By the time Tara Keeney was 30 years old, she owned her own thriving lending business, Lenders for Life. Now, at 32, her operation keeps growing. Keeney employees five people in her Payson office.
She's opening up two satellite offices -- one in Sedona, the other in Phoenix --and possibly a third in Pinetop-Lakeside.
With a cooling real estate market and rising interest rates, many lenders are slowing down, but Keeney said business couldn't be better.
"I'm more about people," she said. "I've grown my staff to a point where we have so much to offer.
"It's all about educating people about making good financial decisions.
"We're in a position to advise people of their entire financial picture and we take that very seriously."
Keeney's a young, professional woman working in the male-dominated lending business. She tempers her ambition and drive with style and personality.
Keeney's career started during her teenage years. Her entrepreneurial spirit came from her father. In high school, she worked at the usual fast-food jobs, but by the time she was 18, she had her insurance license.
"I'm a risk taker," she said. "I'm not afraid of failure. Failure is a way to learn a lesson."
At 21, Keeney took a position as an escrow officer. That's where she made communitywide contacts that would help her later on.
"I decided to have a family and I knew I'd have to make some changes, so I went into loan origination, which is commission only. It was a big step."
The change allowed her the flexibility to work and raise her children, and her career grew from there.
A Scottsdale-based loan company hired her to manage a local branch, and before her 29th birthday, she was opening her own business.
"I think people see past the age thing," she said. "When it comes to age, I think we put it in front of ourselves because we don't have the confidence to discuss financial decisions with someone twice our age."
A budding business doesn't have to be complicated. When Keeney opened Lenders for Life, the investment was small and simple: A phone, a computer and office space.
"It just grew from there. One of the things I did right was not starting out with a bunch of debt."
The name Lenders for Life reflects Keeney's professional philosophy.
For her, business isn't about the single transaction. Instead, she strives to keep her clients coming back.
"I've surrounded myself with people who allow me to do what I do best," she said.
Keeney is also a mother and involved member of the community. This year, the Payson Rotary Club celebrates its 50th anniversary with Keeney as its president.
The foundation of Keeney's busy life begins with Mark, her husband of 14 years, and two sons, Dylan, 8, and Ely, 5.