Rising StarThe Founders of KEEFER Don’t Want You Involved in Risky Business

“Your insurance doesn’t cover that.” Those five words will make most people’s hearts skip a beat, particularly if you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have the overhead for unwanted surprises. By identifying risks and opportunities when it comes to insurance coverage, the founders of KEEFER are helping manufacturers in the athletic and outdoor industry rest better at night.

Here’s more from Chris and Garetta Keefer:

The spark that inspired the birth of your concept: All the roads we’ve taken have led to the creation of KEEFER, and timing was key. The climate in the athletic & outdoor industry was such that we were able to identify a real need. After a deeper look we realized we could marry our professional pasts with our personal passions and fill that hole. It was perfect, and right in front of our noses. However, if you would have asked us when we were first married if we thought we’d ever own a business and work together, I think it’s pretty safe to say we both would have had a good laugh.

The problem it solves: Brands and manufacturers are not being proactive with their risks, starting with their insurance programs. Most just rely on agents to tell them what insurance they need, and then do nothing further… that is, until they are blind-sided by a loss and pray one of those legalese insurance contracts they just bought covers them. This is a problem now more than ever with multi-tiered supply chains, complex distribution networks, and cybersecurity concerns. As a law practice, we’re able to effectively assist businesses in selecting insurance policies based on their individual universe of risks, work with brokers and carriers to tailor coverage to their needs, and then assert claims when necessary. All of this helps these businesses focus on what they do best: delivering incredible product to their customers.

The best thing about being an entrepreneur: An obvious answer would be that it’s great working for yourself and working together. We also get excited when we start thinking about the fact that our brand, KEEFER, can help businesses achieve their goals in a unique way.

The biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date: We’ve been overwhelmed by how gracious and generous the entrepreneurial community in Oregon has been. People are genuinely interested in what we are doing and most have shared in our excitement. We truly believe there is no better place to be an entrepreneur than Portland, Oregon.

Your biggest success: Chris: I managed a team of lawyers and insurance brokers in a group of lawsuits that put a key subsidiary at risk for shutting down. I worked with C-suite and senior executives to develop strategies resulting in successful settlement of these cases, which allowed the subsidiary to stay in business. I further negotiated insurance contracts with multiple carriers attempting to deny coverage on these lawsuits, ultimately recovering nearly $50 million for the company. Garetta: After graduating from college, I taught kindergarten on the Jicarilla Apache reservation in Lumberton, New Mexico. I thought not having an education degree would be the hardest part of my time there. Boy was I wrong! It turned out to be a life-changing experience, one I’d do again in a heartbeat. Helping guide those kids on their journeys as individuals was extremely rewarding.

Your biggest failure: Chris: In 2003, I was part of a team that lost a jury trial because we focused way too much energy on a witness we believed would win the day for us. Well, we lost big, and it was because we had taken the quality of the other side’s position for granted. Ever since then, I’ve always respected an adversary and never EVER taken the merits of their position for granted.

The best entrepreneurial advice you have received: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” – Quote by John Lydgate, which has kept us grounded.

Your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: Step outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and never make them twice.

The song that best describes your entrepreneurial journey: “Faithfully” by Journey (no pun intended) has been a staple throughout our relationship. It always seems to apply to whatever crossroads we’re approaching… not sure if it describes anything entrepreneurial, but Chris sure does like to sing it at karaoke.

The future and what wild success looks like: We would always keep Portland as homebase, and expand the model geographically to states that have strong product creation footprints. Given growth and demand for services, we would also expand to ensure all consumer products industries have access to our specialized services. But no matter how “wildly successful” KEEFER becomes, we will always be a part of the entrepreneurial community.

Your favorite local business: Toro Bravo, Inc. You can see the branding in every one of the restaurants, but still have a unique experience in each. There is also an attention to detail that all businesses, whether product or service providers, can aspire to. Oh yeah, and their food is pretty awesome, too.

What did you wanted to be when you grew up: Chris wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon! During high school, he used to teach tennis at a local club and one of the members was a prominent surgeon. Chris would trade lessons to his son for opportunities to come to the hospital and watch knee and hip surgeries. However, organic chemistry his sophomore year of college helped him recognize his stronger suits, and he became a finance major. Garetta wanted to join the Peace Corps.

Fun fact: Chris writes children’s poetry, dabbles in the ukulele, used to have a 130-mph tennis serve, and loves the Chicago Cubs. Garetta likes high-intensity workouts, live music, and the ritual of dining at a nice restaurant. But she truly loves nothing more than hearing the sound of her boys’ belly-laughter.

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