Career reboot leads to opening of downtown Lee's Summit's first bed and breakfast
Sometimes, to make a dream become reality, all you need to do is wake up.
For Liesl Hays, the alarm clock finally sounded more than 10 years into a career track she’d been working throughout much of her adult life. The time, the stress, and the work itself weren't giving her the satisfaction she had expected. Her career was going as planned. She worked hard for a great company that paid her well and offered exceptional benefits. Despite looking at a positive career path and future advancement, the trade off just wasn’t worth it for her.
“Every day felt like one really long day. That’s how I felt,” she said. “I’d wake up at 5 a.m. and I’d have a call with India, then I’d check my e-mail and then I’d get the kids up. And then when I was done getting the kids up, I rushed off. I took them to school or my husband took them and then I’d go to work. And I’d typically work until 5:30 or 6 p.m., which is not that big of a deal. But then I went home and after I did dinner and we got the kids to bed and did baths, then I’d work sometimes until the early hours of the morning.
“And I felt like every day was one really long day and I was like, there’s no amount of money that is going to make it worth me living my life like this. I’m cranky and I’m never present when I’m with them or with my family. When I’m with my family I feel guilty that I’m not working and when I’m at work I feel guilty I’m not with them. And I was just like, I can’t do it.”
Despite her efforts to persevere, Hays’ career dissatisfaction became apparent to her husband, Harlen. Long days led to hard days where she found herself coming home in tears and wondering to herself why she put in the hours doing work that didn’t offer her more personal satisfaction. Eventually, after one particularly bad day, her husband sat her down and pointedly asked what it was she’d rather be doing.
The question took her somewhat by surprise. Not only was she not prepared to answer, she wasn’t expecting such a straightforward response from her husband.
“I got kind of irritated with him in the moment,” she said. “Because, you know, when you’re with your spouse you want strategies to deal with the problem at hand, not the whole high school counselor talk of ‘what do you want to do with your life?’ I wasn’t ready for that. It just didn’t seem practical at that point.”
But it was his persistence that broke through and helped her begin to reexamine her goals. One goal in particular was brought back during the ensuing conversations — a dream of running her own Bed and Breakfast.
Again, her initial responses deflected the suggestions, claiming it was an impractical thing to do. They had young children, she said. They had other obligations, she added. The timing, she said, just wasn’t right.
The attitude changed a week or so later when she got an email from her husband claiming to have found the perfect house for her bed and breakfast. The listing marketed the house as a possible B & B near Lee’s Summit’s historic Downtown District. With her interest piqued, the two scheduled a tour of the home in the early summer of 2016. The initial tour quickly put the vision in their heads and from there pieces started falling into place and The Browning Bed and Breakfast opened for business less than 1 year later.
“I remember looking at it,” she said. “And I basically said to myself, if we were going to do this, it would have to go so seamlessly. It just had to be perfect. All of the stars would have to align. Which wasn’t really realistic on my part. But funny enough, that’s kind of what happened throughout the whole entire process.”
The process, she said, was made easier by the people she met in the downtown Lee’s Summit business community. Relationships with other business owners came quickly and easily. And with those relationships came helpful recommendations and referrals as she and Harlen worked to get their business open.
Naming the business, The Browning, was an homage to the downtown district and to the home’s history as well. According to their web site, Elijah T. Browning built his family home in 1889, which is now the Browning Bed & Breakfast. The original family had three homes located on that corner, known as Browning Row. Only the main house, home to the Browning Bed & Breakfast, had a kitchen, because the family patriarch wanted his family to come to his house to dine.
“The downtown community has been fantastic,” she said. “I started meeting with people downtown and one, they were all really excited about the concept and two, they were all very much, ‘What can we do to help? What can we do to support your business?’ So, one of the things we try to do is try to source everything as local as we can.”
After opening in the fall of 2016, Hays now finds herself with a bustling business, and a growing niche of customers among business travelers, bridal parties, small personal parties and small business events. During the business week, she has a few regular clients who use the bed and breakfast while in town.
Growing partnerships with several local and regional event spaces — like fellow downtown business, The Stanley — have led to a burgeoning business for brides. She recently remodeled one of the rooms in the home to serve as a bridal suite, giving brides and their parties a comfortable space to relax and prepare for the wedding ceremony.
“One of the areas of the business that has been really beneficial to us has been the bridal parties,” she said. “So, we have a close partnership with (Bryan and Cindy King), who own The Stanley Event Space. It’s been great because they send their brides here frequently. We just finished out our bridal suite and they will get ready here on site. And it’s just so great being a part of that process for the bridal parties. That industry has been a really good partnership for us and we feel like our bridal packages really fit well for wedding events that are close to our locations.”
As for job satisfaction, Hays says her career is right on track. The work and relationships she’s making with both the local business community and her clientele are things that keep her going and let her know she’s following the right path. One recent experience hammers that point home to her.
“We actually did this girlfriend give-away contest,” she said. “It was in April. We did a call out asking why you and your closest girlfriends deserve a getaway. The prize was they get the whole house, we gave them a $100 gift card to Third Street Social. We had so many great entries and I loved reading so many great stories. Stories about women who get together every single year and have known each other since high school. Or people who have gone through the hard parts of life together.
“The coolest story, which actually ended up being our winner. It’s not a cool story, it’s actually really sad. But it’s cool because we could do something special for them. She lost her son recently from cancer. It’s one of those stories you read about and you’re heartbroken because you can’t imagine losing your child. We had the opportunity to give her and her lady friends something special.
“One of the things I love about this business is I get to share special life moments with people. I get a window into special moments in people's lives and I love that I get to play a small part in those moments for the people who stay with us.”
The Browning Lee's Summit
202 SW 3rd Street
Lees Summit, MO 64063