The Everleigh Sisters, Minna and Ada, were born near Charlottesville, Kentucky. Minna was born on February 15, 1864. Ada was born July 13, 1866. Initially born with the surname Simms, the sisters took the name Everleigh which was inspired by their grandmother's tradition to sign her letters "Everly Yours." According to the sisters, after two unsuccessful marriages (of which there is no record), the Everleigh sisters left the small town they were raised on in Kentucky (another story concocted by the sisters) for Omaha, Nebraska. It was there where Minna and Ada established their first brothel using money they invested from their $35,000 estate inheritance. In only two years, the women doubled their investment in addition to earning a considerable profit. Minna and Ada closed the brothel and with their recent earnings sought out more lucrative investment opportunities.
Prior to relocating to Chicago, the Everleigh sisters toured brothels in many cities, trying to find a location which had "plenty of wealthy men but no superior houses." They were directed to Chicago by Cleo Maitland, a madam in Washington, D.C., who suggested they contact Effie Hankins in Chicago. After buying Hankins's brothel at 2131–2133 South Dearborn Street, they
fired all the women and completely redecorated the entire building with the most luxurious appointments available. Silk curtains, damask easy chairs, oriental rugs, mahogany tables, gold rimmed china and silver dinner ware, perfumed fountains in every room, a $15,000 gold-leafed piano for the Music Room, mirrored ceilings, a library filled with finely bound volumes, an art gallery featuring nudes in gold frames—no expense was spared. While the heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson thought the $57 gold spittoons in his café were worth boasting about, the patrons of the Everleigh Club were obliged to expectorate in $650 gold cuspidors.
Prior to the opening of the Everleigh Club, Ada was responsible for recruiting staff for the club. She started by contacting her former employees in Omaha and spreading the word through brothels across the country. She conducted face-to-face interviews with all the applicants. The brothel opened on February 1, 1900 with little fanfare, and turned away many of the clients who initially appeared because the Everleigh Sisters did not deem them suitable for the clientele they were seeking. Once the club was open, Ada, who was quieter and more reserved than her sister, took on the responsibility of making sure the club was kept up to standard. She oversaw cleaning and renovations. Ada was also very much taken with the gold leaf piano in the Club and once claimed she rejected a suitor because he disapproved of the piano.