Ditch the 9-5 and Turn your Passion Into Cash

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Maybe you’re a student searching for a summer job or an experienced worker looking to escape the 9-5. Starting your own business allows you to leverage your passion and skills for profit and a flexible schedule. Being your own boss brings tremendous opportunity, but also presents risk and responsibility. Check out these tips and resources to help you get your business off the ground.

1. Figure Out What Your Business Will Sell and to Whom

Almost anything can be turned into a business. The possibilities are virtually limitless if you just start to think like an entrepreneur. For example, someone who likes kayaking could run guided kayak tours and someone who likes making accessories could make hair bands from recycled materials. These days entrepreneurs provide all sorts of products, services and solutions to solve problems and make life better. Many include smart phone apps and disruptive technologies such as Uber for example.  When thinking about what you want to sell, remember that whatever the product, it must be of interest to your target market. You should solve a problem or improve on something that already exists.

2. Write a Business Plan and Build a Budget

A business plan is defined as, a document that summarizes the operational and financial goals of a business and contains the detailed plans and budgets showing how the goals are to be met. A budget is defined as an estimate of the income and expenditure for your business over a set amount of time. In this plan you will outline how your business will run, and what risks will be associated with it. With a little research you’d be surprised how much free information is available from banks and on the internet – just be certain the source of information is credible.

Considerations for your budget should include expenses related to: equipment, office supplies, gas money, advertising costs, bank fees, insurance costs, inventory, rent and any other expenses you may have. There are a number of companies that can help make this process easier. For example, at Bullfrog Insurance you can buy business insurance online in under 90 seconds. You fill in some questions, get a quote from up to 4 insurers and can purchase insurance your business.  That way you can get back to the more exciting parts of starting a business faster.

3. Find Financing

Most of us can’t afford all of these expenses alone, and since starting a business involves significant overhead it might be in your interest to seek out some financial assistance until you start bringing in some revenue. It is important that you have a thorough business and finance plan for your company when approaching investors. Luckily, the Canadian government and venture capitalists across Canada are looking to invest in innovative start-up businesses. You can also pitch to a growing number of business incubators popping up across the country.

4. Launch your Business.   

So you’ve got a plan and a great product, now what? Let your customers know that you are available for business. You can do this through advertising and word of mouth. Choose where you are going to advertise carefully, think about who your target market is, and where will they go for information. Having an online presence in the form of a website and social media handles is one of the most important ways for your customers to find you. Depending on your product you might want to consider advertising in local print publications like newspapers and magazines. Building relationships with social media influencers can also help boost business.

5. Network, Network, Network and Seek Mentors 

One of the best ways to get your name out there is through word of mouth. Keep your business cards on you at all times. You never know who you’ll meet or how they could possibly help you. You should also take advantage of local business events such as Business Development groups. These events give you the opportunity to tell people about your business and for you to make local connections in the business world.  These connections can form lasting mentor/mentee relationships which will help you to avoid mistakes that someone has already learned from, saving you time and money.

6. Get Your Clients and Keep Them Happy.   

Client retention is cheaper than acquiring a new client. Make sure that every interaction with a client is pleasant for them. Customers are more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one. This can be extremely damaging in the start up phase of your business.

7. Have Fun! 

You are starting this business because you are passionate about something. Have fun and share that passion with everyone you meet and it will translate into profit.

5 Resolutions for Your Business to Adopt in 2016

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As we wave goodbye to 2015 and welcome 2016 with open arms, this time of year presents small business owners, such as yourself, with a great opportunity to set New Year’s resolutions for your business. What important decisions should you make to propel your business forward onto the route of success? Now is a great time to make these decisions and an action plan to support them.

Here are some potential resolutions to make in 2016 to aid in your business’ growth and success:

 

1. Review and Assess Your Brands Online Image.

Has it been many years since your company’s last website facelift and/or are your customers not interacting with your website as intended? If the answer is yes, to either of those points, you may want to refresh your brands image and/or your site to make it easier for your customers to navigate and utilize. Your website should always be updated with promotions, news, and important insights for it to reflect your current offerings and to create a great first impressions for potential new customers.

 

2. Let Go of Employee’s That Bring down You and Your Team.

Do you have an employees on your team that make team-work extremely difficult and who bring an overwhelming cloud of negativity towards the business’s environment and objectives? If yes, then it may be time to let them go. By holding on to employees that emit such a negative influence and vibe in the office, you put your business on the brink of losing extremely valuable employees who drive your businesses success.

 

3. Can Clients and Potential Customers Find Your Business Online?

Depending on the services and/or products your business sells, potential customers who may be  interested in your offerings will search for your business online to read available reviews and to just get a sense of the value that your business offers. If your company doesn’t have an online presence in this day and age, it is as if your company doesn’t exist.  Without knowing, you may be turning away many potential customers by not having an a foot in the online sphere.

 

4. Focus on Making Your Existing Customers Happy.

As a small business owner, a lot of your focus and time is placed upon ways to attract new clients and how to offer them exceptional value. While this is great, it’s very important to remember to keep your current client base happy and satisfied in order to keep retention rates high. Although you strive to make new customers happy, the benefit of having a strong group of loyal customers will help your business soar for years.

 

5. Look at Expanding Your Business.

Gaining a lot of business and ongoing success? If things are in the positive and you see potential for expansion, now would be a great time to investigate your options and see what would work best for your business to continue its growth. Whether it be an additional physical location, additional staff or even opening an online version of your store, the options are endless. Be sure to keep your target market in mind when making such important decisions.

 

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business or for personal risk management, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

5 Tips: Protect Your Business & Grow Sales During the Holiday Rush

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It’s the holiday season once again and your small business is most likely knee deep in the hustle and bustle of the season. As this is a very busy time of year for small businesses in Canada, like yours, it’s important to remember some important best business practices and to be cautious while taking advantage of the holiday rush.

Here are some tips to protect your business’ bottom-line this holiday season and increase sales in the process:

 

1. Be Sure to Not Over-Order Inventory yet Have Enough to Satisfy Demand.

A good way to estimate how much inventory you will need for the holiday season is to review your sales from the previous year and look at the various products you had available for sale and examine the quantities that were purchased. This will offer you a good starting point for planning your inventory numbers and allows you to estimate sales numbers.

 

2. Prepare Your Business for an Increase in Online Sales.

Does your business run predominantly online or does your physical store location also have a web purchasing option? As more and more Canadians are turning to online stores to do the majority of their purchasing during the holiday season, it’s important to expect and prepare for an increase of sales. Whether it be having enough inventory on hand or enough staff members available for preparing orders, don’t forget about having enough essentials on hand; shipping labels, bubble wrap, and even boxes.

 

3. Be Active on Social Media and Promote Your Sales.

Utilizing your social media platforms this time of year is a great way to boost your marketing efforts and highlight any sales you may be offering. As customers or members of your online communities post and interact with you on these platforms, take it as an opportunity to boost your customer service and build loyalty with them. From quirky contests to humorous holiday images, the options for utilizing your social accounts are endless. Remember to keep things tasteful!

 

4. Keep an Eye out for Potential Fraudsters.

This is a very important area of caution to keep in mind this time of year. As your business experiences an influx of customers coming through its doors, your employees are doing their best to juggle both their usual tasks and trying to provide great customer service to everyone who comes through your business’ doors. Fraudsters take advantage of these busy and hectic situations by intentionally confusing employees at the cash register for their own gain (financially). Here are some things you might want to implement with staff members who may be managing the cash registers on their shifts:

  • If a customer is making a very large and expensive purchase on credit card and doesn’t appear to ask any questions regarding their purchase, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for ID just to verify that the name on the credit card matches the name on their ID. Be sure to match the image on the card with the individual making the purchase.
  • If a customer is asking a lot of questions and seems flustered when making a payment, be sure to focus and double check the amount of cash handed to you before you enter it into the till. The customer may claim they provided you with more cash in order to fool you into giving them more change than required. If you find yourself confused by such a situation and questioning how much money the customer actually gave you, count you’re till to be sure.

 

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business or for personal risk management, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

Webinar: Risky Business – Are Your Real Risks Covered?

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Many small businesses in Canada often purchase too much or not enough insurance, are unsure what their business’ risks are, and are even unprotected against the real risks facing their business. To help small business owners, like yourself, properly protect their business, we invite you to join us on December 1st from 2pm-3pm EST for our first Bullfrog webinar that touches on these issues.

The webinar is roughly 15 minutes in length and will offer insight on the following topics:

  • Learn to only buy the insurance you need, not what you don’t need;
  • Find out what the real risks related to your business are;
  • Be certain that money spent on business insurance actually covers you for risks related to your business.

Join us to gain valuable insights to save time, save  money, and keep you business properly protected.

Sign up for Webinar

Tips to Make Your Website More Reputable and Trustworthy

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Consumers love the convenience of shopping online but they’re also savvier than ever before.  They are also likely to have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of websites that they can pick from to purchase their goods and/or services from. If you want consumers to purchase from your site they need to feel confident that their personal information including payment details will be secure. They need to trust in what they’re buying, what kind of quality it will be, and what the experience will be like if they have a problem along the way. Trust is important because people tend to do business with those that they know, like and trust. If someone trusts your brand, they are more likely to purchase from you.

Here are some tips to help make your website more reputable and trustworthy:

 

Build a Professional Website.

Make sure that your site is visually appealing and easy to navigate. Also, make sure that the design elements fit your dedicated target market. Audit your site regularly to update content, fix broken links, and make regular improvements.  If you have a blog, try to keep it updated with new content. If the last post on your blog was 2 years ago, people will wonder if your business is still active.

 

Tell People Who You Are and What to Expect.

Have an About Us page that gives the story of your business; remember that people like to do business with those they know and like. Have a Privacy Policy that tells people how you handle their personal information and a Return Policy so they know what to expect in the event their purchase doesn’t meet their expectations. You can implement a FAQ page for any miscellaneous info specific to your site that consumers should know.

 

Legitimate and Easy to Find Contact Details.

The Contact Us page deserves its own category because it’s very important. If consumers don’t think there are real people behind the site then they are definitely less likely to trust it. The page should display contact information including a phone number, email address, mailing address and physical address (if applicable). Don’t be afraid to get personal by listing specific contact people rather than generic contact details. Most importantly, reply to all inquiries in a timely manner. Not replying is the easiest way to an unhappy or lost customer or both.

 

Get a Trust Mark or Certified Seal.

This reassures people that your website is safe and reputable. Check out Trust Guard or the Better Business Bureau (among others) to see what you need to obtain this type of third party endorsement. You will likely have to meet some guidelines for approval, which only helps improve your site in the long run.

 

Use a Secure Checkout.

By partnering with a reputable payment vendor you will help ensure that you don’t lose a customer at the very last stage of the purchase process. PayPal is one that most consumers know and trust, but you can also do your research and pick one that you think is best for your site. Make sure to use SSL encryption to prevent unauthorized access to client information and don’t be afraid to advertise this to clients in the checkout area.

 

Include Reviews.
Post reviews and testimonials from real customers to help new customers feel more confident about their purchase. Build credibility for the reviews by including a picture and some background information on the person giving the review.

 

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business or for personal risk management, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

Building Trust With Your Customers

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After spending a lot of time, effort, and money getting your new business off the ground, the next thing you’re likely to think about is how to get people to purchase your products and/or services. You can invest a lot of money into promotion and building awareness for your business; however, that doesn’t guarantee that someone will actually purchase from you or that they’ll become a loyal customer. In order to achieve a successful business, you need to establish customer trust and make them feel good about buying from you and your business.

Here are some key strategies to establish trust between your small business and your customer base:

 

Referrals & Testimonials. 
People are more likely to trust a business has been referred to them by someone else they trust. Essentially, trust builds trust. If you know that someone has had a good experience with your business, ask them to refer you to a friend in exchange for a set percentage off their next purchase. Ask for reviews in store, by email or through social media and use them in your marketing initiatives. Also, don’t be afraid of bad reviews or feedback as this gives you an opportunity to fix the situation and improve for next time.

 

Give Great & Genuine Service.
Great customer service is a no brainer, but it needs to be genuine. Be interested in your customers and ask questions. Talk to them and listen to them, don’t give a sales pitch. If you think that they would be better served somewhere else or that your product isn’t a fit for them, tell them that. They will be much more satisfied and more likely to speak highly of your business then if they purchased something insufficient for their needs. Most importantly, make sure you only make promises that you can deliver on. It’s better to exceed expectations then to fall short.

 

Be Consistent & Transparent.
Showing a customer that you will be consistent over time allows them to predict your behavior and are therefore more likely to trust you. This means consistency in customer experience, in supply and quality, and in handling issues. Tell the truth when customers ask questions about your products and services, and be clear with them about what they’re receiving. You will lose their trust if the reality of what they purchased does not live up to their expectations. Besides, we all know honesty is the best policy.

 

Get Involved.
Whether it’s a cause or a community activity, get out there and stand behind something. Getting involved in something you care about outside of your business allows people see a different side of you. It also allows them to relate to your business in a different and maybe more meaningful way, therefore building trust.

 

There are many other ways that you can build trust with potential and existing clientele, but these are some starting points. Start small and use people that you’ve already established some trust with to champion your business, whether that’s customers, employees or friends and family. The more trust you can create, the better relationships you’ll build and the more loyal customers you’ll have.

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business or for personal risk management, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

Tips to Keep Customers Coming in Your Door, Literally – PART 2

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In Part One, we looked at ways to differentiate the in-store experience from the online experience. This time, let’s look at another approach – how to adapt the successful strategies of an online retailer to your traditional brick and mortar.

Imagine for a minute what it would look like if E-Bay was a brick and mortar store. They would immediately know every item that you set your eyes on and would keep those items aside for you at the counter. They would analyze your choices to better understand your tastes, interests, and budget and to learn what sort of products you might want in the future. They would show you reviews and give you product suggestions. If you actually purchased something, they would collect personal data such as your gender, your address, your credit card details, your email address and more, using that information to re-market to you over and over. How can you even begin to compete with that? Read on:

 

Collect Insights. 
In the same way that an online retailer collects data, you can collect insights from people in your store. How do they move through your store, what do they look at, how long do they look? Observe and record client behavior and encourage employees to interact with customers to find out their interests are, what their budget is, what sort of items they are looking for now and what they might be looking for in the future. For example, if a customer purchases a bicycle, it’s likely they will be interested in a helmet, a bike rack, lights for visibility or sunglasses.  You don’t need to assault them with a barrage of add-on products – no one enjoys pushy upsell tactics, but by listening to them, you can better assess their experience level and get a sense of what they have and what they need.  In other words, you simply need to observe and listen to your customers and then think like them.

 

Use Technology. 
In store apps such as iBeacon are popping up everywhere. These apps communicate with shoppers via their mobile device while they’re in your store. They can offer customers deals, discounts, recommendations, and rewards and even enable mobile payments. It’s real-time, relevant marketing to your customers.

 

Build Your Database.  
Start collecting customer information at check-out, even if it’s just their email address and what they’re interested in (product information, specials, events etc.). Have a spot on your website and social media where you ask for these details. Use this, in combination with the other information you’re gathering, to send out relevant information and offers to your customers, including price alerts. This will strengthen your relationship with them and prompt them to come back to your store with a sense of urgency. Also make sure that you reward buyer loyalty with either special offers or events. Tailor your loyalty program based on who your customers are and what’s important to them.

 

Access to Information. 
People love to shop online because they can research and read reviews from other customers. Come up with a way to show clients this same information. If you use an in-store app, that’s a great way to give clients access to product information and reviews. If that’s not possible, post printed information or customer comments with your products or use a simple star rating system based on customer feedback (think dollar store stickers here). Encourage customers to give real reviews and feedback that you can use. They will appreciate that you asked for their opinion, and your future customers will benefit.

 

Be Unforgettable. 
Ever notice when you look at something online and the next thing you know, an ad for that store or item is popping up everywhere? This is not magic people (it’s cookies), but this type of remarketing can be hard to replicate in a brick and mortar environment. One way to adapt this strategy is to network within your community and identify businesses that target a similar demographic and offer complimentary service. Develop cross-promotions or cross-advertising to give buyers an incentive to visit or re-visit your store. Use Google or Facebook ads to target specific areas or demographics. You can even create physical wish lists enabling your customers to go home with a list of items that they didn’t buy, but maybe wanted to. Make it something wallet-sized so they have to see it every day. This will ensure that your business or products remain top of mind.

 

Next time you feel overwhelmed with your online competition, remember that this high-tech, online world we live in is our friend, not our enemy. Your customers can access information and make decisions quicker than ever before, but so can you. Use this to your advantage to create exceptional customer experiences and to build a real relationship with your clientele. As a brick and mortar store, you have the unique ability to integrate the best of both worlds. All that you need to do now is get out there and get started.

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business or for personal risk management, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

Tips to Keep Customers Coming in Your Door, Literally – PART 1

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In today’s world, customers have almost endless options when it comes to where they want to shop and how they want to interact with a brand. This means stiff competition for retailers, especially for traditional brick and mortar stores competing against online retail giants.  Come on, who doesn’t want to do their shopping in pajamas, while eating a bowl of chips and watching Netflix? That being said, the battle isn’t lost yet and people do still enjoy shopping in a physical store, especially ones that work at making the experience exceptional.

Here are some tips to differentiate yourself from the online experience and to keep customers coming in your door:

 

Build Awareness. 
Before you can even think about creating an exceptional customer experience, you need to make sure that customers are actually finding you so that they can have an experience. Whether or not someone actually purchases an item online, they generally start their search there. Invest in improving your search results for terms relevant to your products and make sure that you have a good website where clients can get the information they need on your products, your location, your hours etc. Your website is often a client’s first interaction with you – make sure it’s a good one.

 

Create a Community.  
Differentiate yourself from your competition by becoming the local authority or hub for the products you sell. If you sell bikes, start a weekly riding club, sponsor a charity biking event, do a demo or send a speaker to events that target your clientele. Start a blog or a YouTube account offering tips and other interesting info. The more community you can build with your customers, the more they will come back and the more they will refer you. The more fun you’ll have too.

 

Empower and Arm Your Staff.  
Employees have the potential to be your biggest differentiator from an online competitor. Who wants to wait on hold with customer service for an hour, or pay for shipping to return an item that was wrong in the first place? Turn your employees into technology wielding, customer service ninjas. Give them the power to make quick decisions regarding discounts, taking returns and addressing customer complaints.  Arm them with tools that allow them to quickly check pricing, inventory, upcoming specials and more as they interact with customers.

 

Listen and Take Feedback.
Don’t forget the power of face to face interaction. In a physical store, you have the ability to actually meet your customers in person and hear what they have to say. Talk to your customers and find out what they like and don’t like, ask for feedback in person or offer a reward for completing an online survey. Watch for those who are unhappy or unsatisfied and try to rectify the situation. We all know that an unhappy customer will tell far more people about their experience than a happy one. Don’t miss an opportunity to turn a poor experience into a great one.

 

Make it Memorable.
At some point along the customer’s journey, from finding your website to walking out your door, make sure that they FEEL something. It might be telling them the story behind your business, or peaking their curiosity with a well-designed window display, or offering them a coffee while they’re in the store. Whatever IT is, make sure that it creates a feeling or experience that they will remember.

 

If you can master even a few of these tips, you might just prompt your customers to get off their couches, out of their desks, away from their computers and return to your store, over and over. Keep in mind that you have weapons unavailable to the online world and use them to your advantage. Make sure you don’t miss Part Two of this article, when we’ll look at how you can also add strategies from online retailers to your arsenal.

 

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business or for personal risk management, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

Insurance Options for Your Small Business

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Bullfrog Insurance now offers small business owners the option of purchasing either a Business Owners Policy or a Liability Only Policy for their small business. With two options for you to choose from to protect your small business against risk, we want to ensure that you don’t get confused by which policy is right for you.

We are here to help you make the right decision for your business when it comes to its insurance protection. Here is some insight to help clarify the differences between the two types of policy options we offer so you can make the right choice based on your business’ needs:

 

1. Business Owners Policy (full package deal).

What does this option include?

This full package automatically includes Property Coverage, Business Interruption/Income Coverage, Crime Coverage, Equipment Breakdown Insurance, Commercial General Liability, Non-owned Automobile Liability and comprehensive package extensions such as Cyber Event Expense, Installation Floater etc.

Is this right for my small business?

This full package is great for business owners who have a physical business property or own valuable tools, equipment etc.

 

2. Liability Only Policy.

What does this option include?

The Liability Only option includes Commercial General Liability and Non-owned Automobile Liability.

Is this right for my small business?

This is good for business owners who have a home office only and no business assets that they care to cover in the event of a fire, theft etc.

 

If you have any questions regarding the two policy options available through Bullfrog Insurance or have any other questions regarding your business insurance needs, our brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

Avoid the Burnout by Making Work-Life Balance a Priority

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As a small business owner and/or entrepreneur, you most likely find yourself working 24/7 and the idea of having a work-life balance is a mystical concept that doesn’t fit within modern day society. Although it can be difficult to implement and maintain, developing a work-life balance is possible and essential when it comes to avoiding the dreaded burnout.

It’s important to understand that everyone is different and so are our responsibilities, which is why there is no cookie cutter plan to ensuring an effective work-life balance approach and strategy . Between organizing effective growth strategies for your small business and ensuring your clients are effectively being taken care of and valued, do your best to make your personal life outside of the office a priority.

Here are some tips on how to incorporate a work-life balance into your schedule:

 

Unplug at the End of the Day.

Working 7 days a week and having your phone always within arms reach 24 hours a day will ultimately make you feel drained and pushed to your limits. Being on call 24/7 will ultimately lead to a burn out and will hinder your ability to focus 100% on your small business. Make it a priority to turn off all your devices at a specific time in the evening in order to re-energize and take a fresh approach to your tasks the following day.

 

Create a Schedule and Prioritize Items on a Daily Basis.

Whether the night before or the day of, make it an effort to put together a schedule for each day so that you can prioritize your tasks and tackle them effectively. Creating a list  will also allow you the opportunity to analyze what items are urgent, what items can be dealt with within the day, and/or what items may need further follow-up.

 

Make Time for Family and Friends.

Although this can seem impossible at times, your family and friends should always be a top priority because at the end of the day, these individuals are most likely your support system and deserve your time and attention. The key to ensuring you spend quality time with your family and friends is to pre-plan and book time off accordingly. By pre-planning, it refrains you from reverting back to the famous line of ‘If I have time after work.”

 

Delegate Work Off Your Plate.

Sometimes you have to give up the control and hand over some of your workload to your employees to handle. They are there for the common goal of seeing the business grow and succeed so let them aid in seeing those goals achieved. By trying to juggle everything at once, you risk not being able to effectively tackle tasks efficiently and with focus.

 

Invest in Your Well-being and Take Care of Your Health.

By getting a full nights rest, eating right, and making an effort to exercise when possible, you are making an investment in your health and your businesses success. By taking care of yourself, you are ensuring that you are always tackling your work as the most productive version of yourself. By investing in yourself you are investing in your business.

 

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

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