Editor’s Note: Each October, The Emporia Gazette celebrates and highlights local women in business. This week, we talk to Tri County Real Estate Owner/Broker Carmen Mackey.

Carmen Mackey never planned on a career in real estate or owning her own business.

Now, after more than 20 years at the helm of Tri County Real Estate in Lebo, she can’t imagine doing anything else.

Mackey grew up in Hartford, moving to Lebo in 1988 after she graduated from Emporia State University with a degree in business administration. In 1994, she and her ex-husband started an auction business together.

“That’s really how it led into the real estate business,” Mackey said. “I had the opportunity to purchase the real estate business in 1997 and worked with Glen Smith and Cammy Onek at that time. I became the broker in 1999.”

Tri County Real Estate — which covers real estate markets in Lyon, Coffey, Osage and now Greenwood counties — was already an established business when Mackey purchased it in 1997. But, it’s taken a lot of hard work to keep it successful over the years.

“You spend a lot of hours showing and meeting sellers and meeting buyers,” she said. “Maybe you just don’t find the right property for them, so easy sales don’t just fall into your lap right off the bat. It’s a lot of footwork, a lot of learning experiences, and as time goes on, you develop a client base that starts returning to you.”

The real estate has had many ups and downs over the years. Right now, the market is very strong and Lebo has always been “well-received.” Mackey said she’s sold several houses more than once over her 23 years in the business, as people have moved. She has repeat clients that she’s helped purchase houses and move several times over the years as well.

“We’re located right on I-35 and we’re between Emporia and Wolf Creek,” she said. “So, a lot of families live here that may work in both locations. As the years have gone on, my business has expanded into Emporia and Osage County.”

Expanding the business was bringing in Associate Broker Victor Edelman in 2005. Dwayne Coble joined the business in 2011. Coble is a salesperson and auctioneer.

And in 2010, Mackey — who has been an insurance agent since 2001 — started a crop insurance business in 2010.

Through all of her time in business, Mackey was also raising two children. Her children were just 3 and 5 when she purchased Tri County Real Estate and she credits her parents for helping out with the kids in those early days.

“My kids were 5 and 3 at the time of buying this business and their grandparents were very helpful with the kids while I had showings [and] did paperwork,” she said. “I did a lot of paperwork after the kids went to bed, sometimes working late, which i cannot do anymore. There were times as the kids became older but not yet old enough to stay at home by themselves that they went on showings with me and stayed in the vehicle watching their DVD players.”

Thirteen years ago, Mackey married her husband Mike, who brought with him four more children into the family. She said her husband has always been a strong father and partner and always steps up when she needs some extra support.

Aside from real estate and crop insurance, Mackey also works full-time as a loan secretary for John and Megan Evans at the Farmers State Bank of Aliceville — Lebo Branch. She has worked there for 27 years.

Mackey said she cannot stress enough the importance of having a strong support network.

“Today, the balance of family vs. career is to plan family time with my husband, kids and grandchildren and stick to that personal time,” Mackey said. “Three of our grandchildren live in Kansas City, so we make a day of it to go see them. My husband and kids have been instrumental in my businesses with their patience and, at times, helping me out with filing and errands.”

Mackey said making that point of scheduling family time is key because it’s easy to get lost in work sometimes. Finding that perfect home, the best resources, and helping out her clients is her passion, after all.

“I love when I am able to help a buyer find a home that is perfect for them or helping sellers making a change by selling their home,” she said.

For more information about Tri County Real Estate, visit https://tri-county-real-estate.com.

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