Owners of the Hansen Agency feel good about their place in a new community.
After working in corporate America and having the life "zapped" out of him, it might have been odd Gregory Marholin turned toward an industry he admits people hate.
But Marholin and his partner, Larry Hansen, saw an opportunity to become involved with Farmers Insurance after it came into Florida nine months ago. The two opened the Hansen Agency in Lakewood Ranch representing Farmers Insurance.
Both have had extensive experience working for businesses which sold data to insurance companies.
"It was a really tough place to be," said Marholin, who worked for two major credit bureaus and FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act).
While the insurance industry as a whole might have a dubious image among the general public, the two felt they could provide an important service to the community while feeling good about their business. They hope they can change people's impressions of the insurance industry.
"We deal with affluent, smart people here," Marholin said. "I know that people hate insurance, but we have to explain that your insurance portfolio protects your investment portfolio. You can be one accident away from losing everything."
Not only does Marholin feel good about his product, but he loves the fact his business allows him to get involved in his new community.
"This is a company (Farmers) that cares about its customers," he said. "We wanted to do things that were meaningful for our customers and us. We're already part of a new network of people we've met.
"And this is a very special place with such abundance. Even people who compete (in business) are friendly. People are blessed here"
When Hansen and Marholin had decided they wanted to represent Farmers, they were living in Fort Lauderdale. They then started to research Florida to find where to open their new business. They came upon Lakewood Ranch.
"We were not familiar with Lakewood Ranch, but we were attracted to this area right away," Hansen said. "It's not just the business climate. There is a community spirit of giving back and we wanted our business to be a way to connect with the community. It's been the fun part of this business to get out into the community and seeing the cuteness of the kids when someone provides them with a coloring book. It is real life interaction."
Marholin, who lives in Edgewater with Hansen, stressed their involvement is not some type of business ploy. They seriously had not felt good about their interactions with their communities in their previous jobs.
"It eats away at your soul," Marholin said of his previous job environments.
Already in Lakewood Ranch, the Hansen Agency has aligned itself with Sunshine Kids, SUGAR, the Humane Society, Parkinson's Place, Spirit of Blue and Tiny Hands Foundation.
As members of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Marholin said the Hansen Agency's alignment with nonprofits is the norm here.
"It is one thing to be affluent and have abundance," he said. "But it's another when it comes to what you do with it. Here everyone contributes to so many causes and there are so many commitments. It is second to none. And this is a core value to us."
Besides the tremendous growth in Lakewood Ranch, both Hansen and Marholin said they love Lakewood Ranch is multigenerational and getting more diverse.
The new company has four employees and hopefully will grow quickly. Farmers is a 90-year-old company owned by the Zurich Insurance Group.
Marholin said his company offers "white-glove concierge service" which is unlike many insurance companies today which engage in price wars.
"Here's the thing," he said. "I can't change the price. The lower it is, you give up protection. First and foremost, we want to make sure our customers are properly protected. Our customers understand when you need it, their carrier will be there to settle fairly and quickly.
"We hear people say all the time, 'No one ever explained insurance the way you do.' We educated our customers."