Nicole Eliopoulos is not one to enjoy the spotlight, but her years of dedicated community service and business leadership have shined a bright light on her, earning the public praise of her local business colleagues as she was recognized as this year’s Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year.
In her early 20s, Eliopoulos quit working at a high-end invitation store in Manhattan whose clients included Michael Douglas and Rupert Murdoch, in hopes of starting afresh with more fulfilling work.
“Sales didn’t make sense to me because we were selling a piece of paper for $2,500,” she said. “I needed a break from that industry, because I didn’t believe in it, and thought it wasn’t worthwhile for me.”
Little did Eliopoulos know, she would find her calling in the insurance industry, working for State Farm. Pulled into the business by a family friend, she began working for a State Farm Agent in 2000.
“I worked for three agents and ran an office as manager for many years,” said Eliopoulos. She found herself owning her own State Farm agency 16 years later.
The company offered her a way to serve others in the not-so-glamorous but surprisingly intimate business of insurance, particularly life insurance.
“What I found State Farm to be was about helping people,” Eliopoulos said. “You kind of become almost like a counselor to some families because they come, they sit down, they talk to you about everything, and you help guide them for the coverage that they need to protect their families. I’m not a salesperson. I want to get to know people, know their families, and know how I can help them.”
That people-first attitude explains everything she does at the agency, from the hiring of her staff to the way she conducts sit-downs with her clients.
“That ‘good neighbor’ motto of State Farm and taking care of people and protecting their assets is what insurance is about,” she said. “I’ve learned from so many types of claims where people benefited from me being there to take care of them and their families when a loss happens.”
Now a seasoned insurance agent, Eliopoulos is also a bona fide “mompreneur,” overseeing a 14-person staff team while also balancing the vital, sometimes elusive responsibilities of motherhood, with four children.
“It’s a tough balance. Most women somehow figure out multitasking very well because we all have to do it in different aspects of our lives every day,” said Eliopoulos. “I have a husband who has been a very good partner who helps push me ahead, so I’m very lucky in that sense.”
Eliopoulos nurtures a team of staff members that much like her have come from wildly different industries and found themselves at crossroads with their current careers in search of something more.
“This place offers an opportunity where you can take care of your family, provide for them, and feel good about what you’re doing here,” Eliopoulos said. “I don’t look at this as just a job, this is a career. Something you can build on. I run my office like a family and have that small office feel.”
She is a role model to her team members.
“When I first met her, she was very lively, very energetic,” said staff member Santina Arrigo who joined her office more than a year ago. ”She had a clear vision of what she wanted for her business. It was a great fit for me. She’s been an awesome boss. She’s very involved with the community and the schools.”
She’s not only sought to nurture the talent and job satisfaction of her employees but has delved into a variety of volunteering opportunities and leadership roles.
“I love to volunteer. I coach for the Hewlett-Woodmere Little League and am involved in a little bit of everything,” said Eliopoulos, who worked with Chamber members to provide services and donate to worthwhile causes from donating foodstuff to House of Hope to their latest project to return the Christmas tree lighting to the Gibson train station.
“Nicole is our Secretary at the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association. She is also my friend. She is an excellent business person. Her honesty and professionalism are to be admired,” said David Friedman, President of the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association. “I’m happy she’s being recognized as Valley Stream’s Business Person of the Year.
“The idea of grassroots efforts from the ground up is the best way to support communities — and businesses supporting their communities — is the way to go," said Eliopoulos. "But the truth is, the commitment we make is not just to the chamber. What you want to do to support the businesses is to support each other.”
“It’s incredible and I’m touched to be honored by my peers,” she said of her recognition. “I’m very proud of this award and humbled.”
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