By Kris Maccini, Head of Digital Distribution, Triple-I
Dale Sharpe Jenkins, M.S., CIC, AINS, principal/owner, The Jenkins Agency Incorporated, is quick to point out that she didn’t choose a career in insurance – insurance chose her. A first-generation college graduate, Jenkins sought a profession that would provide her and her family with opportunities. She began her career in life insurance at a small company in Columbus, Ohio before moving on to Progressive Insurance and opening its first claims office in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Insurance plays an important role in our lives. The insurance industry has allowed me to make a great living and help people with their needs at the same time.”
Eventually, Jenkins moved into a senior construction underwriter position at St. Paul Insurance Companies (now Travelers) and made the shift from claims to underwriting. While it was a rewarding position, Jenkins started a family and wanted more flexibility in her career. In 1998, she leveraged her experience in construction to build The Jenkins Agency Incorporated, an independent agency based in Arlington, Texas, specializing in commercial underwriting for construction, religious organizations, and other non-profits.
“We write property/casualty, life, health, and group benefits. Most of our customers are small Black-owned businesses, and we are minority certified. I’m proud of what our agency has been able to do for the Black business community. Their success is our success.”
Diversity has been at the epicenter of Jenkins’ career. The Dallas Black Chamber has recognized the agency for its work in the Black community; the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Airport named The Jenkins Agency Incorporated as its Diversity Champion of 2023 at the SOAR Awards this year; and Business Insurance Magazine has also acknowledged the agency for its diversity efforts.
In 2008, Jenkins joined the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA), where she was a member of the founding Board of Directors and served as president of the Dallas chapter for three years. Since 2011, the NAAIA DFW Scholarship Foundation has provided financial awards to high school and college students interested in careers in insurance, finance, and marketing.
“I’m very focused on providing [insurance] industry awareness to young people starting out or trying to discover a career for themselves. I was on the receiving end early in my career, and it’s nice to give back now.”
The Jenkins Agency Incorporated celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Reflecting on the past two decades, Jenkins feels blessed to be in her current position. She founded her company on her own without a book of business and built it from the ground up, relying on referrals. Her husband, Jeff, joined the business in 2000.
“In the early years, we were in survival mode. We realized if we could make it to five years, we could make it to 10. Hiring our first employees was a highlight, and most of them have been with us for over a decade.”
Like every small business, The Jenkins Agency experienced challenges in its initial years. Jenkins remembers the difficult transition from working in a large company to running her own business and maintaining a work/life balance.
“Whether working for yourself or others, flexibility is very important when you are working and raising a family. Having my own business granted me that flexibility. I was able to work around my daughters’ schedules and still manage responsibilities at the office. Having your own business doesn’t mean you work less; in my experience, you work more but with the advantage is being able to manage your day.”
To this day, Jenkins cites her two daughters as inspiration, along with other up-and-coming professionals. Both of her daughters have successful careers–her youngest daughter as a risk manager for a municipality in Texas and her oldest daughter as a business owner in California and a college professor. Entrepreneurship runs in the family. Jenkins’ father was also a business owner.
Jenkins, who teaches risk management at the University of Texas in Arlington, is also motivated by her students. “My inspiration comes from the younger generation and how they embrace diversity and balance work and home. I’m also impressed with their talent.”
Regarding the ongoing efforts to push for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the industry, Jenkins is cheering on this generation and asks young Black professionals not to lose ground.
“My generation had to maneuver in a different way. We tried to fit in in any way we could–from hair to speech. This generation has a voice, and they are not afraid to be heard. To them I say…Keep your skills sharp so there is no question whether you can do the job and be proud of who you are.”
Looking to participate in discussions around addressing disparities and working towards a more inclusive and equitable insurance landscape? Sign up for Empowering the Community: The Importance of Insurance in the Black Community, hosted on September 12 by The Black Insurance Industry Collective (BIIC).
Dale Sharpe Jenkins, M.S., CIC, AINS is an academic member of the Insurance Information Institute through her affiliation with the University of Texas at Arlington.