Amanda Black purchased Nora Springs Insurance in January 2021, after six years of working in the industry. She began as a customer service representative, then was promoted to office manager. From there, she realized that this is what she wanted to do. “I wanted something where I could work with people, help people, and this allowed me to do that,” she says. But Amanda admits that she never expected her journey would take her to business ownership. “It wasn’t something I had ever thought - that I would be owning my own business. Now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” she says. Now Amanda continues the 97-year legacy of Nora Springs Insurance, which was established in 1926.
Amanda’s path to entrepreneurship was sparked by one of the most important questions a locally-owned business will face: how do you keep a business in the community when the owner is ready to retire? The previous owner of Nora Springs Insurance, Mark Dix, considered this question and then approached Brook Boehmler, Regional Director of the North Iowa Area SBDC, to establish a succession plan. He was ready to think about retiring but wanted the business to continue on with its mission – how could they plan an exit strategy that benefit everyone?
Successful business transition has a long runway – business owners should start thinking about their strategy and laying the groundwork well in advance of actual retirement. Amanda was a natural successor – passionate about the industry, willing to learn, and ready to take on a new challenge. She began with Start Smart, a free introductory seminar about business ownership and business plans. “It was very helpful,” she says. “It gave me a layout of what we needed to be thinking about, before we even started. This is what you need to be doing. This is what you need to be prepared.”
After Start Smart, Amanda was ready for the next steps and enrolled in Venture School. Venture School is an eight-week program held bi-yearly in North Iowa in partnership with the University of Iowa. She says, “Venture School gave me the tools to succeed. If you don’t know how to write a business plan, you’re just out there on your own trying to figure things out.” In Venture School, Amanda refined her business plan and kept in close touch with her coaches. “My Venture School coach, Bob Buesing, is amazing,” she says. “Even though it’s over, he’s kept in touch and checked in to ask ‘What do you need? Can I help you?’ You would think they would say ‘I did my part and they’re on their own now,’ but that has not been the case at all.”
After Venture School, Amanda was inspired to continue her business education. She will graduate from North Iowa Area Community College with her Associates degree in Business in May 2023.
As an entrepreneur, one of the lessons Amanda has learned is the importance of a strong support network. “I didn’t realize how early I would need that. I learned that I needed to ask for help. You don’t need to do it all on your own. You’re not on your own.” Her advice for other new entrepreneurs is simple and effective: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.