Rashmi Melgiri saw the difficulties business owners face when it comes to understanding and managing their insurance. For starters, many small business owners find it hard to determine what insurance their business needs, what kind of coverage should they get, when they should get it and how much they should pay for it.
Together with a friend, Rashmi co-founded CoverWallet to offer a better solution to small business owners.
Read our interview with Rashmi about her startup business CoverWallet and how she is making insurance easier for small businesses:
Can you tell us about CoverWallet.com? What is the need that you saw in the market?
CoverWallet is a company dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs find, buy, and manage their insurance. The topic of insurance can be confusing and off-putting, but if you don’t take the time to understand it, it means putting yourself and your business in financial jeopardy.
Today’s business owner wants to do things themselves and get solutions online, so we’re providing them the tools to buy and manage their policy digitally, which means no more waiting on calls to an agent when you’re trying to get basic information or close a deal. Additionally, we’ve seen that many companies that have insurance don’t even understand what it covers, and think that they’re protected in a variety of situations when that’s simply not the case. So we’re focused on educating small business owners so that they’re empowered in the shopping process.
How and why did you start your business?
I started CoverWallet with my friend, Inaki, in 2015. We were meeting to discuss ways we could work together when he received a call about the business he was working for at the time. In order to complete a deal, they needed copies of the company’s certificate of insurance as well as the policy, but no one could get ahold of their agent. He was out of the office for a couple of days. Inaki and I did some digging and found that most small businesses have to deal with these headaches, and saw an opportunity to transform insurance into a smooth digital experience.
What were the challenges you faced in starting and running CoverWallet.com?
Like any new company, we’ve got no shortage of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is also a big opportunity, and that’s the current state of customer sentiment around insurance. People hate dealing with insurance. It’s right up there with taxes and the cable company. But they also know that insurance – as a product – is super useful to have. So we have a massive opportunity in building a product and customer experience that changes the way people are used to “dealing” with insurance.
CoverWallet.com made news when it received $2 million in seed funding from different investor groups. What is the biggest factor that made CoverWallet.com attractive to investors?
To start, there are almost 28 million small businesses in the U.S., and every one of them needs to be financially protected. But one of the reasons this market hasn’t gotten as much focus is because the historic process for providing insurance has been high-touch (meaning high-time and high-cost), even for the most basic of products. We realized that by partnering with carriers and using our tech experience to create a simple interface, we could turn a long offline process into a quick online one.
What do you think are the most effective methods of reaching your target market?
We look at buying insurance as one step in the process of setting up and driving forward your business, so we’ve aligned ourselves with companies handling the other steps. Whether they’re an accelerator or industry group, we’ve found that insurance is underplayed in a discussion of the startup process and we can jump in to help provide the necessary resources.
How has social media helped you spread the word out about your business?
Social media is a great way to both build business awareness as well as educate your audience on key things to know. As I mentioned, many business owners just aren’t aware of the risks they face, so we’ve found that by taking the time to provide key information builds trust with CoverWallet.
How are you balancing your business with your personal life?
When you start a business, you’re deciding to make that the majority of your life for a while. But by prioritizing things in your personal life, just the way you would at work, you can make sure it’s not overwhelming. So I’ll schedule in key events like seeing my sister or working out, which are important to me and help keep me sane, but I simply don’t have time for every coffee invite.
Can you describe being a woman and working in a startup?
There are various stereotypes about women in the workplace, women in tech and women at startups. No need to go through them. The fact is that if you’ve hired a good group of people, each of them is excited about what they’re doing and very knowledgeable in their field. You need to know that it’s fine to raise issues, suggest alternatives, and push back. Just keep the focus on what’s best for the company, because that’s what everyone is there for.
What lessons have you learned so far about being an entrepreneur?
You must be clear on company’s priorities and way of doing things, or guiding principles. There are simply too many moving pieces and things are going a mile a minute at a fast-paced, growing company like ours. As a leader, it’s critical that you’ve communicated the what and the how to others in the organization. As you’re growing a company, people are looking to you to understand the end-goal and culture, and if you don’t have a solid vision for those, it’s felt throughout the team.
How do you see the business 5 years from now?
I see CoverWallet as the go-to online destination for small business insurance. No more calling down a list of local agents in your neighborhood to see which one will take your business. CoverWallet will be the only place you need to visit and get everything done online.
What lessons can you share other women entrepreneurs out there?
Don’t be afraid to share your thought process and mistakes. As you’re building a business, there are a lot of choices to be made, and as you share your approach and stumbles with your co-workers, it empowers them to better understand your company vision and further develop their own skills.