The RiverBend Growth Association has chosen Godfrey-based Karen Wilson State Farm as the July 2023 Small Business of the Month.
As its business name suggests, this local State Farm Insurance office is owned by Karen Wilson. Located at 225 Tolle Lane in Godfrey, Wilson has been in business for 20 years and currently has three employees.
“I downsized to two team members for a while,” Wilson noted, “but realized that a third person is crucial to an efficient and customer-focused office. We feel this has been beneficial to all. She said that continuing education is required because of the licensing her team members must have. “However, coming from the world of education, I always encourage continuous learning. Seminars, trainings, self-help books, webinars are a very important part of our culture.
“We are a woman-owned and operated business and proud of it. Although we are all familiar with the company I represent, I am the business owner. I make decisions on how the business is run, whom I hire, and how I market. When I started in this business there were fewer women agents than there are today. There have been many years of building people’s confidence in the Karen Wilson Agency. I am extremely proud of our accomplishments,” Wilson further noted.
Wilson also shared that she had grown up in an insurance family. “I worked in my dad’s office in high school and college, and also in my brother’s office for a short time when he first opened his agency,” she said. “I went on to raise my three children and teach middle school and loved every minute. But one day, an opportunity came along to go back to insurance, and I grabbed it.
“I felt my experience as a teacher and administrator would serve me well in helping people manage the risks of everyday life and recovering from the unexpected. It also gave me more freedom to be involved in the community. I liked that idea,” Wilson said.
Karen Wilson State Farm started out in an office at Monticello Plaza, the retail center across from Lewis and Clark Community College’s main campus in Godfrey. Wilson said, “It didn’t take too many years to realize I wanted to own my own facilities. I purchased a home at my current location, gutted it, and added on to create the office I have today.”
She said that her agency is continually changing strategies based on customer preferences for doing business. Consumers changed the way they want to interact since Covid, she shared, and the agency is making that work. “Even though we have less foot traffic in the office, we endeavor to make our phone, email, and text interactions personal and helpful. We want our customers to remember that we are here for their needs and not just their payments,” said Wilson.
“One of my biggest opportunities has been, first and foremost, being able to represent the largest insurer of cars, homes, and life insurance in the country. The State Farm brand is something I take pride in,” she further shared. “Other opportunities include being in a community that provides incentives and has organizations that have helped me thrive. Being close to thriving educational systems at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels has helped me grow as a business owner, as well as doing business with a population of consumers with whom I enjoy being a part.”
As for challenges, Wilson said there will always be, no matter what the business. “You know, they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” she said. “Naturally, Covid has played a big part in our challenges. Heartbreakingly, we lost some customers during the pandemic. Then costs have skyrocketed for rebuilding destroyed homes and repairing or replacing damaged vehicles, which then causes the price of insurance to go up.
“People monetarily have had to struggle with the compounding of all this, which all feels so unfair to them. Patience has been tested as it now takes longer for things to get done at one end or another because of low staffing or low supply chain. We have learned to adapt, be proactive, educate our customers on what to expect, and be patient and caring. Our biggest challenge is explaining circumstances that we understand to those who do not understand,” Wilson said.
Wilson also noted the importance of her team staying connected with customers and with the community. “We are all engaged in the community,” she said. “We understand the needs of the residents, our customers. We can call people by their names, we value them as family, and we try to help them understand a complicated product. We take time for them. In a world full of online, just push a button and buy, we feel we have a little something extra that sets us apart.”
Community service is an important part of her team staying connected, and Wilson understands that, as the agency’s leader, it is important for her to lead by example.
“I am committed to doing business locally whenever possible,” said Wilson. “I was born and raised in the Riverbend and want to do what I can to make it a place in which people want to live.”
Wilson serves on five boards and participates in or supports many other organizations. She serves on the boards of RiverBend Growth Association and is a former chair; Pride Incorporated, a 57-year-old local community beautification nonprofit, of which she also is a former chair; Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation; North Alton Godfrey Business Council; and Asbury Village.
Wilson also chairs the Bucket Brigade, a local committee of Pride Incorporated, which seeks volunteers to paint homes of those unable financially or physically to do it themselves. She has served as co-chair of the Miles Davis Memorial Project that raised money for the Miles Davis Statue now situated in downtown Alton. She is an original investor in the Riverbend CEO program and has also been the title sponsor of the Growth Association’s annual LeadHERship Seminar for the past several years.
“It is a passion of mine to help others elevate their success. I have been blessed through my life with great mentors and role models and would like to help others have that experience, as well. I encourage all my team to be involved in the community. I give them time away from their desks for their involvement,” Wilson said further.
When it comes to her long-time membership and service with the RiverBend Growth Association, Wilson noted, “I have seen the RBGA grow and become a flourishing organization with a mission to support business in the Riverbend. I love that the organization is trying new things and new ways of doing old things. That’s what breeds success!”
For more information about Karen Wilson State Farm and to connect with her team, visit online at http://www.karenwilsonins.com or call (618) 792-7700.
The RiverBend Growth Association is the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development organization for the 11 communities known as the Riverbend. For more information about the Growth Association, visit www.growthassociation.com or call (618) 467-2280.
RBGA’s Small Business of the Month Committee recognizes a different member business each month for its outstanding efforts and leadership in the community. Committee members include Brenda Eardley, Adrianna Lock, Amy Roady, Martha Schultz, and Amy Smith.
To learn more about membership in the RiverBend Growth Association and the Small Business of the Month recognition, visit the RBGA website or call their Godfrey office.