What would you do if you could no longer do the work you’ve done for 18 years? That’s what happened to Nichole Penland when a case of pregnancy carpal tunnel caused her to lose feeling in six fingers. As a cosmetologist for almost two decades, she had to pivot into a new career that allowed her to utilize other talents. Now, as an insurance salesperson and real estate agent, she’s done just that. “It was very scary. I knew that I was going to have to take a few steps back in order to move forward.”
Luckily, Penland already had an unused insurance license and some back-office experience with her dad’s insurance agency, but there was a lot for her to learn. “I did go back to school to fill in those gaps,” says Penland. She had to learn things like Excel and other computer software since she wasn’t really using her computer as much when working in cosmetology. But having to learn a few new skills didn’t deter Penland. “If there’s a wall up, I’m gonna figure out how to get over it. So if I have to take a class and get up a little earlier, or what have you, I’m going to do it.”
One of the biggest challenges of being a business owner for Penland was prospecting. “You have to get over a lot of fears to just start approaching strangers and hoping that they’ll have a conversation with you about the service you’re providing,” she says. “Really the whole of 2020 was kind of like a bootcamp for me.” Though there were new challenges she had to face, being a mom was a big motivating factor for her. Working in insurance and real estate allowed her to work from home and gave her the flexibility she needed to be there for her kids while making a good living. But being a working mom comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest lessons she’s learned is to embrace technology and create processes that make you more efficient so your business doesn’t run your life. “We’re all very tech-driven, finding ways to work smarter, not harder.”
A big part of her work is educating clients. She wants them to understand the various insurance products she offers so that they feel comfortable making the decisions that make sense for their lives. “I want to be able to empower people because I feel like a lot of things in real estate and insurance get a bad rap. There’s a stigma, but I feel like a lot of that has come from miseducation,” she says. She also does a lot of education on personal finance, helping clients understand the role real estate can play in building wealth.
One of the things that set her apart is that she’s also a real estate agent. Real estate and insurance often overlap when families are organizing their lives. She likes being a one-stop-shop for her clients. “If you’re buying a house, I can also help you find the best rate for your property and casualty insurance. I can help you find discounts by doing a multiline with your home and auto. If you’re married, I can talk to you about protecting the value of your home with life insurance,” she says. Understanding her unique selling proposition has been a big help in marketing her business.
In addition to being a mom and an entrepreneur, community building is also important to Penland. She hosts clean-up days to remove trash in her community. At the start of the pandemic, when everyone was forced indoors, she noticed that the few outdoor spaces where she could take her children for some fresh air were littered with trash. “Having places where you can go outside and exercise and get some fresh air, I feel like that’s very important for everyone’s mental health right now,” she says. So now, when she sees an area in her neighborhood in need of some TLC, she mobilizes. Whether it’s at work, in her parenting, or in her community, Penland is motivated to make a difference.
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