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Hidden Gems: Meet Jennifer McCleary of Steadfast Investments

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer McCleary. 

Hi Jennifer, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I actually started out in education. I was an elementary art teacher for 4 years. My husband, Brad, is a born entrepreneur. He quit his corporate job 2 weeks before our wedding (talk about giving my parents a heart attack!) and has been a business owner the entire time we have been married. 

When my husband and I had our first child I wanted more flexibility and to be able to be home with our kids (we have 4 total), or have them with me. I decided to “retire” as a teacher and join my husband in his personal training business as a nutrition coach and personal trainer. This was my first real introduction to business and I loved owning our own business and being able to truly own my time and build something with my husband for our family. 

We love building business and helping people and the Lord has blessed us to be able to do that for our careers! 

Our personal training studio grew into a full wellness center, through that we started hosting and producing running events (5k/10k/half-marathons). We were producing over 100 events in the Kansas City area each year. In 2019 we sold our gym and focused solely on producing events. We franchised our event company and had 14 locations up and running and 8 more scheduled to launch in March of 2020, and then COVID-19 hit. To say that the effects of the shutdown were devastating on our industry would be an understatement. Our business pretty much shut down overnight. We had to furlough 13 of our 15 employees in one day and it is the hardest thing I have gone through as a business owner. 

Through that experience, we have grown and had some incredible opportunities born out of that trial. With the divine pause of everything in our life, we were able to sit back and really evaluate what was working, what needed to be worked on, and what opportunities we might like to explore. 

I have always wanted to own a coffee shop. I love hospitality and our community was greatly underserved in the food/dining department. I also love rehabbing houses and when the opportunity to purchase a 100-year-old farmhouse in the heart of our small town presented itself we knew we had to take it! So, we are the crazy ones who opened a restaurant during a global pandemic and The Lovett Coffeehouse & Eatery was born! We really wanted to honor the history of the house and the Lovetts were the original farmsteaders on the property so we thought it was the perfect name! 

Through some connections with friends came the opportunity to purchase another coffee shop in Warrensburg, MO. In May of 2021, we purchased Old Drum Coffeehouse and expanded the menu adding “Eatery” to the title and taking the menu from the Lovett to a new community! 

Just last week my husband and I purchased a building in Hermann, MO getting to expand our love of hospitality and host 3 Airbnb units in the building’s top floor, and re-open The Bank Bar (adding Bistro) and incorporate their cocktail menu with our coffee and food menu from our other shops. 

We also have a screenprinting company that provides apparel and awards to our event company and local organizations in our area. 

Brad and I just love building business and then finding awesome people to plug in while we help them discover their gifts and talents. We tend to say “yes” to any opportunity that the Lord puts in front of us. 🙂 

So that is not necessarily a brief walk, but it is my story 🙂 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing about business ownership is smooth, but it can be VERY rewarding. There is something special about putting yourself out there, taking a risk, working hard for an opportunity, learning from your mistakes, and succeeding from the things you’ve figured out how to do right along the way. 

There have been many times where the finances have been stressful. When you (in my case my husband and I as a team) are solely responsible for the success and lively hood of yourself and your family it can be a heavy burden. On the flip side, knowing that you control your own destiny can totally be worth it, and for us it is. Sink or swim it’s on us and that’s how we like it. 

Managing people is never easy, but once you figure out how to help people find what they excel in, and how to apply it, then it is really fun. 

Growth is challenging, there have been many long days and sleepless nights when there aren’t enough hands to do the work but it still has to get done. 

The biggest struggle was navigating the pandemic and the impact it had on our industry, not knowing when it would end and things would get back to “normal”. Trying to recreate a business you had spent a decade building. It can be demoralizing and a lot of business owners walked away and I totally get why they would. We were one of the lucky ones. The Lord has provided ways for us to hang on, and make it through, and then placed us in situations with new opportunities and ways to grow. 

There is nothing simple or smooth about business ownership. At the end of the day, it is so rewarding knowing that if you find out what you love, and you work really hard, it can all be worth it. 

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My husband and I have built an investment company out of our entrepreneurial endeavors. 

We own 5 businesses. 

*Bodies Race Company (Event production and management for endurance events in Kansas City and all over the country.) 

*Horsepower Apparel & Awards (screen printing, apparel, and awards) 

*The Lovett Coffeehouse & Eatery (exceptional coffee, food, and atmosphere in a 100-year-old farmhouse in the heart of Lone Jack, MO) 

*Old Drum Coffeehouse & Eatery (exceptional coffee, food, and atmosphere in a 200-year-old bank building in historic downtown Warrensburg, MO) 

*The Schiller Suites (a special vacation experience in a historical German settlement town on the banks of the Missouri River in Hermann, MO) 

*The Bank Bar & Bistro (re-opening soon, exceptional coffee, food, and cocktails in an 1800’s bank building in Hermann, MO) 

All of our business’s deal with hospitality. Whether it’s creating an awesome event experience, an amazing dining experience, or a special vacation experience we are all about “The Experience”. 

In any of our companies, we want people to remember how they were treated and how the experience made them feel. We love creating a community where anyone can feel welcome, that they belong, and that we care about them! 

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to fail, sometimes failing is where you learn the most about yourself and what you were meant to be. 

Also, if you do fail, don’t give up. Learn from it and move on! 

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