Solum Gives Back to Pacific Palisades

By Laurel Busby
Staff Writer

When his wife Jennifer was pregnant with their first child, Michael Solum wanted to return to his hometown of Pacific Palisades to raise their children.

Part of this change involved switching career paths, and a friend from his days on the USC football team suggested opening a Farmers Insurance agency. This would be a shift from his work in sports marketing, but the idea took root.

Michael, Sierra, Kaia and Jennifer are rooted in the Palisades Community. Photo: Lesly Hal

Michael, Sierra, Kaia and Jennifer are rooted in the Palisades Community. Photo: Lesly Hal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I had always wanted my own business, but never could figure out what that business would be,” said Solum, who earned a B.A. in business administration from USC in 1993. “This opportunity presented itself, and I went after it.”

Solum, then a Venice resident, enrolled in a Farmers Insurance program that taught about the company’s products. In 2009, three months after his daughter Sierra, now 7, was born, he opened his agency at 881 Alma Real. A second daughter, Kaia, 5, joined the family two years later, and both are now enrolled at his childhood school, Corpus Christi.

“It’s great to be back where I grew up and serve the community,” said Solum, who lives in the Highlands and enjoys dropping his kids off at school seconds away from his business office. “I love being in the area and not really having to leave unless I have to.”

Solum, who grew up on Toyopa with his parents Conrad and Alli and his three sisters Lori, Kami and Kathy, has also enjoyed giving back to his hometown by sponsoring the Corpus Christi golf tournament and providing water for the 10K race, of which Farmers Insurance is now an official sponsor.

Farmers is his agency’s main insurance provider, but Solum also offers varied insurance products from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Aetna and other insurance companies. His business has two agents and five employees in total, including Shannon Winters, who also grew up in the Palisades. The company provides all types of coverage, including home, health, auto, life and small business. His niece Meghan, 22 (daughter of his sister Lori Middleton, who also lives in the Palisades), assists with on- line marketing and also bakes cookies for the holiday baskets the company sometimes sends to local real estate agents, mortgage brokers and escrow agents.

The real estate industry brings him a good portion of his business through referrals for homeowners’ policies, Solum said. His local expertise has made him particularly capable with helping people who need insurance in high fire danger areas, where coverage is sometimes hard to find.

“Due to this drought, it’s become harder and harder to get fire insurance up in the hills,” Solum said. “We have other markets that we can go to if Farmers won’t take it … Real estate agents will sometimes get stuck and say, ‘My client can’t find insurance, but we need insurance to close the loan.’ Just being in the area, we know where to go. We know who will take a $5-million home up in the fire line.”

Solum said his company may personally inspect the homes as part of finding a workable policy. “We really pride ourselves on superior customer service.”

Part of that service involves providing clients with annual reviews to make sure they don’t need to alter their polices when their circumstances change, either from adding assets or downsizing. “People buy insurance and forget it, but if you haven’t updated in 30 years, there’s a problem,” Solum noted.

He also offers the same service for potential clients. For example, he said a friend’s mother recently came to him after her husband died so that Solum could assess her policy coverage. Everything looked good, so he suggested that she retain her current coverage. At other times, more insurance is needed.

“All insurance is the same until you have a claim,” Solum said. “If you have a claim and you’re not properly covered, then you’re mad, because you weren’t protected for this or that. We try to button all that up before you walk out the door to make sure you’re properly covered.”

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