HollyWorld Group of Companies

About Us

My History of the World...
Auto Insurance World, that is

     It was Thanksgiving week, 1979, that I called Mr. K in Orlando about a job that I saw in the Daytona Beach newspaper. "Good morning, I'm calling about an ad I see in the Daytona newspaper", I started. "Good morning, Steve, are you and your family ready for Thanksgiving?", he answered. "Yes we are, but how did you know my name?", I questioned. "Well Stephen, you have been working for me for the past 2 years." Mr. K was the first of many to confuse our voices over the next few years. I tried to convince him for 5 minutes that I wasn't Stephen Smith, but he finally had to call me back at my cousins home where I was living, before he was fully convinced. The next week, I met with him and was hired to work in the Daytona office for Stephen at the incredible salary of $150.00 per week for a 50+ hour week. I had been averaging $500 per week in Missouri doing the same job, but Mr. K promised me that if I worked hard and cheap for a year and got my 220 License, he would offer me the same opportunity at office ownership that Mr. Smith and another success Mr. Lowell Enlow had. I had been offered many other jobs in the two months that I had been in Florida, but I believed in what I was being offered, and I liked the way Mr. Smith had treated me in the job interview. [ Side note: On Christmas Eve, 1979, I was delivered a Christmas food package from an Organization in Daytona that feeds the poor, as I was listed in the newspaper as one of the 10 poorest families in Daytona Beach that year.]

In the summer of 1980, I went to 220 school in Daytona, and went through school with my counterpart in the Mr. K organization, Mr. Jim Malone. He worked for Mr. Enlow, and like me, had been promised office ownership by Mr. K as soon as he got his 220. Jim and I were instant friends, but fierce competitors, as we were the top two students in the class. In August, 1980, my 1 year of Florida residency was almost up, and as I was preparing to take my 220 test, I was sensing something bad wrong in Mr. K's organization. Mr. K notified me that he wouldn't be able to honor his commitment to me to open an office in Ocala, Fl because there was unrest in his Company and he wasn't going to allow anyone to own their own office anymore. He said I could have a job there if I wanted one, but he was going to own everything from then on. 

That wasn't right. I had suffered for a year for a promise that wasn't going to happen. I asked Stephen Smith for an after-work meeting, and told him what I had been offered. "I can't do anything for you, Steve, I have situations of my own," was his answer.  I went home from work and decided to make my own plan. I started writing down ideas and concepts and beliefs that I thought could build a strong Company. I would name my Company Insurance World because everything huge and successful in Florida had a World in it's name...Disney World, Sea World, Circus World, etc. I also wanted all the phone numbers to end in a word, instead of the normal digits...SAVE, because I wanted to SAVE people money on Auto Insurance, and they wanted to SAVE money. I would take this adversity that had presented itself, and make my own future. One major problem, though, I was flat broke and trying hard not to get my car repossessed. I had a lot of ideas, but no way to make them work. I went to a relative with the ideas, and they loaned me $1500.00 to start my own office in Gainesville, Fl. The reason for Gainesville, instead of Ocala as the first Insurance World office, is that I had a 50 mile non-compete clause with Mr. K. and he had an office in Leesburg, Fl which was 30 miles from Ocala. On September 3rd, 1980, I asked Stephen for another after work meeting. I laid out my plans for my new Company, and asked him for assistance. He saw what I had, and then explained his ideas and concept to me for an office he had just opened in Jacksonville, Fl with his father-in-law called U.S. Auto Insurance. All the phone numbers would end in 1776, and he would put the biggest American flag made in front of each location. It was a great idea, but I liked my idea better ! {I haven't changed} We had several hours of discussion about concepts and marketing advantages, but the bottom line was that his father-in-law was his partner in that idea, and they weren't ready or willing to allow anyone else in yet. We ended the meeting by me giving my two weeks notice because I would be taking my 220 Insurance Agent test on September 18, and would be spending my weekends before then preparing the building I had just rented for $300 per month in Gainesville.

The next day, Stephen asked me to stay after work. If I still wanted a partner, he would put up half the money and help me paint the building and get it ready to open. "I have one major change in your name idea though, you must have the word Auto in your Company name if you are going to specialize in Auto Insurance ! " Of course he was right, and Auto Insurance World was born. He and I were cleaning up the building that weekend, when a drunk sign painter stumbled into the office. We laid out our ideas for the logo, and he climbed a ladder and painted a three foot by ten foot sign on the wall with a small world and the words AUTO INSURANCE in black lettering on it. Under the logo, he wrote a two foot tall "PIP $39" ( and in small letters), "If you Qualify". He put all the black lettering on a bright yellow background because my plan was to have all the buildings be green. That Monday, I was still in the office cleaning and preparing the office, when a Gainesville city sign inspector came in and asked me for my sign permit. He said our sign was way too large for the 380 square foot office I was occupying, unless my building color happened to be yellow, and the background of the sign wouldn't have to be considered as square footage of sign space. "Of course my Building is going to be bright yellow, that is our Company colors, yellow and black." I answered. We got our sign permit, and our future was forged. I passed my 220 on September 18, but back then it took a month to get your results and license. Stephen and I wanted to open on October 9, so we decided to open on his license, with me in Gainesville, and he would drive up a couple times a week to sign apps.

On October 8, 1980, I was in ragged clothes outside putting the finishing touches on the yellow paint on the building, when a man in even more ragged clothes walked up to me and asked "Can I REALLY get PIP Insurance for $39 ?" "Of course you can" I answered, "but I won't be open until tomorrow. I'm here today in ragged clothes painting, tomorrow I will be here open and wearing my suit." "My clothes are worse than yours," he said, "and I really need to get my Tag today." "Let's go inside and write you up" I replied. This first office we had opened was a rat-hole on the best corner I could find in Gainesville, at the edge of the student ghetto behind me, ghetto in front of me, and just 5 blocks from the University of Florida. We had a 10 foot wood counter and two wood filing cabinet bins that Stephen and I had also built, that were in an L-shape in the square 1-room office. We couldn't afford carpet, so I went to a carpet store in Daytona and asked them for all their extra carpet squares, and Stephen and I had glued them to the floor in a checkerboard Carpet-of Many Colors that the office proudly wore. "I need your Driver's License and registration, please" I asked of him. He handed them to me, and I knew then that we were going to be hugely successful, because his name was "Jesus Alverez". We literally opened in Jesus name, binder # 80-0001, on Wednesday, October 8, 1980. [ Side note: My daughter Kearissa was born on Wednesday, October 8, 1997]

We opened to instant success, writing 18 apps our first week open, jumping to 40 apps weekly in November, and 60  weekly by January when I was forced to hire my first two employees ever. The next month I hired Auto Insurance World's third employee ever, and two of these three are still with the Company, and are Agents who own 5 of the current offices.

Stephen Smith and Lowell Enlow had owned three of Mr. K's offices each for a long period of time, but neither was happy with what was going on with Mr. K trying to cancel their contract and take away their business. Mr. Smith told Lowell what he and I were accomplishing in Gainesville, and asked Lowell and his employee, Mr. Maynard, if they would like to open an Auto Insurance World in Ft. Pierce. They did, and his son Jim Maynard still has that office in Ft. Pierce. Shortly after that, Stephen offered to go to Jacksonville, Fl with Lowell and his employee, Jim Malone, to open several offices at one time there with the Auto Insurance World concept and name. Stephen and Lowell would open Jacksonville with Jim in spring, 1981, and open Palm Beach County with me in Spring, 1982. In Spring, 1981, I opened the third Auto Insurance World office ever on Archer Rd. in Gainesville, just 2 miles from my original office. Then 3 offices opened in Jacksonville in 1981, and in the fall our 7th office opened in Ocala.  Seven offices in one year made quite a splash in the Insurance Industry in Florida. Add in the six Mr. K offices we controlled, and we were already the largest "automobile insurance specialty providers" in the State.

I had started doing really bad, but incredibly effective, radio ads in Gainesville in January, 1981. I wrote my own ads, and used my voice to yell at people to "Call Right NOW ! , that I wanted to Save them money on Auto Insurance. Call 377-SAVE RIGHT NOW !!!" When Lowell, Stephen, and Jim went to Jacksonville in Spring, 1981, they decided a "picture was worth a thousand words", and sat down to create Auto Insurance World's first TV ad. They were in an office together after hours trying to decide on who would be the spokesman, and what they would say, when Lowell grabbed his Cowboy hat off the counter and jumped up and pointed to Stephen and said "I Wanna Save, Save, I MEAN SAVE YOU MONEY on Auto Insurance !!!!!!!" That was it, "it was perfect" everyone agreed, and a legend was created. The ad was cut the next week and the phones started ringing immediately. We all sacrificed equally, every single penny made in all the offices was turned into advertising dollars to create "Name-Brand" recognition. In the 1980's and into the 1990's, our advertising campaigns were analyzed and taught at the University of Florida as a perfect example of successful Name-branding. We had many college customers in the Gainesville office that would tell us they were studying us in school.

In January of 1982, Stephen, Lowell and I traveled to Palm Beach County to start looking for office locations. Back then, as now, we did everything on "gut instinct." It's so much better to be lucky than smart has been said many times. You can travel a street a hundred times and find nothing, only to travel it one more time and secure the perfect location !  All three of us were poor back then, "Po' but proud !", and formed "Advertising World" as the advertising agency for Auto Insurance World so that we could order thousands of dollars in TV advertising, and hopefully be able to pay for it in the 90 days when an Ad Agency gets billed for it. In Palm Beach, as everywhere else, we were instantly successful and we were able to hire some really good Agents to open and run offices for us.  Lowell and Stephen stayed in Lowell's motor home parked behind his office on Military Trail, and I lived behind the counter on the floor of my office on Okeechobee Blvd. for eight months until a crooked competitor who didn't like me taking all his business bought the three of us lunch and threatened to "burn down my building with me in it" unless I promised to move at the end of my one year lease ! He was serious, and I did move, but not before we had opened 7 more Auto Insurance World offices in Palm Beach and Broward County in 1982.

They say that in order to shape the future, you need to understand the past. This is one man's memory and opinions of our Beginnings. Stephen, Lowell, and Jim's stories are just as good. 

I Wanna Save, Save, I Mean Save You Money !!!!!!!

My first endeavor as an Entrepreneur was as a co-founder of Auto Insurance World in 1980. Many other Companies have followed, some with success, some not as much , but always with a burning desire to succeeed and help others do the same.

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