Four decades ago, Liz Travis founded East Bay Insurance in a tiny rental space that had only a desk and a chair. It was six months before she drew her first paycheck, a whopping $25, and 10 years before she saw her first $1 million in sales.
Daughters Lisa McCorkle, 46, and Elizabeth Whidden, 49, joined her in the early-1980s and helped build the agency into one that today annually sells $14 million in premiums.
"Volume-wise, we're corporate America, but we still maintain the image of small business because that's who we truly are," said McCorkle, vice president of marketing and sales. "Our niche is serving people who want old-fashioned, across-the-desk service. That's the key to our success."
After so many years in the community, Travis said she and her daughters have insured three generations of some families.
"We're like the old gas stations that used to pump your gas, wipe your windshield and check your tires," she said. "We focus on relationships. We don't have voicemail. We're personally connected to our clients."
Although Travis, 72, remains the company's CEO and actively handles all auto claims, she has turned over day-to-day operations of the family business to McCorkle and Whidden, the agency's manager. All three women sell policies as agents.
In addition to being the primary customer advocate in the office, Travis follows every piece of insurance legislation working its way through Tallahassee.
Some liken her to a pit bull, a comparison she doesn't mind.
"If you've got a problem, if you're not happy, I'm going to be on the phone with someone. And it's not going to be pretty," she said.
Travis said before she got into insurance, she took a basic insurance course and was discouraged by the instructor about becoming an agent. He told her women were only supposed to be support staff, she said.
But that didn't stop her. Travis went on to attend the Florida Insurance School in Tallahassee and became an early pioneer as a woman who owned her own insurance agency.
Travis' son, Phillip Moss, 43, joined the company in 1992 and works part-time handling the company's technology issues. Her youngest daughter, Susan Moss, 41, went to work for the family in the mid-1990s but left to become a stay-at-home mom.
"All of my children stated in the file room and worked their way up," Travis said. "Even my 11 grandkids were partially raised here. We're about family and this community."
East Bay Insurance is at 117 Flamingo Drive. The company sells life insurance and coverage for homes and condos, floods, autos, boats and golf carts.
For additional information, call (813) 645-2502 or visit www.ebinsure.com.