Like mother, like daughter
When Joan Kiefer first opened Mt. Hood Insurance Agency in Sandy 20 years ago, she was one of two agents in town, and the only female agent.
Back then it was a rarity that a woman was an agent at all. Women were bookkeepers and secretaries and men were agents. But Kiefer came by her nontraditional profession honestly, as her mother was one of those to pioneer women owning their own agencies.
Growing up, Kiefer remembers filing paperwork and answering phones in her mother's office, but it was never her plan to follow in her footsteps.
"I never wanted to be an insurance agent," Kiefer noted. "I owned a flower shop."
However, when Kiefer's mother's health took a turn, Kiefer returned to the office, helping in any way she could.
In 1985, Kiefer went from arranging corsages to selling coverage for everything from auto to life as a licensed agent.
After working with her mom for a while, Kiefer went on to become a bookkeeper and accountant for other agencies. She soon experienced for herself why her mother chose to venture out on her own in the industry. Kiefer describes the insurance industry as once being a total "boys' club," and when her ideas and the practices of the agencies she worked for didn't line up, she decided to become a one-woman show.
"I had enough money to pay the light bill and rent for a year, so I had that long to see if the office would work out," Kiefer noted. "The office started paying for itself within the first 10 months."
Kiefer attributes her success in Sandy to her care for people.
"In insurance, just like with the flower shop, you deal with the high points and low points in someone's life," Kiefer said. "I treat people like I'd want to be treated. I don't live outside of the scope of my means, so I don't sell expensive plans."
In her 20 years in the community, Kiefer explained that she's made efforts to give back, but never with the expectation of recognition. She'd prefer to serve Sandy behind the scenes, hosting projects like cemetery clean-ups. Her goal in everything she does is simply to help people.
"I've always been one of those people who just wanted to help," she noted. "When I was 16 I even thought I might go into the Peace Corp. It's so fun and rewarding to help people and give them adequate coverage for their needs at an affordable cost. I'm not here to get rich. I'm here to help people. I've really enjoyed the people I've worked with in the last 20 years."
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