hour later while cooking or taking a shower, we fight for them, feel their RL aches and hurts from our screens, we play, we laugh and we’re just nothing without them.
Joonie: Awww… that’s awesome you guys. Okay ready? Get comfy!
Shannon: Ok go!
Joonie: Favorite color?
Joonie: If you could be any animal, what would it be?
Shannon: A horse because they get to eat what they want, they’re majestic creatures and my Chinese birth year.
Blake: A bear.
Shannon: You ARE a bear! Especially in the morning, baby.
Joonie: Shannon is ratting you out, Blake!
Blake: I’m a teddy bear but the big RL bears look awesome when they foam at the mouth and growl. Lol.
Joonie: Shannon, does Blake foam at the mouth in the mornings?
Shannon: He’s a beautiful rumpled mess.
Joonie: Awww ♥ If you could do ANYTHING in SL, other than what you’re doing, with the guarantee you would be successful, what would it be?
Shannon: Hmmm… with that guarantee… I think we’d still be doing what we’re doing. There’s just nothing else I’d rather do.
Blake: I can’t think of anything else either. I’d have to agree with Shannon there.
Shannon: The only thing I love more than Sweethearts is Blake. There’s nothing else I’d rather do. It’s a good time in life. ㋡
Blake: The only thing I love more… is Shannon. She took the words right out of my mouth.
Shannon: I beat you! I beat you!
Blake: Lol! Don’t you always?
Joonie: I can feel the love ♥
Shannon: I still pee faster than you, too! *score*
Blake: She does! You don’t race that chick at peeing. She’s in and out of the bathroom before I can even turn around. Lol!
Shannon: Can’t waste time!
Blake: Gotta stop and smell the air freshener sometimes, honey. Lol.
Shannon: Do you see what i gotta put up with?
Joonie: Yes! How do you do it?
Blake: She does it “patiently.” Lol.
Shannon: With much love, patience, and coffee. And it helps that he’s so good lookin! That kinda takes the edge off.
Joonie: Okay! Enough mush!
Shannon: That’s our normal. Sorry, we can gag you out.
Blake: We spew it! This is Sweethearts. We have a heart at the entrance of Sweethearts on the floor that says Blake “hearts” Shannon with an arrow through it.
Joonie: OMG! Enough! I’m not jealous. Nope. Nuh uh.
Shannon: We can hook ya up!
Joonie: Lol! You guys are so awesome. The Avi Choice Awards should be a lot of fun.
Shannon: We’re excited about it.
Blake: We think it will be fun. We’re very excited to be involved in any way.
Joonie: Thanks you guys so much for spending time with me today. And thank you for all you do for Relay For Life. Sponsoring the Avi Choice Awards is so amazing! Big hugs to you both. Now resume your kissing and hugging.
Shannon: We’re honored.
Blake: More like chasing Shannon.
Joonie: Run Shannon!
Shannon: Feet don’t fail me now!