At the beginning of 2005, our main goal was to secure an insurance partner, and I'm happy to say, mission accomplished (apart from the paperwork of course!). Trying to do anything in the summer or in December in the insurance world is absolutely hopeless, and the rest of the time, it takes 4 times longer to get anything done than you think. That's why it took us 17 months of dancing to get the dance partner. We promise to announce who it is the minute we can. You'll probably hear me shouting with joy and relief from where you sit. I definitely know the meaning of patience and persistence - can anyone say "ohmmmm..." with me?!
So, given we weren't selling policies in 2005, what else were we up to?
Well, our website and blog were born and both continue to develop. I have found it hard to get the blog up and running smoothly but now that I have my rhythm, I think it's getting to where I want it to be. It's particularly hard to strike a balance between having a personal touch but also being relevant and professional. It's also hard when Embrace is not selling policies - there's so much more I'd like to say! My next goal with the blog is to try to get more comments since there's not point listening just to me blathering on about my thoughts and experiences. It's the reader's perspective that really counts with me and my readers.
We also did a lot of networking, as any good entrepreneur does, and in 2005, I met some very interesting people I probably have no right to be chit-chatting with. From bloggers I admire such as George Nemeth, Anita Campbell, Jackie Huba, Michelle Miller, and most recently Yvonne DiVita, to local people who care about entrepreneurs in North-East Ohio such as Cleveland's Tech Csar Michael DeAloia, local lawyer-VC-decent-person-who-cares Cathy Panzica, the Red Room Revolution and Panzica Investments, and of course, my partners and cheerleaders at Jumpstart, our first funders. Since I work from home at the moment, I need to find all the inspiration and energy I can get and these people keep me buzzing about pet insurance morning, noon, and night.
Apart from hob-nobbing with the best, we also worked behind the scenes on a number of items that you should be seeing soon - the Embrace look and feel (I can't wait to show it off!), fine-tuning our product design and pricing with our new insurance partners (I can't wait so show the product and our partner off too!), and we've been thinking and rethinking our back office infrastructure so that you never see it except for the benefits that you get from having a streamlined integrated system (technology changes every month it seems - so many new software toys to play with!). We also have a number of marketing alliances perculating, although nothing I can tell you about yet until we announce our new insurance partner (see, I told you that was important!)
We also received some very-much-appreciated public recognition during the year. For example, Embrace was selected as a COSE special category finalist, which came with $1,000 cash and some other goodies. We also were mentioned in Business Week and a number of other articles, including the most recent pet insurance research document, and US News.
The list goes on...
On a personal note, my family moved house in October so we're now putting down our roots, which feels very good, and we are also expecting our second daughter in the new year. Seems like I'm going to be giving birth to two babies in 2006 - a delightful challenge to have, I must say.
Finally, Alex and I would like to thank everyone who has been so encouraging to us and even those who have not. We learn something new every day, whether it be positive or cut-to-the-bone criticism but it all adds up to making us better.
Looking forward to a productive and interactive 2006, your friend,