With her three children grown, Michelle Roberts was ready to try something new: Become her own boss. 

A veteran Atlanta business analyst in the IT field, she’d consulted a couple of times between full-time jobs, but she’d never truly gone out on her own.

“My kids are now young adults,” says Roberts, 53. “I want to be able to travel, be more on my own time, and have the money to do so.”

After years of planning, she launched her dream this past January—and made sure she would have the financial staying power to see her idea through.

Finding her calling on Facebook

For two years, Roberts searched for business ideas until one day, when she was scrolling her Facebook feed, she realized that one of her high school classmates owned a State Farm insurance agency. 

Given her business background, insurance seemed like it might be a good fit, and well-paying enough to eventually match her six-figure salary. So Roberts invited her friend to coffee.  

Liking what she heard about the field, Roberts researched it further and, this past January, enrolled in a $395 bootcamp to learn the ropes. Two months later, she took the required licensing exam and was up and running. 

She formed an limited liability corporation (LLC) and created the Michelle A. Roberts Legacy Group, offering life and health insurance from more than 15 companies.

Keeping a safety net in place

Roberts knew she needed to give herself a cushion. A year ago, she sold her house and moved in to a condo to make it easier to cover her monthly expenses while launching her business.

Even after opening her insurance agency, Roberts stayed at her full-time job for another six months. Divorced for a decade, she did not have another source of income.

She left her job only when she was confident she could pay her monthly bills from the business. 

Even after launching her insurance agency, Roberts stayed at her full-time job for another six months.

To keep overhead low, Roberts works from home. Her start-up costs were modest: $300 for an iPad she could use while on the go, and a one-time $1,000 fee to a lead generation service for the names of prospects.

One big expense she couldn’t avoid was health insurance: She opted to buy her policy through COBRA, which runs her $675 a month. 

Hustling hard for every client

In place of a marketing budget, Roberts created her own website and used Facebook and Instagram to promote her new business. 

That includes hosting Facebook Live video presentations on the importance of insurance. “People love video content,” says Roberts.

“I wish I could have started earlier in my life and not waited so long.”
Michelle Roberts

She has also joined networking groups, such as the American Business Women’s Association, and become a speaker on insurance at local events focused on women’s empowerment. 

At events, Roberts also sets up a table as a vendor. She’s done this at an author’s book signing and a job fair run by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. “I get clients that way, as well as referrals,” she says. 

As she has started attracting satisfied clients, Roberts asks them for referrals as well. “If you had a friend you knew needed insurance, who would it be?” she asks. 

Building on her success

With leads coming in, Roberts has already brought in two agents for her team, who are contractors, not employees. One is still studying for her exam and will soon be able to sell insurance, too. 

For her first year, Roberts is on track with her financial goals. Between March and August, she brought in $25,000 in income. Based on her current plans to sell Medicare supplemental insurance, she projects she will double her revenue next year. 

Even if that’s still far less than she used to make, she has no regrets about going into business on her own. 

“I wish I could have started earlier in my life and not waited so long,” says Roberts. “I’m in good health and great mind. I have some years ahead of me.”

Read the next profile: Designing woman: following her small-biz dream at 51