October is Women’s Small Business Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements of these entrepreneurs and the positive impacts they are making on jobs and the economy. Inesta Belardo, CEO & Owner at B&A Benefits Solutions in Waterbury, Connecticut, started her independent insurance agency 7 years ago, helping her customers take charge of their financial needs and their futures. This year, she was named a recipient of Comcast RISE, a program created to invest in the success of small businesses owned by people of color by providing valuable and practical support.
Learn what Inesta had to say about starting her own business and her experience with the technology and other support provided by Comcast RISE.
Q. How did your business get started?
A. After 15 years in the banking industry, starting as a bank teller and working my way up to vice president, there was a small whisper in my ear that told me it was time to help people who feel they can’t take charge of their financial needs due to their education level, financial status, or lack of exposure.
I decided my company’s niche would be regular people who need to work to earn a living, and that’s still where my focus lies today.
I knew starting the business wouldn’t be easy because I didn’t have the same resources as a large insurance or banking agency, but I decided to endure. I started by going door-to-door to meet prospective customers, held meetings in people’s homes or at coffee shops, and planned my schedule around our customers’ availability.
In the beginning I only sold supplemental coverage and life insurance products. Then, as prospects became customers, they asked about services I didn’t offer, so I referred them to other agencies. I was starting off small, but as time went on and my business started offering more options, clients came back to us for a greater array of services because they valued the personal connection we gave them.
Our customers know we go the distance for them, and everyone is important to us.
Q. What is the secret to your success?
A. My secret is to stay focused on who I set out to serve and to always remember why. To me, success is about balancing profit with building relationships that extend beyond our initial client transactions.
I am still focused on growing my business, but I view it as a marathon, not a sprint.
Q. What would you like to achieve next?
A. My next business goal is to develop a paid internship program for students and adults looking for a career change, and we’re currently looking for funding to help with that. On a personal level, I would also love to teach business courses at a local university. I believe my experience starting an insurance agency from scratch could benefit and inspire others.
Q. How has being a Comcast RISE recipient made an impact on your business?
A. I applied for this grant on a whim, never thinking my business would be selected, but I’m so grateful! Comcast RISE has provided us with visibility and tools to help my business grow. For instance, purchasing a computer may be a small thing for other operations, but to receive new, upgraded technology and equipment from Comcast Business removed an obstacle for our growth and it’s one less thing to worry about.
Q. What would you say to someone who was thinking about applying for this program?
A. Apply for Comcast RISE and to every opportunity you find, because the sky is your only limit! Someone will see something in you and want to help. You’re not alone in your community, and the only way we will be better is to do it together.
Comcast RISE, which stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment,” provides the opportunity for small businesses owned by people of color nationwide to apply for marketing consultations, media placements, commercial creative production services or technology services from Effectv and Comcast Business. To date, nearly 4,700 Comcast RISE awardees have been announced nationwide, including 56 across New England.
To learn more about the program or to apply, visit www.ComcastRISE.com. Applications for the next wave of recipients are being accepted through January 15, 2022.