Erin Nutting completed school in Tucson, Ariz., and at the early age of 20 decided she needed a real “J-O-B,” as she calls it. That led her straight into the insurance business. And she’s never left. Now, Nutting is the owner of Integrity Insurance Services and Arizona Wedding Insurance.
Nutting pioneered the blog “integrity in heels” by using concepts like “owning her crazy” and being brutally honest about the reality of being a business owner and mom (Nutting is a mother of four). She was previously acknowledged in the Tucson community as being a “Top 30 under 30” business owner and has received accolades as one of Tucson’s fastest rising business owners. She is an ambassador board member for the Arizona Make a Wish Foundation and has spoken at many Arizona women in business conferences, focusing on social media and branding growth within a business.
Nutting opened Integrity Insurance Services in November 2014 after leaving the captive agency world, and launched her newly branded company, Arizona Wedding Insurance, in 2015. Since then, she has catapulted into the wedding world and has developed major partnerships with The Knot, Brides magazine and Wedding Wire. This niche market was the first of its kind throughout the country and has made a mark on the insurance world.
She recently took the time to respond to the following questions for this week’s Women’s Insurance Network Producer Profile feature.
You own two insurance firms: Integrity Insurance Services and Arizona Wedding Insurance. How did both come to be?
Believe it or not, when I was five years old I wasn’t wishing to grow up and be an insurance agent. Shocking, right?
The truth is, when I was 19 years old I was a single mom and really just looking for a job and I ended up in insurance. During this time, I was involved in a very serious car accident that changed my life. Being that I was new to the insurance space, I had auto insurance through another agency and ultimately sang the, “I have no idea what I have for insurance” tune when I was involved in the accident.
After recovery, I went back to work with more than $80,000 in medical debt, scars that will never go away, and the humbleness that I could have died. Ready for the plot twist? When calling my insurance agent to discuss the accident, I asked her why so much wasn’t covered in an accident that wasn’t even my fault. I asked her repeatedly, “why didn’t you offer me higher limits? Why didn’t you tell me about medical payments? Why?” Her response changed my entire life: “You are 19 and probably didn’t have the money to pay that higher coverage premium anyway.”
Everything that happened next was a blur. My job turned into my life mission and I went face first into the insurance industry. This would never again happen to anyone else that I came across and had the chance to help.
Slowly, after nine years and lots of lessons, I discovered that the captive agency world wasn’t for me. It wasn’t that I was tired of being loyal to a company and not my clients; I was tired of having no options for them for rate increases, or new policy needs, etc. So, I decided at nine months pregnant — making all major life decisions at nine months pregnant is always the best option — to open my own independent insurance agency. Integrity Insurance Services was born.
After about eight months in business, I received the referral that would then turn into the launch of my next company and brand. The referral was from a captive agency that frequently sends me business. It was for a liquor liability policy on an upcoming wedding. After chatting with the bride for more than 40 minutes, we ended up talking about her dress, the venue and basically everything else that went into planning a wedding.
To make a long story short, it turned into a personal lines account that spread across her entire family and resulted in about $21,000 in new business personal lines premium. Something was severely lacking in our industry …and it was femininity. So, I launched Arizona Wedding Insurance in November 2015 and it was a game changer for my agency.
You’re a business owner and mother of four. How do you manage it all?
Would you believe me if I told you I am terrible at balance, managing personal with work life, or that I even experience the burnout more often than I would like?
The truth is I don’t have anything figured out. I wake up every day at 4:30 a.m., get my kids situated for the most part, head to CrossFit so I can let the crazy out before I take it out on someone else, and then of course I get my headspace ready for the day — otherwise known as coffee.
I have an unbelievable amount of help and have learned, above all else, to do the things you can do and then the things you can’t or aren’t good at …ask for help or hire help. I have this tendency to act like my 3-year-old daughter when it comes to my life, meaning I have the “I do it myself” mentality. So, I have had to learn that I need to get rid of that. I am not an expert and am still learning from other wonderful women in the business who make it look so easy. The best thing I ever did for myself is get out of my own way and allow myself to bask in the “I don’t really have it all together.”
Wedding insurance is a niche product. Can you tell me more about what exactly you insure?
The wedding insurance product itself is what I like to kindly refer to as the “gateway insurance product.” The wedding product is actually not a money-maker product at all. And if someone out there reading this is thinking they are going to get rich quick by selling wedding insurance policies, then I would recommend reconsidering your options in the business.
With that said, a niche market is a brand that is ultimately created to bring in business to the agency by allowing you to have authority in a space you had no authority to be in previously. For example, for me, that was weddings. This is a billion-dollar industry that no one in our space has ever branded. So, for me it was a no-brainer.
The product itself is meant to bring in brides of course, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the real bread winner is actually bringing in the vendors that it takes to put on a wedding. I made a brand that basically told everyone in the wedding space that I was the only one you should be talking to when it comes to insuring anything to do with a wedding. This can really be done with anything. I joke around all the time about not being able to wait to see who is going to create the fidget spinner niche market for insurance. Anything is brandable.
The wedding insurance product itself is going to cover things like loss of deposits if a vendor doesn’t show up, gifts and valuables for the day of, liability for the event, deployment, etc. There are a lot of coverages in a wedding policy that really would be an invaluable coverage should it be needed.
The funniest thing about working with brides is they will tell you everything. They will never leave a detail out. It is actually what makes them not only great clients, but it also makes them great referral sources. Once you make a bride happy, everyone is happy. Happy wife, happy life.
Do you see insurance as a great career option for women? Why or why not?
I believe wholeheartedly that the insurance world should not be defined by gender. For years we have made statements like, “the insurance world is pale, stale and male” and although that might be true, I also believe that it’s because of those men in the industry that we as women have the confidence to be able to flourish in the space.
Being a female in the insurance world is such a fun time right now. It’s as if we are all on this freight train together — all of us, rookies and veterans, producers and agency owners. There is a camaraderie in the air that is hard to miss when it comes to women in the insurance space currently.
With all of that said, whether you are a male or a female, if you are not passionate about helping people, marketing and paving new paths in your own business, then you will not be successful in this insurance industry. The industry is changing so quickly that no matter what gender you are, I feel you have a duty to continue to invest in the success of it by continuing to adapt. The bonus is that if you, as a woman, are considering becoming an agency owner, you should know that right now is a very exciting time to be one.
Who within the industry do you or have you looked up to?
This is a major question. I tend to look up to agents in the space for three reasons.
- They are adaptive in their space and aren’t afraid to be called crazy. After all, Arizona Wedding Insurance was my crazy.
- They serve their community and customers with empathy.
- They value their time and demand the respect for it from others (my biggest weakness).
For all those reasons, I look up tremendously to an agent who just so happens to be a great friend of mine: Elisha Cavanaugh. She is a female agency owner in Washington who just nails it. She is the queen of respecting herself and her time. We feed really well off each other and I am honored to call her a friend.
My newest agent crush is Mrs. Una Roy out of Canada. She is one of the fiercest women I know and I just think the world of her. I believe wholeheartedly in protecting your marriage from the business that was meant to make you busy. And I look up to her immensely on how she protects hers. For us wives out there, we all should be taking a note out of her book when it comes to keeping your marriage at the forefront of your business and life. She believes in community, strengthening your office team and being adaptive. If you haven’t stalked her on social media, you are missing out.
What is your best lead generation tip for other women in the industry?
It is unbelievably hard to narrow it down to just one thing. I would encourage females in the space to be honest with themselves about where their business is currently coming from and if it’s actually working. Also, track everything, including phone calls, new business generation, lead sources, networking referrals, everything.
As females, it is so imperative we embrace my personal biggest flaw: a need to fix everything. It’s a disease, really. So, for me, I decided to stop focusing on direct consumer marketing. I started focusing on marketing to the people who can send me the business and creating a platform in which it was convenient for them to send it to me. I started focusing on people who are working with my target demographic: millennials.
The largest source of business flowing into my agency is from loan officers. So, if you are currently trying to write a certain demographic — and you should be — then you need to start developing a way to go after the people who are also servicing that demographic. Go after the people who already have your perfect client, instead of crossing your fingers and hoping you get a call in.
Because I wouldn’t be Erin Nutting unless I chatted too much, I am going to give one more lead generation tip. The thing that tipped the scales for me in my agency was my website. I started out in the master bedroom of my home and over time I have adapted into an agency location, but while I was growing I had to have a presence online that made me look like I came to play. It is going to be hard to get quality business efficiently without a platform to point them to. Having a website is simply now just the cost of doing business.
- Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know has an inspiring story to tell, please reach out to email@example.com. And as always, we welcome your comments below.
Emily Holbrook is a former Editor in Chief of National Underwriter Life & Health and Retirement Advisor magazine. She has covered the financial, risk management and insurance industries for more than a decade, with her work appearing in Risk Management, National Law Review and Huffington Post. Emily graduated with dual degrees in Finance and English and worked in the financial industry as a fixed income trading administrator and analyst before becoming a full-time writer and editor. Emily now owns her own writing, editing and content strategy company, Red Label Writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.