Meet Stuart Crawford, Ryan Madrid, and Jeremy West of Bison Ventures. Recently, the trio teamed up to offer the Valley (and beyond) a new choice in the mortgage lending landscape. Not to be confused with a mortgage brokerage, Bison Ventures is a correspondent mortgage lender. For non-industry insiders such as ourselves, this means Bison Ventures owns the process from start to finish – diagnosing needs, providing solutions, underwriting, and funding loans. With the distinction defined, we chatted with the executive team about the industry and taking the entrepreneurial leap.

Stuart Crawford, Chief Executive Officer

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: How did you first start in the mortgage industry?
Stuart Crawford: I got my start in the industry in 2001 during my senior year at ASU. I cold-called off lead sheets to set appointments for loan officers to meet with clients for refinancing. I eventually went on to help build a small call center, then worked at another mortgage company after graduating and searching for my “real job.” I ended up quitting as it was not the professional environment I had sought out, and found the industry to be unethical at the time. I consider my true beginning in the industry to be when I joined a private, family-held company in 2022.

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: The industry has changed quite a bit since you got your start in 2002. What’s stayed the same – if anything? Can you share what’s stayed the same?
Stuart Crawford: The chaos. Originating and processing a loan is complex, as is managing the emotions and expectations of the parties involved. The atmosphere of urgency – and chaos – remains 20 years later.

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: It sounds like great preparation for launching your first business. Can you share a little bit about that experience? 
Stuart Crawford: Like most in the mortgage origination career path, my first job was 100% commission, which is scary, unpredictable, and full of moments of doubt and emotion. In many ways, it’s similar to starting a business. And, interestingly enough, I experienced many of those old feelings starting Bison Ventures. In short, starting the business was absolutely exciting and terrifying – all at the same time. But, the vision of our legacy and the creation of opportunities keeps us focused. 

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: What advice would you give someone looking to secure a mortgage?
Stuart Crawford: Start the process months in advance with a reputable mortgage professional. There’s a common saying in our industry: “there are no easy loans.” So many clients have a more complex situation than they realize and benefit from ample time to work through the industry’s abundance of guidelines and red tape. The sooner you can get “diagnosed” by a mortgage professional, the better. Informed lending is about arming the consumer with all the education and information they need to make an empowered decision.

Ryan Madrid, Chief Development Officer

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: How did you get your start in the mortgage industry?
Ryan Madrid: I got into the business in January of 2013 after a long stint in the medical field. I made the switch to find more time with my kids, gain autonomy, and have an experience beyond that of typical Corporate America.

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: What has your experience in the mortgage industry been like?
Ryan Madrid: It’s way harder than I thought it would be. Every day brings a roller coaster of emotions.

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: After a stint in Corporate America, what was it like to launch your first business?
Ryan Madrid: This is a great question… It’s been a whirlwind: educational, stressful, and fun! At first, I asked myself questions like, “am I worthy of doing this?” Once I passed through the phase of self-doubt, I was all in. Now that we are fully operational and I reflect on the experience, I know that I would never want to take the entrepreneurial leap alone. I feel extremely grateful to have Stuart and Jeremy as my partners. We all have different strengths, which makes the partnership – and company – work.

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: What has been the key to Bison Ventures’ success?
Ryan Madrid: Client education and a clear mortgage plan.

Jeremy West, Chief Operating Officer

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: How did you get your start in the mortgage industry?
Jeremy West: While I’ve been in the finance industry my entire career, I’m definitely the newbie in the group. I relocated from California last year to help launch the company. Before joining forces with Stuart and Ryan, I spent nearly 20 years in corporate banking, running a commercial division for a Fortune 100 bank. I started as a commercial underwriter, helping small businesses obtain financing for owner-occupied real estate, equipment, and working capital needs. This led to roles in sales, then management, and culminated in this amazing opportunity to lead our bank’s expansion efforts into the Northern California market.

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: Tell us more about this shift… What motivated you to make such a big geographic and career change?
Jeremy West: After two decades in Corporate America, I was drawn to the opportunity to realize my unrelenting dream of entrepreneurship. I’d worked with countless small business owners throughout my career and found their passion and energy to be contagious. When the opportunity with Bison Ventures presented itself, my wife gave me the support and confidence to pursue it. My wife’s support was complimented by the fact that I was partnering with two of the industry’s most accomplished mortgage professionals.

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: What has your experience in the mortgage banking industry been like?
Jeremy West: It’s a fast-paced industry with an increasingly complex web of regulations and an insatiable eagerness to adopt new technologies and efficiencies. That said, the heart of this business is about helping individuals achieve their goals of home ownership and financial stability. At Bison, we understand the importance of the role we play and take great pride in knowing that we’re helping families and communities. A lot has changed, but the fact remains we are a people business. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by people who are drawn to that and love to help.

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: What was it like to take the entrepreneurial leap?
Jeremy West: I’ve encountered a range of emotions, from fear and stress to exhilaration and pride. But, each wave of emotion is underscored by the opportunity to chart my own path, which is extremely motivating. I also feel so fortunate to work with two of my best friends. I could not imagine the difficulty of managing the daily challenges of starting and running a business without partners you can lean on to problem-solve.

The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: What advice would you give someone looking to secure a mortgage?
Jeremy West: No two lending situations are the same, so borrowers must work with mortgage professionals that are knowledgeable, ethical, and communicative. We pride ourselves on being the experts that strive to educate, as well as demonstrate empathy for each prospective client. As a result, we’ve created a reputation for offering best-in-class service with a demonstrated commitment to navigating the idiosyncrasies of each borrower. If your mortgage partner is not communicating, problem-solving, and demonstrating a great sense of urgency, it’s time to consider other options.