How to make friends and disrupt the industry

What did one woman do when she felt the world of car insurance needed a shake up? She created her own, of course! Allow us to introduce you to, Stella car insurance.

Founded by Sam White in July 2020, the goal of Stella was to put women back in the driver’s seat by offering products and experiences that were designed with them in mind. Particularly when women are statistically safer drivers and make up to 80% of all household buying decisions, yet most insurers weren’t even speaking to them.

As a purpose-driven insurance brand that is mission-led, authentically different and passionately pro-women, Stella has not only focused on disrupting the insurance industry but has also looked how it can make an impact difference to balance the gender biases that exist for women beyond insurance. They have formed many partnerships with likeminded women and businesses to help shape this agenda.

This month, Stella is celebrating their second birthday and we caught up with their founder and CEO, Sam White to chat about her highlights over the last two years as well as what has challenged her and what advice she has for women looking to build businesses that disrupt the way we do things.

Q: What have been your biggest highlights from the past 2 years as Founder and CEO of Stella? 

“There are simply too many to mention. Obviously, getting live at all during a global pandemic was a massive one, being able to watch the filming of the very first advert with Gen Fricker and watching the brand come alive. Building the team and watching the joy and ownership they have taken to bring the vision to life. The partnership with WAGEC and starting to see that commitment build to meaningful numbers. Hitting our first-year customer targets. Starting the journey to launch Stella in the UK and realising we truly can be a global brand.”

Q: What challenges has the Stella brand faced since launching, and what have you learnt from these experiences?

“Well initially launching in the pandemic meant that the available market was much smaller than we had counted on, so we had to pivot and adapt to make sure we would still achieve our goals. Building the tech out was a big one, and every day we discover more functionality that we need and want for our customers, which all takes much longer and is much harder than you would want.  Making sure that the brand was truly understood as a pro-woman and not an anti-man endeavour. Having to liaise with a new team purely over Teams as face-to-face wasn’t possible.  I’ve learnt how much a small, determined group of women can do, and how important truly honest and vulnerable conversation is in a team to create trust and intimacy in challenging circumstances. Finally, how important it is to make sure that your customers really do understand the message you are trying to convey and adjust accordingly if that message ever gets lost.” 

Q: What has surprised you the most about the Stella journey over the past 2 years? 

“For me personally, it’s been how excited I have been to have a direct brand, and we were confident that customers would connect with what we are trying to build but their support has blown me away.”

Q: Any advice to other founders or people designing disruptive products or brands?

“Same advice I always give for life and business: act like no one is watching. By that I mean to follow your gut and make sure you don’t let the setbacks drag you under. I’m also passionate that you can’t get too bogged down with the details to start with, make sure you get the big issues secured first and then gradually allow the detail to expose itself, a bit like looking through a microscope.”

Just when you thought Stella was happy to stop their support for women there, they also donate $5 from every new car insurance policy to support the Women's & Girls' Emergency Centre (WAGEC) so not only are you supporting a female owned and run business when you insure with Stella, you’re also supporting vulnerable women and girls, and this makes paying your insurance bill so much more rewarding.

In the last year, WAGEC has supported over 1200 women and children in crisis and provided over $400,000 in material donations. These include tinned food, pasta, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, household items, technology, opal cards, grocery vouchers and other essential items provided by the WAGEC Community. There is a significant amount of work that happens behind the scenes to ensure that women and children receive these items, including efforts from the community, WAGEC staff and WAGEC volunteers who ensure that donations are collected, organised, and distributed to crisis refuges from their drop off point in Redfern.

As you can imagine, the team at WAGEC has benefited enormously from this partnership and have shared, “Long-term partnerships mean a great deal to WAGEC.” 

The team added "they contribute to building safe futures for women and children in crisis by providing financial support, time and expertise, material support, fundraising and awareness-raising. Ongoing partnerships are important because they help to ensure the sustainability of programs and resourcing that is critical to giving women and children what they need now and into the future so that they can thrive.”

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