Insurance Agent Connects with the Community with Help From Kabbage
When Farmers Insurance Agent Steven Gazda was asked to shut down the successful branch where he was assistant vice president and set up shop in a new town, he seized the moment. “I decided I was tired of working for other people,” he says. “I wanted my own business.” Steve decided that insurance was a good fit and opened his own insurance agency with Farmers Insurance in East McKeesport, Pa., in 2014.
“I work behind a big name, but I can run my business my way and maintain the work-life balance I need,” he says. Since business is based on referrals from satisfied customers, Steve and his six employees make an effort to stay connected to the community by sponsoring local events or creating their own – like a pet-adoption fair complete with a parking-lot cookout.
Investing in a new agency
About a year after launching his agency, Steve wanted to invest in marketing. An opportunity arose to sponsor a local 5K run and raise the agency’s profile in the community — but it cost $1,500, and funds were tight. “Ninety percent of my income arrives near the first of the month,’” Steve explains. “If something comes up halfway through the month, then we might need extra money.”
Steve didn’t expect traditional banks to extend him credit. “Banks don’t like lending money unless you already have money,” he jokes. “In the first two years of my business, every dollar I made was put back into it. I was growing in terms of staff and contract value, but not in dollars.”
While searching online for funding, Steve learned about Kabbage. Applying for his line of credit only took a few minutes, and he put the funds straight to use for the 5K sponsorship. The money went in part toward buying an exhibitor tent and cases of bottled water labeled with Farmers Insurance logos.“That event led to $4,000 in future business, but first, I had to spend money to make money,” he says.
Steve turned to Kabbage again when his wife gave birth to their son four weeks early, and he needed someone to cover him at the agency. “Since she was in the intensive-care unit, I missed three and a half weeks of work,” Steve says. “I used a Kabbage loan to hire a replacement during that time so that I could stay at the hospital.”
Adding new employees and products
Steve is using his Kabbage line of credit for more new hires. He recently added two life insurance professionals and plans to hire a marketing specialist. “It makes sense to borrow money to bring on employees right away, instead of waiting several months,” Steve says. “They’ll help us generate new business so we can keep the pipeline full.”
He’s also working on obtaining a securities license so the office can sell financial products like IRAs and annuities – another way to bring in revenue and differentiate from other agencies. The investments are paying off: Farmers named Steve life insurance agent of the year.
“It’s because I can hire the right staff,” he says of his success. “We do well when we can talk to customers about their needs and personalize the service.”