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Being an Entrepreneur - Sandra Grant From Health and Travel Insurance Brokers

These are my Presentation Notes for a talk I gave St Peter’s School  on the 1st & 2nd December.  The topic was “Being an Entrepreneur”, and this is my story:


I thought it would be fun to start with showing a few clips of some of my more ‘interesting’ clients – the first one is a young guy called Andy Buckworth from Australia, I’ve looked after his travel insurances for more than six years now, since he was 18 years old.  This clip is of Andy winning the Dew Tour BMX section in June this year:

This second clip is of some of my Nitro Circus clients, Travis Pastrana, Dusty Wygle, and Special Greg doing what they do best.

As you can probably imagine, I’m too nervous to ever watch Nitro on TV just in case someone has a major accident.


Travis Pastrana, Dusty Wygle, Special Greg of... by broadbandsports


My Story:

I have been self-employed for 8 years as in independent insurance broker. 

As well as this, my husband owns his own plastics injection moulding business, and we have invested in commercial premises in Hamilton.  We are now starting to look for our next commercial investment.

My daughter will be starting college at St Peters in the New Year J

I started my business from home when my kids were small; I now have an office outside of home complete with a PA so I don’t need to do my own filing.

Prior to that I worked in various roles in insurance, including broking, claims and working in Risk Management for the NZ Dairy Group.

My business specializes in sourcing cover for ‘unusual’ travel insurance risks including:

  • High risk activities / competitive sports
  • Inbound travellers to NZ for work, visiting or study
  • Cover for people with existing medical conditions who may otherwise have exclusions in their policies
  • Cover for business travellers / expatriates in various jobs and professions

I work on a daily basis with a myriad of different types of people – from corporates through to people with little / no English language skills.  As a result I have learned that I need to be incredibly flexible to respond to the hugely different demands that we face each day.


One of my biggest successes has been implementing a custom designed travel and health insurance scheme for Seasonal Workers coming to NZ from the Pacific Islands. 

We now insure over 7000 workers each year that come to pick and pack fruit, harvest grapes, etc for the horticulture and wine industries.

This started as a voluntary scheme, but the NZ government soon realized that the scheme needed to become compulsory – so all Seasonal Workers now automatically get enrolled when they are hired.

Our biggest claim to date was for a worker that suffered a brain infection (started with an infected tooth).  His treatment and care costs in NZ were more than $450,000.  His employer was very happy the insurance cover was in place J

Another recent success has been insuring a significant number of Nitro Circus athletes including Travis Pastrana, Andy Buckworth, Special Greg Powell, Dusty Wygle, and Kiwi Jed Mildon.

We also insured Sam Gaze while he was competing and succeeding at the Commonwealth Games,

And we also insure local BMX legend Marc Willers (based in the US) and local water ski legend Mitchell Horan.

We are currently in the process of finalising cover for the first NZ Women’s Roller Derby team who are heading to the World Champs in the US on Monday. 

Failures/Things I’ve Learned

Travel Insurance is a highly competitive and contested market in NZ, with lots of ‘Big’ players like Southern Cross, the big broking companies etc.

It can be very hard and dispiriting trying to go up against these guys when they have huge budgets for marketing, big distribution networks etc.

We’ve also had a number of clients with large claims that have been declined for various reasons – some clients can get very upset when things don’t work out as they had hoped.  We tend to be in the firing line for this which can be quite upsetting.

I worked out pretty early on that work/life balance is a bit of a dream when you’re a small business owner.  I’ve had days where I am still trying to finish last minute cover at 11pm.  I get phone calls after dinner, and on weekends – I’ve even had clients call me from the airport because they’ve forgotten to arrange their insurance on time.

Another key issue that was driven into me by the bank, my accountant etc, was to have money put aside for tax etc.  The IRD aren’t too concerned if you’ve had a poor month for sales, they’ll still be wanting their portion. 

Enterprising Attitudes/Characteristics

The key to being in business for yourself is persistence, and staying positive.

Know your products.  You may not be the best sales person in the world, but if you know your stuff people will respect that.

You learn to develop a very thick skin – you can’t take failures to heart but learn from mistakes and grow with it.

Don’t take rejection personally – you’re not going to be able to win every sale.

Be prepared to put in the hard yards – you will have very long days particularly when starting up.

Be prepared to stand your ground. I’ve found that some people take delight in trying to prove I am wrong / try to upstage me, but if you are comfortable with a stance you have taken then it pays to defend that stance.  Pleasantly of course!

You need to be organized, and it probably pays to be a bit of a control freak too..


You need to have a passion for what you do. The obvious examples are people like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. 

Without the passion there is no drive to succeed etc. Focus on what you love and how you can make it a job

We have seen this first hand with the seasonal worker insurance scheme we designed.  We had to make the insurers (who pay the claims) understand what we and the client wanted, and the particular quirks of this scheme.

We were arranging insurance for people with no understanding of medical insurance and no systematic health care (many live on remote islands) – writing the policy in Plain English for people that in many instances still rely on community elders/witch doctors.

They needed to be able access health care quickly and easily while in NZ – introduced insurance Cards that they can swipe through the doctors and pharmacies Eftpos machines.

Our workers love the cards, so we then had the problem of educating workers that they were only for emergency medications allowed under the insurance.  Had a few fun conversations with employers after their workers went ‘shopping’ for perfumes etc,  at the local pharmacies.

How Entrepreneurs Impact on Society

I had to research this, and found that there is a lot of different opinion on this, depending on your understanding of what is an Entrepreneur

You need to look at why a person has started their own business – is it because they have the passion and drive to make things bigger/better/brighter; or are they simply trying to earn a living?

If they are simply trying to earn a living as a Small Business Owner does this mean that they are inherently innovative? 

You also need to look at the size of the business/idea to understand underlying issues such as whether it is better to be a small, nimble company that can quickly adapt to changes in the marketplace but possibly constrained through lack of capital, or a large organization with lots of resource but numerous levels of decision makers that may not always agree…

Simplistically speaking, entrepreneurs create jobs and wealth within their society as they succeed. When people are employed, they spend money in local businesses, which keeps those businesses flourishing. The new company establishes relationships with suppliers, customers, other companies and spends money purchasing goods and services from those companies. The existence of a new company can encourage others to open businesses in the same area, which in turn spurs new job creation.


Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint hearted.  And if you like the routine of a set income each month then it’s probably not for you.

But it absolutely has its benefits .

I worked from home for 6 years while my kids were small.

My work is flexible enough I was able to take a 5 week holiday through Europe and the US with my family, and keep up with what was happening daily in the office via email (obviously this doesn’t work so well with a manufacturing or other manual work environment!)

I can buy nice things when times are good! wink


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