Shelly Alvarez is an entrepreneur at heart, and in 2008 she decided it was time to follow her passion of opening up her own business. Shelly Alvarez Insurance is a full-service life insurance agency that provides quick and easy online life insurance quotes. Shelly specializes in life insurance, employee benefits, business owner benefit plans and retirement planning.
Why did you start your business?
I started Shelly Alvarez Insurance in 2008, with a vision to make a difference in the insurance industry. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial nature and knew I wanted to work for myself. Insurance is something I didn’t know much about, but with some research, I came to the realization that it was for me. I had a lot of experience working with business owners, so I decided to not only work with individuals and families, but to offer a suite of insurance products that business owners can benefit from. This includes life insurance (in many forms), disability insurance, health insurance (individual and group), annuities and retirement plans.
How did you get the funds to get going?
Fortunately the business started on its own, without financing. We used capital that was saved personally, to fund the business.
Have you heard of business credit?
Yes, I am aware about business credit and how important it is. I think for any business to grow properly, at some point funding will be needed, which is why you must have excellent business credit. Just like a personal credit report, the first thing banks and institutions will looks at, in addition to assets, book of business, etc., is your business credit.
Managing the Business
What’s most challenging about running your business?
The biggest challenge is the fear of the unknown. Some months we see a huge influx of business that was completely unexpected, and the next month may go back down to a normal level. Business numbers in the life insurance industry aren’t constant, which can be a challenge when trying to estimate revenues.
How do you finance your business to manage cash flow or growth?
We have been very fortunate and haven’t had to obtain any business loans or financing so far. We’ve prioritized and saved to allow for our business to grow at a good pace, organically.
Do you use trade credit from your vendors or suppliers?
This does not apply to our business.
What’s the biggest mistake you made early on?
I don’t think it’s necessarily a mistake, but it goes back to the fear of the unknown. Starting a business and generating revenue can take time, and the amount of time varies and has many factors tied to it. When you start to hit the ground running, it can be very detrimental when you expect to be at a certain level financially by a certain time, and you aren’t there yet.
What’s the smartest thing you did your first year?
Network! I strongly believe in ramping up your business not only online, but by getting out there and building your reputation. The strongest relationships we’ve built are from attending probably every event there was in our town for the first couple years. It’s not a quick process, but very necessary. People want to get to know you and your values and who you are as a person. Then comes the trust. Then, at some point in the future, comes the business. The great thing about this approach is that when you build relationships this way, it is rare that people will use anyone else to refer to, once they’ve built this trust in you. The results from taking the time and patience to do this are extremely rewarding. I am proud to say that we are all referral based now, because of the footwork I did to build the brand.
What’s the most rewarding thing about owning a business?
The ability to help people when they most need it is definitely rewarding. It’s bittersweet, though. You never want to lose a client, or see the family go through the suffering of losing a loved one. When you can step in and help settle any life insurance benefits they’ve obtained, it’s reassuring to see how helpful it is in the time of need. That’s very gratifying.
What does the future look like for your business?
The future at Shelly Alvarez Insurance looks great. We have a lot of growth plans in 2016, which include servicing clients in all 50 States. Currently we serve people in Texas, California and Florida. We are excited about this. Additionally, we have created a new website, www.ShellyAlvarez.com, which allows people to not only become educated about life insurance, but to calculate how much they might need, run a quote and apply for coverage. Being able to appeal to all generations via technology has been a huge leap for us. For starters, life insurance is a very sensitive topic and most people don’t want to even think about it, much less discuss it and plan for it. Plus, people are busy running companies and spending time with family. Giving people the ability to get coverage easily, from their computer, is very appealing to most. Our service model is different in the sense that while people can apply for insurance online, they can still reach out to us any time they have a question. They will get a live person to talk to, who can help guide them in the right direction.
What advice do you have for someone starting a business?
The biggest advice is to not give up. Know that starting a business is going to take a couple years to get up and running. You should be starting a business because it’s something that you were meant to do, and something that doesn’t feel like a job. Because of this, working hard and putting in the time will come natural. Owning a business means you can do things on your terms and more extraordinary than the competition. When clients thank you for helping them, that makes everything worth it.