Born and raised in Clearwater, Megan Ennis, Owner of Citrus Lending, began her career working for a national mortgage company. After transferring to Jacksonville, FL, and receiving her Mortgage Broker/Loan Originator license, Ennis was put in charge of managing a local branch. Unfortunately, the parent company, as a result of rapid and unsustainable growth, found themselves in some financial difficulty. After they were downgraded from “lender” status to “broker” status, Ennis read the writing on the wall.
“It was the perfect time to go in a different direction,” Ennis said. “After leaving Jacksonville to head back to Pinellas County, we drove straight through Williston and found the house we originally started Citrus Lending in, in Citrus County. It’s ironic because we’d visited Citrus County in the past and always thought it would be a great place to live. Anyway, once we closed on the house I told my husband I needed to figure out what to do next. He said, ‘Why don’t you open your own agency’.”
In April 2005, with encouragement from her husband and with faith in God, Ennis did just that. Even though she had previous relationships with large banks such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase, which allowed her to broker for those companies, starting a new business in a new town was a daunting proposition.
“I had a tremendous amount of anxiety,” Ennis said. “I had no connections and, at the time, it was very much about who you knew. Trying to be a mortgage lender without an established local network was an extremely hard thing to do. Nevertheless, I had faith in the lord and believed that God was instrumental in opening doors to connect me with the right people. My son played little league and I met some very influential parents through that. Other doors opened and slowly but surely the business grew.”
The business, led by Ennis and her husband through 2007, thrived until the market crashed in late 2007 and early 2008. According to Ennis, it was a difficult time.
“This lender closed and then another and then another,” she said. “They were all shutting their doors. It was one of the scariest times ever. Nearly 75% of mortgage brokers in the state closed their doors. I kept thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’. I even filled out resumes and thought about moving back to Clearwater. I barely kept the business going while my husband sold cars in Ocala. To make ends meet, we moved to a smaller house and rented for a period of time to downsize our overhead. We struggled through it for a few years. However, in 2012, like a miracle, business started to pick up. Since then, we’ve had double digit growth every year. I contribute this success and longevity to my faith in GOD above!! Only he could have held this together through the recession and beyond!”
According to Ennis, what sets Citrus Lending apart from other brokers is her marketing campaign that emphasizes her ability and willingness to help people with all types of credit. She’s intent on leaving no family behind and works with customers with credit scores as low as 500. If customers have issues, Ennis will work with them. She understands how to utilize the tools provided by credit reporting agencies to improve credit scores. She also treats customers with the same level or respect, regardless of loan size. For realtors or for those turned down by the banks, Ennis is the “go to” expert in Citrus County.
For Ennis, the joy of helping others is perhaps her biggest motivator. “They’re so thankful,” she said. “When a first time home buyer comes into my office and hugs me, it’s extremely gratifying. In some cases, they’re told no over and over again. I had a veteran in this exact situation. We were able to work with him and got it done. Helping people is what I enjoy most.”
Looking ahead, Ennis would like to expand and hire more licensed loan originators throughout Florida. Above all, she wants to continue to offer good quality mortgage options to all people, regardless of credit score.
What advice does Ennis have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Put a plan together and pray about it,” she said. “If it’s meant to be, it’s your passion and it’s something you truly love and believe in, it’s unstoppable. Your idea will be infectious to other people. Also, customer service and relationships are what build businesses, not necessarily sales and marketing. Lastly, make sure you have at least six months in reserves to back yourself up.”