Written by Kevin Volz.
Health insurance helps most people control the out-of-pocket costs of medical bills. But when their pets face health issues, there is often no financial assistance with owners paying in full for each veterinarian visit. This can lead to a difficult decision — saving money or their pet’s life. Cleveland, Ohio’s, Embrace Pet Insurance has created an e-commerce pet insurance site that simplifies paying for expected and unexpected visits to the vet.
“We help alleviate the financial burden of pet care and give pets the best chance to survive illness or injury,” said Laura Bennett, CEO and co-founder of Embrace Pet Insurance. “It helps their owners make the right decisions, without having to worry about the cost.”
Embrace Pet Insurance was founded in 2004 and has grown 50% each of the last four years, with 51,000 policyholders covering over 66,000 pets. The company’s insurance policies cover expensive, specialized treatments for ear infections, ligament tears, hip dysplasia and cancer. A wellness add-on can be used to pay for items like routine visits to the vet, vaccinations, dental cleanings and spaying/neutering. Customers can access the company’s digital portal, MyEmbrace, to update policy and pet information, submit and check the status of claims, and securely update billing and reimbursement information.
Bennett worked for a large life and health insurance company for 12 years before starting Embrace Health Insurance. After leaving the insurance business to pursue her MBA, Bennett met a friend from the UK who had spent more than $5,000 on her cat’s medical bills. While pet insurance policies are commonplace in the UK, the friend was surprised how difficult it was to find similar coverage in the United States.
“I knew almost immediately that this was a company that could work,” said Bennett. “My mom was a vet tech, and I grew up with cats and dogs. But since we didn’t have a lot of money, if they got sick we’d have to put them down.”
Since Bennett and co-founder Alex Krooglik started Embrace Pet Insurance, the company has received more than $1.8 million in investments from JumpStart and NCT Ventures, both partners of Ohio Third Frontier.
“We became one of JumpStart’s first portfolio companies when they invested in us in 2004,” said Bennett. “We used part of the funding to create our first partnership with a large insurance company. Once that was in place, we used the rest of the funding to set up internal systems and hire a team of employees to start selling policies.”
In 2016, Embrace Pet Insurance is looking to secure strategic partnerships with other insurance companies, veterinarian offices and animal shelters to keep the company’s growth on track. It plans to add more than 30 new jobs, with expectations of having 100 total employees by the year’s end, most working in the company’s Cleveland offices.
“Cleveland is the best place to start a business,” said Bennett. “Since it’s a very family-friendly area, it’s easy to attract talent. Plus rent is cheap and we’re close to a major airport, so travel is easy. All of this factors into the boom this area has seen in entrepreneurship. There are great companies here in northeast Ohio and I think it’s great what the state of Ohio is doing to encourage continued growth.”