Happy Fifth Birthday to Embrace Pet Insurance!

IMG_1081 Happy Birthday to Embrace! This day five years ago, we sold our first policy to me and my cat Lily.

I distinctly remember when we got the go-ahead from our underwriters at the time, Lloyd's of London, and since I was out of the office on that day, I phoned in to purchase our first policy.

We'd been training our first 2 Embracers, Chris and Lea, on the phones by having people (including my mom) randomly call in to pretend to buy a policy so I didn't tell Lea, who happened to answer the phone this time around, that this was a "live" purchase until the end of the call. It was a giddy feeling for all of us when I told her to put through my real credit card info and really buy the policy.

A lot has changed since we sold that first policy but we remember our humble start fondly. We now have 24 Embracers, plus we're about to hire another 2. We broke even in June of this year and have insured thousands of cats and dogs and paid out millions in claim reimbursement. It feels really good to get to where we are now.

Here are some photos of the last 5 years at Embrace - do you have any fond memories of Embrace over the years you'd like to share? 

 

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  • Embrace Breakfast June 1 06 2
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  • Embrace Pet Insurance staff Jan 4 2007
  • Another use for Dell Server boxes - hidey hole!
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  • Embrace Pet Insurance dogs at work day
  • Chris H on the phone
  • Conference
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  • Embrace box open
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  • Tenisha and Lea
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  • Inside Business Dec 2009
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  • Pet Ins License Plate
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Press Release: New art gallery featuring contemporary animal art makes its debut at Embrace Pet Insurance

BZTAT-Studios-Logo-LR-032409 New art gallery featuring contemporary animal art makes its debut at Embrace Pet Insurance in Beachwood, OH.

A pet insurance company and an art gallery may seem like an odd combination to some, but in the era of new media and art marketing, it is a perfect fit.

Canton, OH artist BZTAT (AKA Vicki Boatright) is teaming up with Embrace Pet Insurance in Beachwood to create the BZTAT Studios Embrace Gallery. The new gallery located at Embrace’s home offices at 23625 Commerce Park, Suite 150 in Beachwood will hold a Holiday Open House Reception on Thursday, December 2, 2010 from 4pm – 8pm to celebrate the holiday season. A Grand Opening celebration for the gallery will be planned later on in the New Year.

Embrace CEO Laura Bennett first connected with artist BZTAT online through social media. They met in person at the BlogPaws pet blogging conference in Columbus, OH in April and again at the second BlogPaws conference in Denver, CO in September. Recognizing that they shared an interest in pets and that their business purposes overlapped, they forged a partnership that served both entrepreneurs well.

“Having an art gallery in our offices is an exciting venture for Embrace,” said Bennett. “Not only do we have the opportunity to have high quality artwork on our walls, the gallery helps us achieve one of our core values, which is to serve both the pet community at large and our own communities at home. Being a supporter of the arts brings value to our organization, enhances the local community, and adds to the overall experience for our customers.”

Vicki Boatright, known as BZTAT (pronounced bee-zee-tat), is an accomplished artist based in the burgeoning Canton Arts District some 60 miles south of Beachwood. An avid pet lover and blogger, she is well known to the international pet blogging community through her two blogs and through social media.

Boatright specializes in whimsical paintings, drawings and prints of cats, dogs and other companion animals. She creates colorful, customized pet portraits, which are unique in their original contemporary style and are collected by people around the world. She also creates murals, recently completing a large scale public artwork featuring 4 cats on the side of a building in Canton. She uses the name BZTAT in homage to a feline companion of that name who was with her for 19 years.

Boatright eschews the usual methods of marketing artwork through traditional gallery representation and juried competitions.  Through the use of social media and targeted networking, she has developed an international following for her work in a relatively short amount of time.

“I prefer to represent myself through networking with individuals and corporations with a pet focus,” said Boatright. “Most of my artwork is pet oriented, so it makes more sense for me to market my work to people who value their pets and enjoy creativity along pet themes. Representation through traditional galleries can’t give me that kind of focus.”

“Embrace is an organization that values pets, and its customers are pet lovers as well,” Boatright explained further. “They had a fantastic space in their offices that begged to be an art gallery. Partnering with them made so much sense on many fronts.”

Boatright plans to develop the Embrace Gallery into an interactive space, eventually offering classes and workshops that encourage pet-oriented creativity.

You can learn more about the artist and view her artwork at www.bztat.com.

All are welcomed to attend the Holiday Open House Reception on Thursday, December 2, including pets. Light refreshments and pet treats will be served. 

Embrace Pet Insurance and the BZTAT Studios Gallery at Embrace are located in the rear of the building at 23625 Commerce Park, Suite 150, Beachwood, OH 44122.

For more information, contact: Vicki Boatright bztat@bztat.com or (330) 371-3150  

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BZTAT turns the Embrace Pet Insurance offices into an art gallery

image from bztat.com I just love it when a path that most likely would end without any particular direction turns out to be the start of an amazing experience.

That random-walk-turned-new-adventure is what happened recently at Embrace.

The start:

  • Blogpaws - I went to both Blogpaws pet blogging conferences in 2010 and made a lot of new blogging friends
  • BZTAT - a pet blogger and pet-focused artist also went to both Blogpaws conferences and she also made a lot of new blogging friends
  • a silent auction of pet art - I happened to buy several pieces from a silent auction at Blogpaws, which was organized by Vicki Boatright - aka BZTAT
  • this led to a nice online relationship, probably one of many such relationships we both made at the confrences.

Now if it was just that, the path might have wandered on without direction.

The development:

But then me visiting Vicki's paint-a-thon to raise money for her local rescue organization in Canton OH led to Vicki coming up to Cleveland for lunch with me to pick my brains on the business side of her world.

image from bztat.com And the kicker? A stray comment from Alex when he met Vicki in the office about turning Embrace into an art gallery seemed to tweak something in both our brains and the idea of the BZTAT Gallery at the Embrace offices fell into place.

What felt so right about this (apart from the fact that we love BZTAT art!) is that "Community and Environment" is one of Embrace's core values. Specifically:

We are passionate about making an impact on the pet world. We are committed to serving both the pet community at large & our own communities at home. We respect our environment & recycle, reuse, & reduce our waste wherever & whenever we can.

So this step makes total sense in all ways. Watch this space for news of BZTAT and Embrace in the near future.

And in the meantime, you can have help the pet community yourself by buying a piece of art from BZTAT.

Go on, you know you want one!



Embrace Core Values

We have been getting in touch with our inner Embrace lately. Answering questions such as What makes us tick as a company?  What lies behind everything we do? What does it mean to be an Embracer?

It's not easy to do but very rewarding. Here's what we came up with.

Embrace Core Values

 

Open & Honest:   
Open and honest actions and communications come first and they guide all that we do. We do the right thing for our pet parents and partners and they will do the same for us.

 

Personal Responsibility:  
We take responsibility for our own success at work, our relationships with pet parents and co-Embracers, and our own learning. Titles and roles do not matter when it comes to getting the job done. We believe we can do it, and we do it today.

 

Customer Fixation:
We respect our Embraced pet parents above all else and never forget that they come to us by choice. We share a personal responsibility to maintain our pet parents' loyalty & trust, which must never be taken for granted. We listen and respond to our pet parents and seek to WOW them at every turn.  

 

Innovation:
We thrive on creativity and ingenuity. We seek the innovations and ideas that can change the pet world. We use technology to further our goals. We are not afraid to take informed, responsible risk. We do more with less. We don't take shortcuts on quality.

 

Community & Environment:  
We are passionate about making an impact on the pet world. We are committed to serving both the pet community at large & our own communities at home. We respect our environment & recycle, reuse, & reduce our waste wherever & whenever we can.

 

Passion:
We believe humor is essential to success. We don’t talk corporate-speak and we provide surprisingly personal but professional care. We celebrate achievement. We share our daily lives with our pets. We do the happy dance at work and wear our slippers in the office.  

 

What do you think?



Happy Thanksgiving 2009 from Embrace Pet Insurance!

I am thankful for

IMG_1556 ...my family's good health (children, kittens, cats, and adults alike)
...Embraced pet parents who take the time to email me with their comments
...my neighborhood babysitting co-op
...my funny and exceptional and caring Embracers - the Embrace bedrock (yabba dabba dooo)
...random people who kick me up the rump every now and then
...my friends all around the world - I do miss you so
...smiling faces at the dinner table

I know everyone is stuffing themselves with turkey and dreaming of shopping and not reading blogs but I did want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that your list of thanks makes you feel as good as I do.



Celebrating Embrace Pet Insurance's 3rd anniversary - hello to year 4!

Can you believe it? Three years ago, in October 2006, we sold our first Embrace pet health insurance policy. Yes, it was to cover Lily, my newly rescued cat, but it wasn't too long after that that a brave soul, who wasn't a friend or family or a competitor, also bought an Embrace policy too - much to our delight and amazement.

Embrace Pet Insurance website Oct 2006 We've come a long way from only being able to sell policies over the phone (it was another 6 months before we launched our first e-commerce website) and the only information about our policies was on this very blog. I'm still amazed that people actually picked up the phone and called us to buy a policy. We appreciate it very much.

Much has happened at Embrace over the last 3 years. If you are interested, we have a brief history of Embrace on our website. 

Most importantly though, every Embracer would like to thank YOU, the thousands of pet parents who put your trust in Embrace on behalf of your  cats and dogs. Simply stated, we wouldn't exist without your confidence we will be there when you need us.

I wonder what things will look like for Embrace in another 3 years. What do you think? 



Paid internship summer 2009 at Embrace Pet Insurance

Embrace pet insurance logo We have one intern chosen so now I'm posting about another. Come join us for the summer - it's going to be a blast!

 

is looking for an intern to join our summer program in our Mayfield Village offices (781 Beta Drive, Mayfield Village, OH 44143). Embrace Pet Insurance

 

If you are a new high school grad who’s off to college in the autumn or a current college student who is:

·         a tech savvy data hound – someone who’s good at detective work on the web and is detail oriented

·         someone who can pick up the phone and talk to people (no sales involved)

·         someone who is flexible and doesn’t mind the changing environment of an early stage company

·         a pet lover who is not allergic to cats or dogs (we have a pet-friendly office with frequent 4-legged visitors)

·         a reliable person who works hard

Then we are looking for you.

 

Here’s what you would get out of it:

·         $8/hr for a 40 hour work week June - August

·         work experience in a venture-backed early stage company that would be very hard to come by otherwise

·         a great resume addition

·         a valuable reference (assuming one was deserved!)

 

Please email your resume and a cover email on why you think we should hire you over anyone else who is applying to Laura Bennett lb@embracepetinsurance.com.

 

Looking forward to hearing from you [or forward to your friends/family who might know someone!]



Support our small pet-related businesses: waggintails

Waggintails  

I've followed Waggintails for 5 years now. John Gigliotti, the founder, is really passionate about quality foods (read healthy and safe) for pets and has an exceptional online business that satisfies that niche admirably.

So, I was moved to action when I received the email below:

Dear Friend

I lost a good customer the other day. 

I was out of what the product needed, and she was able to find someone else that had it.  “I can’t keep my dogs waiting,” she emailed me.  

She had been with me for three years.  It hurts.

It hurts because I’ve built my whole business on always going the extra mile for my customers and trying hard to earn your loyalty.  And right now, with the economy slumping and with so many of our suppliers hurting, too, it just isn’t possible to always deliver the ship times you’ve come to expect.  I know that puts everyone in a difficult situation.  You can’t feed your dogs and cats apologies.

I could explain it all, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear it.  You may even be hurting, too.  In fact, if you’re feeling the slowdown in your own life or business, you definitely have my empathy. 

I just hope we can get through this together.  I can’t afford to lose another good customer at times like these. 

I wish I could promise things will be better next week or next month, but I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep.  All I can say is, I will continue to do everything I my power to serve you, just as I always have.    

My values haven’t changed, and I know yours haven’t either.   I still sell only products that are good and healthy for pets.  And nothing matters more to my than your pets’ health, and your satisfaction.

There is one thing you can do to help.  If you can place your orders with some extra lead time during these difficult times, it would be very much appreciated.  I don’t want your pets to go hungry or have to switch brands.  And I definitely don’t want to lose another good customer.

With sincere thanks for your business — and your patience,  

John Gigliotti

So if you care about quality pet foods and small business in the US, please visit the Waggintails website.

Better yet, visit the Embrace Pet Community website first and get 10% off non-sale items by clicking through the Featured Partner field top right. We get nothing for your click except the satisfaction that a good business is being supported by people who care.

What do you think of John's email above?



Who or What is PetInsuranceReview.com anyway?

There was a very interesting comment from Chris on a post I did about PetInsuranceReview.com as follows:

I am skeptical about this petinsurancereview site as it does not give any indication as to who is responsible for it's content. Who decides which reviews make it onto the site, and who makes sure that there is no bias. What's more, how does this site pay for its operating costs as it has no visible advertisements, and we all know that no one would maintain a site without a bit of payback... Are the companies themselves involved in this site? Are some companies more involved than others? Very odd...

These are very valid questions that need answers so I asked Mike Hemstreet who runs the site to respond so I could post the answers. Here's his reply to me:

Hi Laura,

Thanks for giving me a chance to respond to the post. I suppose I could do a better job at clarifying these issues on my site. Anyway, here is my answer:

PetinsuranceReview.com is run by Michael Hemstreet and is not affiliated with any insurance company. The goal of the site is to provide objective information and customer reviews to assist pet owners researching pet insurance. The site makes money when a user fills out a form requesting quotes from multiple insurers. This service is available to any pet insurance company that wishes to participate. Whether or not an insurance company chooses to participate has no effect on the content of the site. (Embrace does not participate and they are prominently featured and have one of the highest ratings.)

I take several steps to weed out fraudulent reviews, including scanning the reviewer’s IP address and looking for similar language or sentence structure in multiple posts. While I can’t guarantee the legitimacy of every review, I believe a reader can obtain an accurate view of a company by looking at the cumulative effect of dozens (or hundreds) of reviews.

Mike

I only know Mike from when he contacted us back in September 2006 when he launched the site.

Hope that helps clarify the situation - hopefully Mike will put something up on the site as well. 

Related Posts:
Customer reviews for Embrace Pet Insurance
Pet Insurance Reviews by Customers
Evangelism at its best
Invisible Voices blog entries on pet insurance
"Mo’s How-to guide on getting the most out of pet insurance" on Invisible Voices



News: Embrace Pet Insurance Secures Over $2 Million in First Institutional Funding Round

Embrace pet insurance logo You may have seen our press release this week - we've just raised our first round of institutional funding. Woo-hoo!

In the evolution of developing company, it's quite a big accomplishment to pursuade professional investors to take a plunge in one's company, particularly in this economic environment, so we feel very positive about our next phase of growth.

“We are excited about NCT Venture's decision to invest in our company and see this funding as a tremendous vote of confidence in our product leadership and growth strategy, particularly in these difficult economic times,” said Bennett, Chief Executive Officer of Embrace. “This investment will help us continue to deliver the industry’s best pet insurance product suite to pet parents, grow our sales and marketing support, and become one of the few in the industry to do so profitably.”
[That Bennett, she's such a know-it-all :)]

Nctventureslogo We're particularly pleased with NCT Ventures as our investing partners. They are entrepreneurs as well and know from experience the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. We are looking forward to working with them to grow Embrace.

NCT Ventures (www.nctventures.com) is a Columbus, OH-based venture capital firm that is founded by entrepreneurs. The NCT investment team is passionate about people and they believe an idea is only as good the entrepreneurs behind it. Over the past 20 years NCT has helped build and grow many successful companies and they get excited about sharing experiences, methods and time with entrepreneurs through hands-on operational support. NCT’s investment focus is in marketing, logistics and disruptive business models that are headquartered in the Midwest.

Now that we have raised some money, don't be looking for an Embrace Super Bowl ad any time soon (nor a placement on a cable home renovation show - please stop calling!)

It's time to stay focused and continue to grow. This difficult economy is going to be a test but when we make it through the other side, we'll be a better company for it.

Now, back to work; no time for slacking...