Tapping Entrepreneurial Potential
Aaron Zeese, Eller Finance, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship ’99
Founder, PAJ Enterprises
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Aaron Zeese came to the University of Arizona in part for the Eller College. “I knew I wanted to be in business, but wasn’t sure specifically what I wanted to do,” he said. He declared his major as finance, and during the course of his studies, gravitated to the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program.
“The entrepreneurship program really opened up a whole new arena for me,” he said. “I could see other options besides 9-to-5 work. There’s flexibility and potential for significant rewards if you are ready to put in the hard work yourself.”
Right out of the UA, he and fellow entrepreneurship grad Randy Huggins launched a rammed-earth building company. “It didn’t work out,” Zeese said, “but I landed in commercial banking, where I worked for three years.”
In commercial banking, Zeese learned a lot about lending, connected with many entrepreneurs, and got to review many business plans. He joined a venture with one of his clients, a commercial retail development in Alaska. “I worked there for a few years, mostly from Phoenix, but traveling to Alaska over the summer for the short building season,” he said. When the capital markets collapsed in 2008, the company went under.
“A lot of success is just a learning process, learning from mistakes,” he said. At that point, he gathered some partners and founded his own company, PAJ Enterprises. “We are private lenders focused on investors purchasing short-sale properties in Phoenix,” he said. “So it’s really my background in commercial banking and my understanding of real estate coming together.”
Looking back, Zeese credits the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program for his path. “I think the entrepreneurship program at the UA is second to none,” he said. “I attribute a good portion of my success to having gone through it. It opened my eyes to different options I wouldn’t have followed otherwise.”
Learn more about the dynamic programs of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.