Type of business: Insurance for auto, home, life, financial, umbrella, commercial, workers comp, boats and more.
Location: 2936 Fourth Street, Ceres
Business owner/manager: Natalie Mercado
Hours of operation: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays
How long in business: 16 years.
Contact info: 537-8748
History of the business:
Natalie Mercado worked for a Farmers Insurance agent in Ceres 16 years ago when she says God whispered for her to open up her own business.
“I never wanted to be a business owner,” said Mercado. “However, by being obedient this business has provided jobs to the local community and a reliable and trustworthy office for Ceres and surrounding areas.”
She explained that she was reading her Bible one day in February 2008 and heard an audible business telling her to open her own business. “I remember I froze and I responded, I dialogued back, I said no I don’t want to. That was the start of everything.”
Natalie was already a licensed insurance agent working for somebody else.
“I had a good job and the thought of it I just said no. My boss at the time told me he was going to lay off one of the employees there. So I already had five months of thinking about this.”
When the boss announced the person to go was someone else, Natalie thought, “It’s supposed to be me.”
She thought she might go into owning a pizza parlor but $150,000 was needed to start up. Farmers called her for an interview to become an agent. She was told she needed to obtain an additional license that would cost money she didn’t have when lo and before an unexpected check arrived in the mailbox from an old union she worked under. The money covered the expense and 16 years ago she went into business as a Farmer’s agent.
Her first office was located in the Fifth Street Plaza when a dog was dropped off. She adopted the dog, Courage, and it remains a help mate.
“She comes to work for me every day. Fridays are her days to be on social media (Instagram). She’ll get the most comments. People love her. People wish her all kinds of things. She’s helped out people in accidents, helping to calm them down, she calls us down, she’s our security.”
Natalie said her business grew by leaps and bounds during the recession.
“We service all people regardless of age, race or education. If you are a field worker, or a physician or lawyer we will educate you the right way. We will not judge a book by its cover. Because of this we have ranked in the top 10 percent in the nation out of 13,000 agents. For our life and financial we services we rank in the top 10 in the nation as well. Knowledge is power and that is why we are here, but first it was God. The awesome staff (Zio) and office pup (Courage) makes everything run like clockwork.”
Mercado has a watchful eye on the trends in the insurance business. One unfortunate trend is the lockdown from the pandemic is causing more drivers to speed and drive more recklessly than before and causing more accidents. The increase in collisions and rising repair costs because of minimum wage hikes will mean higher insurance premiums. Smart cars – with the sensors in windshields – are also costing more to repair.