It feels wonderful to say that out loud (slight understatement there!) because Embrace Pet Insurance gestated for well over four years before it was born but the wait was well worth it. Our insurance partners are Lloyd’s of London, which has many years of experience in pet insurance in the UK. The strength of our underwriters' belief in us is very gratifying since many people have approached them over the years to back various pet insurance programs in the US but they never met anyone they had confidence in until they met us.
Backtracking a bit, 2006 started for me with the birth of a different baby, Erin Bryn Vemby Burchard, who was born on January 10, 2006. I long ago figured out that if I waited for Embrace to get up and running before I had any kids, I’d be waiting a long time; hence daughter number two. But as all entrepreneurs know, the business doesn’t go away just because of minor life changing events such as children being born, and so just as I was finishing our actuarial pricing while in labor, I was off to Pittsburgh 3 weeks later to present to angel investors. I love my job!
So much has changed at Embrace over 2006. We now have real offices (my house feels so empty now) and some wonderful staff. Chris and Lea, two of our Customer Care Embracers who started off with us before we even moved into our new offices, have been more than patient, flexible and full of good humor while we work our way though the ups and downs of a new start up. They are the pet parents you speak to when you call in to Embrace and who bring to life the meaning of Embrace.
Jonathan, our Director of Business Development, and Matt, our VP Operations, have also made a big difference to Embrace, building infrastructure and partnerships that set us up well for 2007. We’ve also had help from several other people and in particular, Kim brings experience, energy, and insight to our IT projects and operations group – plus lots of chocolate covered raisins to feed the gang (including herself). And of course, there’s Alex, my cofounder and tag team partner, who takes care of all things marketing and IT for Embrace.
We will be bringing on more people as the year progresses. If you think that Embrace might be the place for you, be sure to email us with your resume. You never know what we might be looking for at any particular point in time.
Another accomplishment for 2006 was the launch of the Embrace Pet Community, as well as the Embrace Pet Community blog. While we researched our pet insurance business over the last few years, we noticed that there is very little help for pet parents wanting to buy the best products for their four-legged family members. So we set up the Community with specially negotiated deals on pet-related products for members, a forum for other members to share their best deals with you, and an online veterinary drug price compare tool. Membership is free and the benefits are awesome if you shop online.
As usual, we’ve met some very interesting people throughout the year. We raised $725,000 in September through angel investors mostly from the Cleveland-area but also including a Wharton friend out in Minneapolis. There’s nothing like your friends and close neighbors to keep a good eye on you.
Jumpstart also invested in us again and continue to believe in us and help in so many tangible and intangible ways. They are helping us find follow-on funding in 2007 to fuel our growth, bringing valuable investment dollars into the Cleveland-area to boost the local economy. It certainly feels good for us to be part of the upswing that is going on around here.
Over the year, we’ve also had some great press from national media such as The Street.com and Smart Money, from regional media such as The Plain Dealer and UrbanHound, as well as some friendly bloggers such as Andrea Learned and Yvonne Divita. We appreciate all the mentions we have had from everyone, as well as all your emails and phone calls - keep them coming!
So what’s in the future for Embrace? Well, we’ll be kicking things up a notch in 2007. We’ve been operating in what we call “beta mode” where we have only been selling policies over the phone as we work through the myriad of technicalities of issuing policies to make sure we get it right; however, we will be launching our new website along with online quoting by the end of January 2007. At that point, things start to gear up a bit as we kick off our growth plan. I think you’ll be impressed when you see what we’ve been up to.
Let me wrap up by thanking you, our readers and our policyholders. The best part of launching in October was that we got to talk in the open about our products and processes, and get feedback from you. Your comments have led us to change some of the things we do around here (we clarified our policy for starters, and we now have no fees) and you continue to have a significant impact on Embrace. Thank you for making us better and keeping us honest - two things that are very dear to Embrace.
Here's wishing you a wonderful 2007. May it be as fun and as challenging as 2006, all with good pet health.
Onwards and upwards!
Your Chief Embracer,