The 2018 Mel Bedwell Small Business Person of the Year reflects the commitment to customer service and community that earned Pam Nelson recognition as winner of this year’s small business award, presented at an award luncheon on Wednesday.
The Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce recognized Ms. Nelson, owner of Ocoee Insurance Services, because she “lives the definition every single day,” said nominator Amanda Nelson-Troyer. “Under the toughest of pressure and tightest of deadlines, she handles herself with grace and poise. For more than 20 years, Pam Nelson has proved that kindness, respect and positive attitude can transform your life and those around you as well.”
Ms. Nelson is the 20th individual to receive the Bedwell Small Business Person of the Year award since its renaming to honor the contributions of the late Mel Bedwell and 25th to receive the award since this recognition program began. Bedwell was one of the most loyal and supportive members of the Small Business Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, which coordinates Business Development Month.
Forming the basis for the Bedwell Award are staying power, growth in number of employees, increase in sales or unit volume, innovativeness of product or services offered, response to adversity, and evidence of contribution by the nominee to aid community-oriented projects.
Ms. Nelson started Ocoee Insurance Services in 1993. She was in a one-room office on the third floor of the Craigmiles Hall on Ocoee Street. She was secretary, office manager, human resources, public relations, saleswoman, bookkeeper, and owner. By 2003, Pam had a beautiful office built on Harle Avenue by her husband Ben, owner of Tennessee Craftsman. From a manual typewriter to multiple computers with wifi, her business has stood the test of time.
Currently Ms. Nelson has five full-time employees in the office and one outside sales person. “She is extremely good to her employees, offering them comfortable workspaces and generous salary packages,” said Ms. Nelson-Troyer. “Growth is continuing and she plans to hire more employees.”
As proof of continued growth, Ms. Nelson is now employing three more employees than she did just five years ago. From pencil and pad, she now requires a computer based Customer Management System to maintain all records. Ocoee Insurance Services is continually looking at and talking with peers, to find better ways of doing business. Additional phone lines have been installed to support the increased call volumes.
“Many changes have occurred in the insurance business over the years, especially the last five of them,” said Ms. Nelson-Troyer. “When President Obama announced the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Pam immediately started doing her homework. She worked closely with staff to ensure that we had the manpower and information necessary to take this monumental task on.” Ocoee Insurance Services provides solutions and options for individuals and small businesses needing affordable healthcare under the new law.
“Pam has built a very reputable and knowledgeable insurance company that is founded on innovative products, dynamic sales, and customer service,” Kimberly Casteel, client, friend and president of USA Mortgage, Inc. said. ”Pam is very proactive, confident, and helpful with her expert knowledge of the insurance business. She has also built a great team at Ocoee Insurance Services who follow her lead through a display of excellent communication and knowledge to their customers.”
Bradly County Mayor Gary Davis added, “Pam Nelson and her company truly excel in this niche insurance market. Their ability to work alongside our Human Resources staff to secure coverage, provide and help answer the barrage of related insurance questions, quickly and correctly, for over 700 employees have truly proven what their web page marketing extols. They know how to help solve your insurance puzzle.”
Ms. Nelson does not just stay behind her desk or knock on business doors in the community. She has been a member of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce for over 20 years; which have included assisting in numerous membership drives and an alum of Leadership Cleveland, class of 1996. She serves on the Junior Achievement Board where she actively assists with fundraising. She is a past president of Cleveland Business and Professional Women’s Organization. Ms. Nelson was named top producing agent for multiple years by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and recipient of the distinguished Cariten Best New Broker in 2000. She is long standing member of Rotary International where she has served as a president for the Rotary of Cleveland Chapter along with additional volunteer leadership roles. Her agency has been the recipient of “Bradley County Best Insurance Agency” for 2014 and 2017. Ms. Nelson was also awarded the distinction of “Bradley County’s Best Boss” for three consecutive years - 2015, 2016 and 2017.
“As our company was also a customer and friend of Mel Bedwell, we can see many parallels of business conduct in Ocoee Insurance to those of Mr. Bedwell. Among those would be the customer is most important every day, always a pleasant smile, a kind word softly spoken, complete honestly and a desire to make our community a better place to live and work. Ms. Nelson has built her business on the foundation of these important attributes,” said Stephen Robinson, president of Cleveland Plywood Company.
Ms. Nelson and husband Ben share three children. A daughter, Venecia O’Bannon, and a grandson Jacob Anderson; a daughter and son-in-law, Amanda Nelson-Troyer and David Troyer; and a grandson, Dylan; and a son Reid, a senior at Walker Valley High School.
Ms. Nelson joins a list of previous winners of the Small Business Person of the Year: Bob McIntire, McIntire & Associates Insurance, Inc.; Jeff Cocks, Corporate Networking Solutions; Greg Hicks, Impressions Catering; Roger Pickett, MurMaid Mattress Inc.; Debbie Melton, Don Ledford Automotive Center; Shannon Ritzhaupt, Café Roma; Ed Jacobs, Ed Jacobs & Associates Inc. and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network; Hal Roe, Bradley Rentals; Jim Workman, Bender Realty LLC; Don Geren, Cleveland/Bradley Business Incubator; Steve Robinson, Cleveland Plywood; Lynn Jones, Lynn Jones Enterprises; Ross Tarver, Tarver Distributing Co. Inc.; Loye Hamilton, Coldwell Banker, Hamilton & Associates; Kenneth Higgins, Santek Environmental Inc.; Kay Jenkins Cowan, Jenkins Restaurant & Deli, Dan Cooke, Cooke’s Food Store and Panera Bread; Catherine Boettner, Cleveland Tubing; Jim Duggan, Robinson Building Center; Reba Garrison, State Farm Insurance; Ron Braam, Manufacturers Chemicals LLC; Susan Shelton, Bradley News Weekly; Larry McDaniel, Town Squire; and Mel Bedwell, Cleveland Business Machines.