A few months ago, I had the pleasure of connecting with fellow WBON member, Mary Capparuccini. We discovered some unique similarities, like our connection to Syracuse University, recently establishing ourselves in Vermont, and of course being members of WBON.
Mary’s background is very different than many entering the financial and insurance realm. She originally studied international relations and public administration and was very adamant about working in public service and for the government. She interned for two embassies, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and worked for several non-profits and USAID programs.
She moved to Vermont in 2017, while still working for a DC think tank. When New York Life reached out to Mary, she resisted the offer at first, because she couldn’t see herself working for a large financial institution. As she learned more about the company, their values won her over. Being a mutual company, it’s like working for a large cooperative.
Her Own Business
Mary explained that even though she’s working for New York Life, she is self-employed. New York Life gives you a lot of tools, but you have to go out and make your own connections and build your client base. What Mary likes about this business is that hard work really does pay off! The harder she works, the more she earns. Mary has found that she enjoys working one on one with her clients, visiting them in their place of business, and sees the reward in being able to help them as well as learn from them. By doing so, she is able to create and provide them with a strategy uniquely tailored towards their needs.
Additionally, as an agent at New York Life, she is entirely in control of how she runs and operates her business. This has given her the opportunity to focus on businesses and individuals that she care deeply about. She also not only has the freedom to volunteer, but is encouraged to do so. Every Monday from 11:30-1:00 you can find her at the Heineberg Senior Center helping the clients there with technology support. She’s also volunteered for Burlington City Arts and Vermont Farm to Ballet. Last summer she spent every Friday afternoon providing child-ID’s for parents in City Hall Park at Splash Dance….Being able to take time out of the week to give back to the community and learn about what different organizations of doing, not only grounds her but it also has educated her on different issues. Seeing the struggles of some at the senior center for example, is one of the motivating factors in growing her financial services practice with a focus on long-term care insurance, because she sees the impact of having (or not having) that type of coverage first-hand.
Benefits and Challenges
For Mary, the greatest benefit to owning her own business is being in charge of how she wants to grow it and who she wants to work with. That’s something not a lot of 30-year-olds have. The biggest challenge has been switching between the big-picture mindset and the day-to-day mindset. It’s always challenging to switch between meeting clients, submitting paperwork, attending trainings and planning for larger events such as her Women’s Health, Wellness, and Finance event held this spring. It’s definitely a balancing act that she’s never had to deal with before, but she feels she’s handling it well.
Being a Woman-owned Business
According to Mary, the insurance and finance industry is still very male dominated. That’s changing, especially in Vermont, but it’s still not an equal divide even here. She’s very proud of the fact that she’s breaking the mold. She’s also always been very active in the different women’s leadership groups. Back in graduate school, she was a leader of Maxwell Women’s Caucus and it’s nice to feel that some things have come fully around in her life.
Mary does see a benefit to being a woman in a male-dominated business. She’s met with a number of clients that have specifically requested her due to her gender. There’s an idea that women are more empathetic, more understanding, and listen better. Although Mary acknowledges that those ideas are perhaps antiquated, and put women in a certain box, those are all traits that she strives to have.
Her WBON Experience
WBON was the first organization she joined as a new business owner and she’s loved every moment of it. It’s such a welcoming organization. When she joined, Christine Badalamenti Smith reached out to her and did a zoom just to connect and introduce her to WBON. After that she attended the 2021 summit, which was wonderful. She enjoys going to the monthly meetings and hearing about different lines of work. Mary feels it’s important to be involved. In addition to attending monthly meetings, she’s joined the WBON public policy committee. Given her background, that just made sense, but it’s been a great way to learn about what’s going on. The information she’s learned in those meetings has also helped some of her clients.
Mary admitted that right now there isn’t much of a work-life balance, and she’s okay with that. The first few years in the insurance business are the hardest, and it takes a lot of up-front work to build your client list. What she finds is that even though it’s longer hours, a lot of it doesn’t feel like “work.” There are some days where she’s getting breakfast with an attorney, then bringing coffee to a client meeting and seeing their new space, getting lunch with a potential client, and going to an event like the VT Womenpreneurs summit in the evening. All of it is work technically speaking, but when you are out of the office and having fun, the “long hours” don’t really seem long!
Any Advice for Other Women Business Owners?
Mary’s general piece of advice would be to start planning for the future and for yourselves as soon as possible. Also, it’s important to hire professionals who can help you with different aspects of your business, and take that off of your plate.
During our interview, Mary expressed her willingness and determination to stay in Vermont. Her favorite thing about being in Vermont is seeing local support and connecting with one another. Her advice for settling into life in Vermont is to get involved in whatever way it means for you to build relationships.
WBON members represent a diversity of industries, perspectives, and experiences. Be inspired by our Member Spotlight posts, an intimate look at one member, written by another WBON member. This month’s Member Spotlight was written by WBON member Sarah Krinsky, co-owner of W. Collective in Bennington.