PAWHUSKA — Few people get to take over an established business debt-free.
Steven and Tiffany Poe are giving them that chance.
The two plan to deed the Grandview Inn, a bed and breakfast in a 1923 home, to the winner of an essay contest they are sponsoring. The person with the best composition, along with a mandatory $140 entry fee, could come home to a grand prize valued at $1.4 million.
“When you go out to buy a functioning, full-service bed and breakfast, there’s a lot of equity involved in the very beginning,” Steven Poe said. “We wanted to take that out and be able to bless somebody with an opportunity to have a full, functioning business without all the worries.”
The contest began in July and extends through October. Applicants must answer four questions gauging their interest in entrepreneurship and hospitality and their love of Osage County. Answers are limited to 2,000 characters.
“We didn’t want to deter too many people because you think about writing an essay and maybe you have nightmares going back to high school,” Tiffany Poe said. “We wanted to get to know people enough so we could make a solid decision if we would want to go to a finalist conversation with them but not so much that they would be writing hours and hours and hours on end.”
If the Poes get at least 10,000 applications, they will declare a grand prize winner. Ten thousand entrants times $140 equals $1.4 million.
“That’s what we could sell it (home and business) for if we were to sell it on the open market,” Tiffany said.
If fewer than 10,000 people enter — applicants can enter multiple times as long as a fee is remitted each time — the family reserves the right to keep the property and convert each entry fee into a one-night stay at the bed and breakfast.
“We really want somebody who will love the people who visit,” Tiffany said. “Our worst scenario would be someone who just wanted the home to resell it. … We really wanted to have a say in finding that next successor to that experience.”
A chef by trade, Tiffany is a former food stylist and director of culinary operations for Food Network star Ree Drummond, also known as the “Pioneer Woman.” Ree and her husband, Ladd Drummond, lived in the 7,000-square-foot house several years before selling it to a woman who converted it into a bed and breakfast in 2004.
The Poes bought it in 2012. Soon after the Drummonds built The Mercantile in the fall of 2016, tourists were visiting Pawhuska by the busloads, and the Grandview Inn and its five guest rooms were being booked months in advance.
“That hasn’t let up three years later,” Tiffany said.
She and Steven have five children ranging in age from 14 years to 22 months. A few years after Tiffany endured a stillbirth, Israel, their youngest child, was born with Down syndrome via an emergency C-section and spent three months in a neonatal intensive care unit.
He has been accepted into The Little Lighthouse in Tulsa, which is the main reason the Poes need to get out of the hospitality business and relocate, they said.
“We’ve put a ton of money in it, a ton of our own life,” Tiffany said. “Two of our children were born there. We have seven years of our life wrapped up in this.
“It’s emotional, too. We have loved on people in that home in a way that few people get to in their life.”
Added Steven, “It’s an amazing house to live in. We never really thought we would ever get rid of it when we first moved there. But the way our life is transitioning now, we need to be back in Tulsa.”
Within 15 days after the Halloween deadline, a 10-person committee — neither Poe is on it — will determine the grand prize winner, if one is chosen. The family also has the option of extending the deadline. Full contest rules can be found at grandviewinnoklahoma.com.
“This has been the most stressful thing that we’ve ever done just because we want it to be successful more than anything,” Tiffany said. “But there are days when we are like, ‘It would have been so much easier just to sell this thing.’
“We’re pretty purpose-driven people. So if we feel like something’s right in our heart, we’re going to do it, whether people think it’s a good idea or not. We have to trust that something amazing is going to come out of it.”