Emma Allen is active in the Charlotte, NC chapter of EO Accelerator, which empowers first-stage entrepreneurs with the tools, community and accountability necessary to catapult their business to the next level. EO staff member Cydney Melton asked Emma about her experience.
After experiencing insurance and financial services businesses take advantage of people she cared for, State Farm agent owner Emma Allen knew she would go into that industry to support her community.
In 2013, Allen went into business in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She quickly realized it was a difficult place for her to succeed, since she built her network roots in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2018, she moved her business to Charlotte and has seen significant improvements since.
Emma Allen State Farm offers a variety of insurance services, mortgages, investment planning and 401K rollovers.
Even though Allen was finding success with her business approach, she knew she could do more if she joined EO Accelerator.
“I knew that if we scaled up, we’d have the opportunity to influence and impact even more people in a positive way, but I needed to take the time to do that,” Allen explained. “It is difficult to do, but EO Accelerator forces me to step away and take the time to focus on growth.”
Since joining EO Accelerator in Charlotte, Allen said she enjoys having a community of other entrepreneurs to bounce ideas and challenges off of.
Additionally, Allen said, “I think being a part of EO Accelerator sets an example for other African American entrepreneurs—that we can be involved in things that don’t look like the traditional things we would be involved in.”
Structure and accountability are key
Allen’s main takeaway from participating in EO Accelerator is the overall structure of the programme. Instead of making commitments to herself and not following through, she now has a group of entrepreneurs and mentors to hold her accountable for deadlines.
The biggest challenge Allen faces as an entrepreneur is finding quality people to hire and keeping them engaged.
“It can be difficult to find the balance between over-hiring, so you have the capacity to handle forthcoming business and waiting until that business comes to you,” Allen said.
Overall, Allen is proud to be an entrepreneur who helps provide others with the chance to pursue a career in the insurance industry, some of whom now run their own agencies.
Allen’s three tips for success are to get your own financial house in order first, make sure you have enough money to weather storms like Covid-19, and take time for yourself.
“An empty well can’t pour into any other pitchers — so try to feel okay about stepping away, recharging your own battery, and taking care of yourself, so that you are the best you for your folks,” Allen said.
In the time she takes for herself, Allen loves to cook Sunday dinners for her entire family, travel and garden.
Since Allen owns her office building, she started a garden in the back for her community to grow and harvest vegetables. She partnered with the police department and a local school, which enables more young people to learn to garden and discover where vegetables really come from.
“To see the wonder in their eyes and for them to be able to bless their families by taking home food from their own harvest—that’s big for me,” Allen said.
Why it’s essential to connect with like-minded peers
As Emma Allen points out, when you’re taking the risk and investing your time and energy into creating a new company, a strong mindset isn’t just nice-to-have. It’s a necessity.
Being among like-minded entrepreneurs who share your drive to grow and scale a business can enhance your mindset for success.
The Accelerator programme’s culture is based on three key components:
- Strict confidentiality: EOA participants share sensitive information such as financials, strategies and weaknesses. In the safe, confidential environment of EO Accelerator, you can share the things you have kept to yourself for too long, because you are among like-minded peers who are all on a similar path.
- Gestalt language protocol: Rather than offering opinions or advice, in EO Accelerator, people share their experiences that may be relevant to the challenges others are facing. In other words, instead of saying, “You should do x,” you’ll hear, “When I did x, y and z happened.” You’re free to interpret the shared experience rather than hearing someone’s judgment of an experience applied to you as an opinion.
- Sharing your Five Percent: With strict confidentiality and Gestalt language firmly in place, the “five percent” cultural component of the programme helps EOA participants share their deepest feelings of vulnerability and areas of concern. The cultural benefits of doing so include forging solid relationships, higher levels of intimacy and trust that can help you excel in both business and your personal life.
“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” — Thomas S. Monson