I met Donna Hosfeld on Facebook. Her contagious enthusiasm for, of all things, insurance, struck me each time I read her posts. I have long been curious about what got Donna into the insurance business and why it matters so much to her. Her story is inspiring.
DL: You’re a woman entrepreneur with an insurance agency. How did all this get started?
DH: My career path is something I never could have predicted. No one in my family had gone to college, so my goal was to be an executive secretary in a big company. I developed award-winning secretarial skills and had a head for numbers which came in handy while working for a CPA during high school. That’s when things started to change.
DL: What happened?
DH: The CPA I worked for encouraged me to go to college, even though I hadn’t taken any college prep courses. I did, though, get strong SAT scores which got me accepted to Kutztown University. With the help of my high school guidance counselor, I earned seven cash scholarships and suddenly, I was on my way to a B.S. in business administration. Once graduated, I had what I thought was the ticket to a great job—a college degree. I was wrong.
DL: The situation you were in sounds like conditions today for new grads. What were your next steps?
DH: After 100+ rejected job applications, I was really down but wasn’t going to give up. My neighbor hired me for a radio station commission-sales job that wasn’t right for me. Then a friend’s dad told me about Prudential’s management training program. I applied and was hired, working in a Claims office near Philly. I liked insurance work but not being so far from home.
It all started to happen for me when I got a central office claims job with Erie Insurance in Allentown, PA. The management team had created a family-like working atmosphere. I worked there for eight years as an adjuster. I was again ready to advance.
I applied and was rejected for an Erie home office position which would have included interstate travel to do claims auditing. I was crushed because I felt I was the most qualified. My branch manager, though, saw the job as the wrong fit for me. Instead he suggested I become an independent agent. Now, that was the real “see if I can” challenge.
DL: Was that the first step to becoming an entrepreneur?
DH: It sure was. Being an agent meant setting up my own office and making it profitable. I had to obtain a license to sell, find and outfit an office location, create a business plan, and build a book of policyholders. To get started, I had to invest my own money, just like any another other small business start up.
My first office was in a basement. Over the years, I’ve literally come up in the world, adding space and employees. I participated in a merger with a large agency group for a time, but soon realized that I missed the advantages only a small, personally run agency can deliver. So I went back to sole ownership. Now, after 13 years as an agent, I am happier than I’ve ever been and writing more business than ever before. The business is in a great location and has a terrific staff.
DL: What have all these experiences taught you about yourself?
DH: If I thought I could achieve something in my life, I realized that I was usually right. I only wish I would have known that ahead of time to quiet the “doubter thoughts” that often plagued me.
The most important discovery, though, was how much I care about my clients, about serving them, and about helping them stay safe. My clients are like my family; I feel protective of them. Insurance is my product but service is my passion. I’m where I am today because I believed in myself and others believed in me too. I try to pay that forward every day.
DL: You really show how self-motivating it can be to want to prove yourself to yourself, thinking you can achieve something and then succeeding. Each time you tried something new, you overcame your fears by being fearless. There’s real power in that, something that we all need to put to work for ourselves.
Donna Hosfeld AIC, CPIW has over thirteen years experience as an Independent Agent. Her partnership with Erie Insurance extends over 20 years. She also offers coverage through Progressive and several other leading carriers. Her agency sells home, auto, business and life insurance products. You can follow Donna on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, her blog, and on her website.