Garrett Guttenberg, 36, had two back surgeries, a disastrous house fire, and a death in the family in the span of about a month. He was at a point he was asking the powers that be, “what else do you got.” But he turned his tragedy into a business, Seaview Adjusting Group Inc., from his experience because he wasn’t happy with how his claims were being managed. His startup business was recently featured in the reality television show “The Blox,” which came on the Blox App on Jan. 26.
Graduating from Oceanside High School in 2005, Guttenberg went to the University of Albany and obtained a Bachelor of Science in finance and business management. He had plans to go into finance, but “the market crashed in 2008 and I went to law school.” He then graduated Touro Law School in 2012, but “two months before graduation I told everybody I’m not practicing law. That I’m going to go on my own and build my own insurance business.”
He became a broker, writing property, casualty, homeowner, auto and business policies. Everything was going smoothly until 2019.
“I had moved from Long Beach back to Oceanside, and I was in the house about nine months. When Earlier on a Sunday morning, I noticed my house was on fire. So, I got my wife and my one-year-old out of the house. We just got the front door and within five minutes the entire house was in flames. We lost the whole house,” he said.
Not happy the way the claim was being handled and finding things other adjustors were missing, he decided to fire the adjustors and file the claims himself. Soon after, he opened Seaview Adjusting Group Inc. in 2021 with his brother-in-law Eric Stroud a “token adjustor” with a construction and engineering background. Now he and four other guys jump when they hear of a fire, pipe break or flood.
“I really wanted to bring my personal experience, and I’ve lived through a lot, so when I walk into a fire the people think their life’s over and they lost everything. I say, ‘guys, I was okay, look at his pictures of my new house. My house was worse than this, everybody’s safe, you’re going to be fine,’” Gutteberg said, likening the role to being a therapist. The reliability to situations they cover help them help people settling their claims make sure the insurance companies are paying what they owe.
Things were going business as usual until Guttenberg saw on Facebook an advertisement looking for startups. He wrote in about his company and that his house burned down so he brings empathy with him on calls. Within 24 hours producers were calling him wanting to talk to “this guy from New York.” After a few rounds of interviews, he was in. But in what? A Shark Tank meets Apprentice show hosted by MTV’s Wes Bergmann with 60 entrepreneurs competing against each other for a week straight.
Guttenberg and Stroud flew to Kansas City where Bergmann invests in hundreds of local businesses in his hometown in a program, he calls the “startup accelerator.” There both were filmed sitting through classes on various topics that would help their business like online marketing, software, growing and investing. And after each lesson, all the groups would have ten minutes to put a presentation together for the judges. In the end, they were in the top third of all 60 companies.
“It’s emotional,” Guttenberg said, “Some of the judges are crying with people and it’s TV, so like maybe we didn’t cry enough. I don’t know.” But the experience was unforgettable, and on the plane ride back Guttenberg was already hiring new people and implementing ideas from the workshops. “That’s how amped up we are,” he said.
“When I left, I realized there was so many things within our business that we weren’t doing and if we wanted to really grow, we had to make changes,” Guttenberg said. He reached out to Oceanside business owners to form more collaborative bonds.
For those interested in entrepreneurship, Guttenberg says, “If you’re not worried and concerned, you’re probably not starting the right business. Because entrepreneurship is the hardest, most challenging thing that somebody can approach. There’s nothing easier than just showing up at work, nine to five. But if you’re passionate about it, and you’re nervous and worried and scared, that’s probably going to be the right business.”
Just remember, sometimes “the clock doesn’t stop.”