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Women-Preneurs - (Gilded Age)

by A. Montalbano on 04/13/20

During the late 1800s, the economy had taken a downturn until the discovery of gold in the Yukon.  Because of the Panic of '93, a one-income family was no longer the norm.  More women sought employment in numbers although the expectation of marriage and start families still drove the social norm.  Considered as second-class citizens, women had no rights, could not own property, could not vote and had little to no choices.  (Learn more about The Gilded Age - a time of turmoil).  Fathers and husbands dictated the future of their wives and daughters which lead to oppression.  Wealthy women received better opportunities in education allowing for careers in teaching, nursing and secretarial. Three quarters of women in the workforce were single allowing for much independence like never before.  Women fashion changed considerably. No more was the dress for pleasure a likely fit for being in the workforce. Women colleges offered sports and helped usher in the change of sensible fashion apart from the Victorian era. Ready-to-wear comfort was preferable for the long grueling work hours imposed in factories, hospitals and schools.    

The bicycle craze rolled out bikes in record numbers.  It was a great form of mobility and brought greater independence for women.  The freedom it conjured created a boom of social groups with shared interests leading to social reforms.  One of the most important social reforms brought on change to the lives of many women was the Women Rights Movement.   
(One powerful movie barely tapping into the long struggle is depicted in the film, "Iron Jawed Angels, starring Hilary Swank as Alice Paul, activist and suffragette.)

Many social reforms during the late 1800s were found by women.  Jane Addams was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Amelia Bloomer, publisher for "the Lily" a temperance paper, was also known for popularizing "bloomers".  You may have heard the story of  Madam C.J. Walker, founder of hair-care products for African American women.  (Watch Netflix's, "Self-Made" starring Octavia Spencer portrayal of Madam C.J. Walker.)    

We are infatuated with Coco Chanel from the Little Black Dress to fragrance to handbags and eye-wear.  But her story is larger than life and she remains at the helm of women-movers and shakers throughout the decades.

Harriet "Ma" Pullen made her way to the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska.  With  little money to her name, she found employment selling apple pies leading to bigger enterprises.  Her ventures allowed her to maintain herself and her children.  With the purchase of a mansion from her employer she created an ever-lasting name for herself in Alaska.  Converting the mansion into a famous luxury hotel, the name Pullen House, would continue in operation until the 1950s.  

These women were just a handful of pioneers creating a path for a better society while using the power of perseverance to crush barriers, knocking stereotypes and leaving their mark in history.  

While it is important to know of the historical events that defined the progress of women, it is more important to understand who the key figures were and how they sacrificed themselves to shape a society to include women.  

Fastest Growth in Texas, Top Neighborhoods-Houston and Best Walkability

by A. Montalbano on 05/05/19

Texas boomed in the 1980s but it also busted during this period, too.  One thing  that remained the same was traffic.  But since 2014 a change in demographics and a surge of new business landed these Top 50 fastest growing cities in Texas ( 

#1.   Austin & Midland.                #14. San Antonio               #40.  Bryan  
#2.   Pearland.                               #15.  League City.              #42.  Houston  
#3.   McKinney.                            #17.  Dallas.                       #44.  Arlington.      
#4.   College Station.                    #19.  Denton.                      #48.  Lewisville.   
#6.   Fort Worth.                           #22.  Odessa.                                             
#9.   Frisco.                                   #33.  Allen.                   
#10  Round Rock.                         
In 2017, USA Today Money called Houston-TheWoodlands-Sugar Land, # 14 in the Top 20 Growing Cities in the U.S. 
  •  2010-2017 population change: +15.9 percent (from 5,947,419 to 6,892,427)
  •  2010-2017 pop. change due to migration: +533,390
  •  Largest 12 month change: +167,325 (2014-2015)
  •  Median household income: $61,708       
Midland came in #4 while Austin-Rock Round took a 3rd place.

In 2019, Houston Chronicle listed the best in Houston Neighborhoods:

Best place to raise a family Top 5 were #5. Addicks Park Ten; #4. Lake Houston; #3. Kingwood; #2. Clear Lake; and #1. Memorial.

Best Suburbs to buy a House, Texas- 2019: #16. Pecan Grove, Richmond- Median home is $210K; #14. Cinco Ranch $329K; #12. Oak Ridge North $192K; #7. Meadows Place $164K; #6. Clear Lake Shores $317K; #5 New Territory $277K; #4 Taylor Lake Village $232K; #3, Greatwood in Sugar Land $322K; #2. El Lago $190K.

The trend in todays neighborhoods are within walking distance.  A study conducted by Kinder Institute for Urban Research found Houston's walkability more of an "urban sprawl" meaning spread out and not having much cohesion and unlikely to reach important amenities without a car.  The study's method used how many buildings reach within a 15 minute walking distance. Though no consideration for amenities and safety, The Heights was the winner with 2618 buildings reached.  

Best Places to Retire, 2019: Clear Lake Shores; Sugar Land; Cinco Ranch; The Woodlands; Southside Place; Hunters Creek Village; Friendswood; Greatwood; Meadows Place; Nassau Bay.

Safety Matters: Contractors Guide To Hazard Exposures

by A. Montalbano on 05/05/19

Liability Coverage and Workers Comp are essential for a project's success.  But prior to the start of project is safety priority.  Hazard exposures are located every where humans are subjected. Proactively identifying hazards before, during and after tend to lessen injuries and promote job safety.  Start with OSHA>>>

Quik Fix: Life Hacks for the New Home Owner: Before You Buy

by A. Montalbano on 04/07/19

Initially, the new home buyer is plugging away alone.  Homework is more than merely searching through the many real estate listings to find the right community.  When looking for the right home, whether it is newly built or previously owned, there are considerable choices.  Spend time on the informal homework because in the long run, you will be glad you did.  

Homework #1: If looking at a previously owned home, make sure a CLUE Report is pulled.  This report will show how many claims the home has experienced. A CLUE Report is essential when searching for insurance so be ready to issue it to the agent of your choice. 

Homework#2: when you find the right community, get the address and obtain a home insurance quote.  Most realtors will tell you not to run an insurance quote until after the loan processor has run your credit score.  This advise is detrimental to your home owners insurance rate.  So I tell all my customers, do it before your credit score is run by the loan processor because here is where your chunk of score-cookies will be eaten up by THE COOKIE MONSTER!  Cookie monster is going to take all your credit score cookies and because insurance carriers look at your score(not take a piece, but merely look at the rating score) cookie monster has already gobbled it all up.  So shop for home insurance before cookie monster ruins your chance for a better than average home insurance rate.   

Homework#3:  What is the "within 5 miles" fire department rule?  Every community is assigned to a certain fire department.  If your fire department is located further than 5 miles, your home insurance rate is higher than those homes located within a 5 mile radius.  So make this a key factor. 

Homework#4:  Fire Hydrants.  If not fire hydrants near your home, this is another surcharge to your home insurance rate.  Drive around in the community to pinpoint where they are located.  

Homework#5: Sweat the small talk:  Most buyers rely on the realtor, this is a good aspect if they have lived in the community.  But a better way to get solid unbiased information about a community is to talk to a resident.  Don't forget to ask about the cons: floods, construction, traffic since the realtor has probably given you all the pros.  

There are many more areas to cover, but because our customers are more than merely policyholders to us, we want you to be a smart shopper and be in the know when it comes to home owners insurance.  We are on your side,

The Story of Your Insurance Matrix Life

by A. Montalbano on 06/06/18

The auto insurance industry is driven by statistics and personal factors about YOU.  Insurance premium is made up of a matrix of factors. So buckle up, as we count down to the behind the scenes of your insurance matrix:

10.  Married vs Single:  Its fact, two heads are better than one with the insurance industry.  Most SMART married couples tend to pave the road to longevity.   Couples not only combine their resources, they combine policies, guard credit better, budget household funds better and file less claims.  They have legal and economic benefits that make for a champion of stability, investment and family growth(the backbone of a thriving society).  George Clooney, a lifelong bachelor knows tying the knot has its perks.

9.  Sedan vs Sports:  Your car represents you...well, at least, this is the idea the auto industry wants you to buy.  A sedan is much less costly when it comes to repair after a loss and a much safer way to get around.  If you don't believe it, check out your collision coverage and compare it.  Your driving pattern impacts your finances.  So the better the driving pattern, the better the finances(get it?) which can lead to increasing that deductible and lowering that rate.  

8.  Keep your insurance history in CHECK.   Prior insurance with lapses or cancellations is a huge impact on you and a driving history report.  The insurance companies are surcharging you and adding penalties when you teeter with coverage in Texas.  Too many can bump you to non-standard rates(higher than standard, again more money to the insurance companies and less in your pocketbook) until you prove a positive insurance history. 

7.  If you sold your car a month ago or don't own a car, but hold a license, you still must carry liability coverage in the state of Texas.  Its the law.  Its fact, got a license, and the insurance industry knows you will likely get behind the wheel of someone's car.  A non-owners policy is inexpensive and once you own again, this policy will help you transition smoothly to a standard auto insurance policy...without the surcharges.
6. Your zip code:  Before you buy that dream house, check out your zip code.  This is a major factor of how high or low you'll pay for insurance.  The heavier the population, the more against your pocketbook. More people means more cars, means more accidents, means more claims, and so on.

5.  Lending out your car: Cousin Eddie wants to borrow your car but has a reckless life.  He has no insurance coverage, is risking a claim and tarnishing your no-claims history. Think about it! He walk away from an accident with no accountability and claim against your coverage.  companies, stays on your record for 5 years.  Require Cousin Eddie to purchase a simple non-owners policy which is cheap and guards your no-claims history.
4. Using your personal car for a side business: Expect a denial in claims if you should have an at-fault accident while using your pickup for weekend landscaping projects. Instead, go for a commercial auto policy that will help guard your personal assets and your business.
3. Unnecessary Coverage:  Don't purchase unnecessary coverages like glass believing you can use it over and over again.  Those FREE glass chip repairs and not free at all.  First, road-side chip repairers are not connected to insurance like they have you believe.  But immediately, they are selling their service by requesting a copy of your insurance card.  What you don't know is they file your bill with your insurance CLAIMS office.  An accumulation of these small claims will certainly get you bumped off at renewal.  Why?  These are unnecessary claims that cost roughly $50-$80 a pop.  The insurance industry sees it as all around costly, especially on their administrative end. You become the problematic RISK no longer a claims-free customer.
2. Type of Education Level and Job:  Yes, these two factors are part of your make-up and affect your ability to be and stay steady in your personal finances.  Insurance companies rely on these two affects as security and responsibility.
1.  Credit: The #1 factor is still credit.  Credit represents the story of your financial life.  Insurance is a financial institution.  Who/what else will lend you $110,000(Texas required liability 30/60/25) right off the start when you purchase basic liability insurance?

10 Things You Should Never Keep From Your Agent

by A. Montalbano on 05/20/18

Even though memory loss may be the #1 reason why some issues don't get reported, it is important to keep your agent abreast of possible issues that may escalate later.  

10.  Business Coverage: You never admitted a claim within in the past 5 years. When the underwriter discovers it, your coverage is declined.  

9.  As a homeowners policyholder, your sign a contract of insurance coverage.  You are held responsible to keep your property in good condition and report any updates.  One day you completed a remodel project and added 2000 square feet to your home.  A year later, a fire damages the majority of the house.  Since you never reported the addition, the adjuster only allows for the previous square feet.  

8.  After 2 non-weather related claims within a 5 year period, your homeowners carrier has canceled your insurance coverage.  

7.  Rushing the agent for coverage. 

6.  Hidden factors such as current knowledge of a possible claim.

5.  Starting a homeowners policy and then changing your primary resident to rental property but never informing your agent of the change.

4.  Moving your insurance coverage over to another agent because you "didn't get along with the previous one".

3.  Obtaining quotes with other agencies without giving your current the opportunity.  

2.  Recklessness.  Reckless habits means recklessness in everything.  

1.  A genuine relationship...

An Agent vs Do-It-Yourself

by A. Montalbano on 05/16/18

In recent years, the headlines spark wonder if the insurance outlook for consumers will shake many small insurance agencies.  Buying auto insurance direct for instance,  has worked out well online for a number of years.  However, when it comes to homeowners and commercial coverage, the agent is still the best beat.  Why you might wonder?  Online is the craze for purchasing everything and anything.  Well, almost.  

1.  At any level, homeowners insurance and commercial insurance still require technical assistance. It is a question of financially protecting larger assets. Details are left to the agent and so is the relationship.  Rarely do phone operators at large insurance call centers  spend much needed time with the phone caller.  This job scope is to process your credit card and move on.  Corporations believe customer service is wasted money, its the reason why so many large companies "outsource" to other countries and so many agents, like myself, look forward to hearing from customers. 
2.  Another reason why an agent works better in the insurance equation is we speak the insurance lingo.  Underwriters don't have the time to hang around on the phone to answer all concerns and usually don't have the ability to give the customer service most of us desire when we have an issue.  It is not that they are unkind or could care less about your matter, but they are trained to focus only on accepting or declining coverage to help keep the loss ratio low and make the company money at the same time.  they represent the company.
3.  Agents can advocate when an issue arise.  In 14 years of insurance, I've seen good agents advocate with great skill. (ask me how I have gone to bat). I take care and concern to heart when my customer is not given choices. 
4.  Variety of companies is what an agent can offer.  If you ever bought direct online, its one choice, and basic; why auto insurance works well in this manner.

My recommendation to the universe: don't sell yourself short! In the long stretch, agents, like myself, are interested in getting the word out about the do's and the don't shared with you on a one-on-one basis.  We get to see the reality of insurance and balance the satisfaction between the insurance company and the customer.  Trust is a two-way street.  Our efforts are based on commission and if you purchased a policy of $1000/yr, remember 10% is usually what we make on most policies.  So when you cancel, we got to pay back the commission.  
Connection is important to us because that is how we build business.  However, it is the agent who cannot accept the forward motion of technology who will get left behind. Our agency offers tech-enabled services to cut alot of the insurance hassle.  And while most agents are bound to making a direct appointment(carrier) required volume, our agency runs on a consumer-choice method, not the insurance company-choice method.  And we never stop scouting for better markets offering great rates.

American Entrepreneural Spirit: Ideas to Independence

by A. Montalbano on 06/14/17

Trailblazers of American business happened to stumble upon ideas to make life better.  Innovative thinkers never stop pushing forward.
But rarely do we find great reads about women contributors throughout the generations.  It so happens that they develop ideas far better when adversity is at its fullest.
In the heart of our nation were the founding fathers. But as far back as colonial America, women contributed to the development of business establishments. 

In 1718, while women were required to give up their property and rights to their husbands upon marriage, Pennsylvania legislation enacted a bill granting women to serve as feme sole trader.  This act allowed women to make sound business decisions in place of their husbands while at sea.  The legal authority to help a woman support herself and her children would keep her "from becoming a burden to the public".

Hannah H.T. Elliot, petitioned the court for sole feme trader after reporting her husband for abandonment and unable to support her household including children. Leaving her destitute and frequently borrowing from friends and relative, she was forced to open a trimming shop.  She was granted feme sole trader status whereby allowing her sole business operator along with retaining the profits.
Betsy Ross, along with her 1st husband, co-owned an upholstery business. Upon his death, having to raise children on her own for a while, she acquired his property and worked diligently making flags for Pennsylvania.  Marrying a third time, didn't stop her from continuing her skills of needlework.  The tale of the first American flag belongs to Betsy Ross.

Elizabeth Blackwell was ridiculed in medical school and ostracized when attempting a career in medicine.  In the midst of her struggle as a physician, she held strong.  In the mid 1800s, after watching a friend struggle with sickness due to embarrassment of visiting a male physician, co-founded a clinic for indigent women and children that would last over a century.

Josephine Cochrane couldn't help but wonder how to develop a better way to wash dishes. After finding much damaged china over the carelessness of her kitchen help, she discovered how water jets could blast powerful streams onto dishes if aligned in racks.  Her husband died while her design was formed and almost left her penniless.  She worked tirelessly pushing her invention but it changed the world forever. Her company evolved and changed hands after her death, to become better known today as Kitchen Aid. 

The inventor of a new fiber developed as Kevlar, known for bullet proof vests, building materials, tires, and fiber optic cable was awarded the National Medal of Technology and inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994. Stephanie Kwolek, a chemist at DuPont passionate and persistent, “I discovered over the years that I seem to see things that other people did not see. If things don’t work out I don’t just throw them out, I struggle over them, to try and see if there’s something there.”

Party plan marketing is owed to Brownie Wise, a single mother, who had a charm and a knack for a product sales model.  She took TupperWare not selling well in department store shelves and made into a household name. Earl Tupper hired her to head his company but later fired her after she received recognition for the TupperWare invention.

Throughout centuries, women have faced unpredictable challenges.  Whether from despair, pressure, or simply a solution to a persistent burden, the human mind is capable of innovative ideas.  How we get from idea to service or product starts with inspiration.   

For all those women who defied the status quo, we salute your independence!

Read more women and men entrepreneurial trailblazers...

U.S. Open for Business

by A. Montalbano on 02/15/17

During WW2, unemployment became scarce as millions took jobs at war production plants.  Rationing was the selfless act of the American effort as every vital resource was conserved.  Coupons were purchased by consumers limiting the used of ingredients such as coffee and sugar.  Driving was limited as rubber was required for military production and recycling.   Upon the end of the war, the U.S. aided the greatly suffered Western European sector but included its own reconstruction back home. (WW2 Museum).

Economic growth was triggered by pent-up consumer demand. A housing boom stimulated by affordable mortgage lending for returning servicemen helped fuel the need for community development.  Spurts in other industries such as the automobile, increased consumer choices.  A new middle class of consumers rose as a jump in post-war births, better known as "baby-boomers", climbed in record numbers. The service sector outranked the product sector.  More Americans could afford college and therefore a greater number of workers held jobs in the white collar sector rather than the blue collar sector.

In 1952, President Eisenhower created the Small Business Administration in place of the Small War Plants Corporation to help the small entrepreneur compete with big business. He believed guidance was a better model for success.  Today, the SBA is federally funded to provide an array of programs to help assist small enterprises.  This includes contract procurement,management assistance, and business outreach services to women, minorities and veterans.
This includes contract procurement, management assistance, and business outreach services to women, minorities, and veterans.

In the wake of economic growth, business, no matter how big or small, makes the world go 'round. 

The Self-Made Shall Inherit the Earth

by A. Montalbano on 01/25/17

1. Fashion and Liquid Gold:  In the late 1800s, a young orphan girl is raised by nuns and taught to sew.  In her early 20's, she opens a hat shop in France. She ventures into clothing and designs her first dress successfully adding more fashion stores and a customer reach to include royalty. In the 1920s, she launches a perfume as the first with a designer name.  She pioneered the Chanel suit and the "little black dress".  For decades after WW2, she lived under the shadow of scandal and escaped from public eye. Not until her 70s, did she return to the world of fashion producing comfortable and fitted designs.  Her life continues to captivate the masses.  The legacy of Coco Chanel reigns through active fashion houses and forever a liquid gold we know as Chanel No.5.

2.  A Plow and a Pitch:  At the age of 17, he began a career in blacksmith. He found plows to be problematic and repairs reoccurring.  Experimenting, he was able to pitch his design to local farmers.   John Deere, the inventor, was enabled to design and construct better tools, better steel plows and better solutions for the agriculture industry.  But today, John Deere is a leader in quality of out door heavy equipment made especially for farm, construction, forestry, but also includes compact equipment for residential usage as well.

3.  International Beauty/Activist/Inspiration:  A laundress, widowed at age 20, must provide for her two year old.  An orphan at age 7 and married at 14, Madam CJ Walker faced many life perils unknown to many.  An oncoming scalp disease brought on by stress and lack of indoor plumbing created hair loss and forced her to search for a home remedy.  With brothers in the barber industry, and with the aid of a pharmacist, she developed a special shampoo and ointment. Manufacturing the products was a success. 

She lent herself to special causes and donated thousands of dollars to charitable organizations and educational institutions.  Before MaryKay Ash, CJ Walker motivated her sales teams to be charitable but honored their efforts with prizes.  She inspired thousands of African American women to access opportunity even while obstacles presented themselves.

4. Queen of Latin POP and The Presidential Medal of Freedom:  As a toddler, her family fled Cuba upon the up rise of the Castro regime.  In her youth, the majority of her time was spent caring for her ailing father, a Vietnam vet and her young sister while her mother, a school teacher attended night school.  Her escape was writing poetry and guitar lessons. While in college, Gloria met Emilio Esteban.  She was asked to be lead in his band and accepted.  A year later the Miami Sound Machine was formed. In 1978 Gloria and Emilio were married and two years later their son was born.
Success began with Spanish language albums but slow to gain in the U.S.
Not until 1984, did the band see a shift in the American market with the English album, "The Eyes of Innocence".  Since then, album after album demonstrated the bands success.  But in 1990 a near death bus accident caused a sudden halt in her musical career.  Gloria recovered and went on to explore other talents in writing, publishing two childrens books.  As a trailblazer of Latin culture and music, in 2015, she and her husband were honored the Presidential Metal of Freedom.

AGIS | PO BOX 448 | MAGNOLIA, TX 77353

Keeping it safe on the job site and whats trending in the builders world.

Gotta Love A Tool: 
5 Tips from an Equipment Thief 
​08/2014 Gotta Love A Tool:
History of Tools: 2 Great Empires
08/2014 Gotta Love A Tool: 
10 Important Tool Wonders
Outdoor Projects Heat Alert


Secrets and tips of how to stay ahead.​

​04/07/19 Secrets Before You Buy A Home. Part 1
06/06/18 The Story of Your Insurance Matrix Life
05/20/18  10 Things You Should Never Keep From Your Agent
05/16/18 Agent vs Do-It-Yourself
03/01/18  How Your Website and/or Social Media Can Kill Your Chances of Business Insurance Coverage.
10/20/16Safety is Key When Prepping Home for the Holidays 
​10/06/16About Hurricanes and Storms For Texas Newcomers 
​08/02/16Vicious Dog List problematic coverage.
​07/01/16How Insurance Helped the U.S. Prosper: Colonial America and Benjamin Franklin
​01/07/16Steps to Take When Involved In An Auto Accident 
​12/28/1510 Things When Searching for An Apartment.
10/22/15Prepping Your Home for Fall Season Is Claims Deterrent 
09/2015  Personal Liability Affects Everyone.
08/2015  Does My Car Have Flood Coverage?
08/2015  High Risk Drivers...
04/2015 7 Car Shopping Strategies.(Progressive)
11/2014  Not-So-Bright Mishaps...
​10/2014 10 Dumb Ways to Increase Insurance.


Keeping abreast of trends and get inspired on making your mark in business. 

06/25/17  American Entrepreneural Spirit: Ideas to Independence  
U.S. Open for Business 
And the Self-Made Shall Inherit the Earth 
Small Business the Fabric of American Society 
Preventing Small Business Claims.
Myths and Facts: Business Liability...
09/2014  How the USA Prospered: Ships Sailed to the New World
08/2014 The Rise of Lloyds of London
08/2014 Why Every Size Business Needs General Liability
02/2014  What the Stars Insure.
Month of May 2019:  Safety on the site.
OSHA Guide to Recommended Practices.
Presenting what we know: business, insurance, market trends, and the history of great societies 
(its all related).