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Small Business Spotlight: Gaslamp Insurance Services

With $500 in his pocket and a will to succeed, Emilio Figueroa opened the yellow pages and started cold calling people as part of the first step toward opening an insurance brokerage firm.

Seven years later, Figueroa, who is now the chief executive officer of Gaslamp Insurance Services, manages a staff of 14 in a 1,700-square-foot space in Downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter.

“I don’t like being an employee,” he said. “The money is good but it’s not about the money. It’s about freedom.”

Figueroa, who is also a partner in three other insurance related companies, has steadily increased his business every year, growing its revenues by about 400 percent from 2002 to 2004.

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The company expects to double its revenues and number of employees by the end of 2005, he said.


Resum & #233;

Name: Emilio C. Figueroa.

Title: Chief executive officer.

Company: Gaslamp Insurance Services.

Address: 739 Fourth Ave., Suite 206, San Diego.

Phone: (619) 238-4367.

Founded: November 1998.

Prior experience: Worked at Farmers Insurance before starting Gaslamp Insurance Services (1990-95).

Average hours worked weekly: 35.

Source of startup capital: $500 personal money.

2004 revenue: $2.29 million.

2003 revenue: $793,374.

2002 revenue: $481,147.

Number of employees: 14.

Web site: www.gaslampinsurance.com.


Background

Born: Nov. 16, 1971, in Mexico City.

Education: Studied at UC San Diego.

Residence: Point Loma.

Family: Wife, Caeli; son, Liam, 7 months.

Hobbies: Golf and traveling.


Judgment Calls

Reason for getting into the business: I had prior knowledge in the area of insurance and felt that the ability to succeed was evident.

How I plan to grow the business: Increasing personnel.

Biggest plus of business ownership: Having the freedom to run the business with efficiency and excellence.

Biggest drawback: Maintaining quality customer service.

Biggest business strength: Creative thinking and cross selling market.

Biggest business weakness: Lack of capital.

Biggest risk: Being a small-business owner and lack of security.

Smartest business decision: Going into business.

Biggest business mistake: Not starting business earlier.

Toughest career decision: Not giving up in business.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Maintaining synergy and happiness within the organization.

The most important part of my business: My relationship with clients and employees.

My business works best when: Employees are happy.


Goals

Goals yet to be achieved: Create an insurance captive and create a reinsurance company.

My five-year business plan: Double sales and staff every year.


Philosophy

Guiding principles: Honesty, ethics and perseverance.

Most admired entrepreneur: My father.

Important lessons learned: Never give up.

How your business has changed throughout the years: Consistently tripled sales and doubled employee volume every six months to a year.

Best way to stay competitive: Finding a new program and maintaining a constant marketing program.

How you measure success: Employee happiness.

I would sell my business only if: Never.

Advice for those looking to go into business: It’s going to be tough during the first year, but keep on pushing.

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