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Latina Insures Her Future

Vida En El Valle , News Report, Olivia Ruiz Posted: Mar 21, 2009

MODESTO, Calif. -- Being a business owner was not necessarily in Alex Barrn's plans while she attended California State University, Stanislaus. Her goal was to get a master's degree in social work and find a local job in that field.

But life had a different plan for the Modesto native.

While attending Davis High School, Barrn worked for Farmer's Insurance agent Bill Trubitsky, and stayed there for six years while she pursued a higher education.

"I was originally hired for my bilingual skills and quickly embraced being in contact with his customers, mostly those that were monolingual Spanish-speaking, and assisting them in understanding insurance as a vehicle toward asset protection," recalls Barrn, now 29.

After finishing her master's degree Barrn already knew the ins and outs of the insurance industry and decided to open her own insurance agency.

"My dedication to learning from our community and positively understanding their needs, along with the flexibility that insurance sales provide, drove me back into the industry," she said.

It took her a year to prepare herself toward finalizing the tools necessary to establish the agency and in March 2004, Farmers: Barrn Insurance Agency was born.

Although it has only been four years, Barrn, whose parents are originally from Valle de Santiago, Guanajuato, Mxico, is determined to stay in the business to help her community, especially the Spanish-speaking.

"My passion is explaining how coverage actually comes into play at the time we need it most, when we have an accident, theft or fire," she said.

But, she also added, being a business owner has been challenging.

"I've had to learn to balance all of the hats necessary to make the business function, such as excelling in providing customer service; becoming a strong liaison between the insured and the company; and, staying motivated, while not forgetting that the office requires supplies and needs to be cleaned at the end of each day, not to mention going home and being an active family member," she said.

Barrn has been married for 10 years to Herlindo Manrquez, 33, a social worker at the Adult Services Division of the Stanislaus County Community Services Agency. They have two dogs and live on a 5-acre almond and walnut orchard in the outskirts between Modesto and Escaln.

There are rewards to being your own employer.

"The rewards are definitely endless. One truly receives the effort that is invested daily," she said.

Barrn Insurance Agency serves more than 300 households, with each client carrying two to four policies. Ninety percent of her clientele is bilingual.

And because Barrn was new to business ownership, the unfolding of the economic crisis in late 2007 certainly caught her off guard.

"We couldn't figure out what was going on," she recalls. "At first we took the (policy) cancellations very personally because we didn't know the reasons. All of the sudden we had a challenging time contacting current insureds and then policies began to fall off the books."

Once she realized the situation impacted the entire country, "we were relieved it wasn't our business practice. I am saddened that we must learn this very difficult lesson in economics the hard way."

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