Posted on 01 Sep 10
An economic downturn and a prolonged soft market have resulted in more and more agents and brokers looking for creative avenues for growth opportunities over the last few years. This includes looking for new niches and growth sectors. One such opportunity is with program manager and Storefront Professional Program Insurance Brokerage (PPIB), based in Novato, California. Since its inception in 1993, PPIB has always tapped into industries that are unique and capitalize on trends that have a long shelf life.
In this edition of "Insurance Unplugged", we spoke with PPIB President and founder Susan Preston about the company and the custom products it has created for several niche markets that have seen continued growth in the last several years and offer agents and brokers a plethora of opportunities to enter new markets. "From the beginning PPIB was formed as a pure program manager," Susan explains. "We did this long before the category of program business became fashionable. We've never offered general market business except as it relates to the industries we insure. And before entering any category of program business we study it and analyze how we can make a difference in that marketplace. This has often made us a leader in the industries we insure."
PPIB began in the 1990s developing programs for the Tattoo, Cosmetic, and Salon markets. The firm evolved into writing coverage for Body Piercing shops, Laser Centers and full Medi-Spas. Most recently, PPIB has added a Products Liability facility to handle manufacturing and private label products in the markets it insures and other industries where there is a need. "We design all of our own applications and write many of our own policies and endorsements," says Susan. "Our underwriting manuals are written by our people, and then approved by the carrier, which has worked very well over the years."
All PPIB programs are national, with the Professional Liability cover underwritten by Lloyd's of London and its Product Liability written by several carriers. The programs also complement one another and tie-in well with what PPIB has accomplished in each facet of the Beauty, Cosmetic, Spa, and Tattoo/Body Piercing industries.
Day Spas can include services such as facials, microdermabrasion, manicure/pedicures, hair services, eyebrow and eyelash extensions, massage, waxing, permanent cosmetics which ties into cosmetic tattooing, etc. Medi-Spas can include hair removal, laser services, age and sunspot treatments, injectables such as Botox and Juvederm, medical and aesthetic-level chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and other related spa services. "Today the big trend in spas is weight-loss services, which we are also getting into," says Susan.
Coverages for these programs include: General Liability, Professional Liability, Property, and Excess Liability if needed. "If an agent has a standard market for the GL or Property coverage, we can also write only the Professional Liability," explains Susan. "We will design a policy based on the needs of the broker and his/her customer. All of these programs for us can be written as one policy or we can write a specialized policy in any one of those categories."
Additionally, PPIB offers coverages not available from other carriers, such as a Sexual Abuse endorsement, particularly necessary for massage businesses. "We have seen a growing source of claims in this area, often in legal fees. We also offer tattoo shops endorsements to cover the legal fees regarding allegations of communicable disease. Most claims are not true…the shop was not responsible for a person's communicable disease. There is some limited coverage available if it's proven the disease resulted from the shop."
The Product Liability coverage PPIB offers could apply to any of these sectors. Many day spas and medi-spas sell products, such as creams and need insurance protection. "Insuring private label products is the number-one request we receive," says Susan. "In addition, we provide coverage for businesses that may enhance/change a manufacturer's product with a few ingredients, such as rose hips, lilac. We can provide Products Liability for private label, semi-manufacturing, and full manufacturing."
Susan explains that these industries all reflect our world today, which is why they are such growth areas, and why they can provide brokers and agents with something different to make up for losses in other industries. "We live in a world where everyone is trying to look their best. We also live in a world of self-expression…it's not enough anymore to have a butterfly tattoo on a hidden part of your body, for example. Many people want to show something special by putting art on their body. We also live in a stressed out environment and people want downtime, relaxation services, such as massages, steam room therapies. And we live in an over-weight world, which provides businesses with a means to expand in another service area."
PPIB helps agents and brokers sell its programs to customers. Agents and clients receive information on how to best market each programs as well as marketing materials, a broker kit, and after-care consent forms customized with the client's name to provide to clients. Additionally, the expertise and foundation PPIB has established in these various sectors is solidified in its sought-after knowledge in various industry publications on-line and in print. "Jennifer Schoenthal, our Marketing Director, and I write many articles," explains Susan. "When we're published, we'll send a note to our brokers so that they can learn more about what we do."
Susan also writes a blog on the PPIB website. They partner with many associations in the Medi-Spa and Beauty industries. And Susan was co-founder of the Society of Permanent Cosmetics Professionals association.
"We have the experience, education, markets and good, competitive rates," says Susan. We want to be a resource to help brokers and agents sell the business."
To learn more about the programs and PPIB, please call 415.475.4300; or e-mail Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org or her associate, Jennifer Schoenthal at email@example.com.