In life, you can’t be afraid to go where you’ve never gone and do what you’ve never done, because both are necessary to have what you’ve never had and be who you’ve never been.
Drop the mic on that philosophy and then pass that mic over to Ivelina Dimitrova. Ivelina has no fear.
“So when I was 25 I left everything behind in Bulgaria,” says Ivelina. “I had $500 in my pocket. I won a green card through the lottery there and that’s how I ended up here. I packed two suitcases and I moved from Bulgaria to Delaware. I had one friend who I had known from before, she’s Dominican, and I met her through a work and travel program that I had been in while I was in college. She hosted me at her house and I stayed there for two months until I figured out what I was going to do.”
In other words, it wasn’t just a simple move from one state to another in the US, but instead a move away from another country, another culture, and another way of life.
“I grew up in a lower-middle-class family in Bulgaria and the country was just coming out of communism when I was born, says Ivelina. “I remember when I was little, my mom had to stand in line at the grocery store to be able to get a jar of yogurt or milk or rice or a bottle of oil, cooking oil because we were still under that regime and it was kind of difficult. So I grew up knowing that everything is limited. We had limited resources, you didn’t have any fancy clothes or own anything too shiny. You have one option for everything in the store and everything was really limited. So I grew up knowing to value things. I also grew up knowing that one day I want my life to be different. I don’t have to be limited. I want to get the things that I want and do the things that I want and I don’t want to be limited by certain situations.”
Since coming to USHEALTH Advisors in 2018, Ivelina has been living as limitless as possible, producing more than $5 million in personal insurance policies issued, and is now a Satellite Division Sales Leader with the company. It’s been quite the journey, but Ivelina has faced and overcome every challenge.
“So six years ago, it was a different environment with the company,” says Ivelina. “We didn’t have as much diversity and then there was no one with an accent in my office making sales. When we were doing a script practice, I looked at another agent and she said, “You know what? It’s going to be very difficult for you to make sales with this accent.” So I walked out, I cried in my car and I had a choice to stay there sad and dejected or to prove them all wrong. So it became a really big motivation for me to prove them wrong. It took me a little bit longer than your average agent to get things going for myself, but once I did, it’s been only good things from there.
Ivelina says she appreciated the support from her team in Tampa, but her biggest supporter and motivator was someone even closer to her, the man she met when she came to America.
“I actually met my husband Andy in Delaware and he’s also from Bulgaria,” says Ivelina. “We had a similar story and we connected quickly and got married pretty fast. And we’ve been married for more than 10 years now.”
“My husband has been the one person who’s always been there for me,” says Ivelina, “and he was the one that believed in me more than I did. He was working for a plumbing company at the time I started at USHA. That’s not what he wanted to do. He had to get a job while I was trying to figure out my life. So he was basically sacrificing for me to try to set up my business. And after I started making things happen for myself, actually about three or four years ago, he started helping me as an assistant. Once I was a top producer, he was helping me, working his other job during the day, and then helping me out. And three years ago he decided to completely quit his job and he got licensed as well. He doesn’t work with USHA, he’s a marketplace-licensed broker. So he helps out with referrals and most importantly, he’s my right-hand man.”
Ivelina says it was also her husband who pushed her to join USHA in the first place, even though he had been leery about a move from Delaware down to Florida. The couple moved south after Ivelina got a promotion working as a manager at a retail store, but it wasn’t long before she said she had enough.
“I walked out of my corporate job because I had four weeks of paid time off and I had shaken hands with my upline and they told me that in October of that year, I could go see my family back in Bulgaria. But when the time came and I said, “Hey, I’m about to go see my family, as we agreed” they said, “Nope, sorry, it’s a bad time, you can’t go.” I said, “What happened to my paid time off?” They looked at me with a smirk and said, you lose it. And that’s when my heart dropped and I said, I can’t do this. I did not move here for this. And I walked away from what I thought was a good corporate job and I sat at home for about three months. I told my husband, I’m not going to get to work for anyone else who can control my life or tell me when I can go see my family and when I can’t.”
After Ivelina saw the initial pitch for the opportunity with USHEALTH Advisors she was still unsure, but it was Andy who told her to take the risk, even though taking risks wasn’t something Andy didn’t like doing himself. But he believed in his wife’s ability to make it happen.
“I said to my husband, this is too good to be true,” says Ivelina. “I walked into a pitch and a group interview and Jason Greif, (USHA Regional Leader), came in, gave us his speech and I thought, again, this is just too good to be true. I walked out and called my husband, I said, “Nope, I can’t do this. I just interviewed for this scam job, it sounds too good. I am not going to waste my time. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“My husband said, “What else are you going to do at home? You’ve been home for three months. You have no idea what you’re going to do and you say you don’t want to work corporate, so here’s an opportunity for you to be self-employed.” “And I was like, you know what? That makes sense. And just the fact that my husband was so supportive it kind of pushed me to do it. And once I started working with USHEALTH Advisors and I looked around, everyone was just so successful. I was like, if all these people can make it, I have to make it. I have no plan B, no choice, no other options. This is it. I have to make it work.”
Work, it’s the four-letter word that is the differentiator between those who are successful and those who are not. But there’s another four-letter word that is a separator between those who just make it and those who rise to the top of their game.
That word is risk.
Since her life back in Bulgaria, not only has Ivelina been willing to put in the work but she has never been one to shy away from taking the risk to get better, to think outside the box, to provide value to others, and to make her own life better. Her advice should help anyone looking to take their own career to the next level.
“I was open-minded to try new things and different things. I was always looking for different sources of leads, for how I can grow my business,” says Ivelina. “I was always looking for something new to expand. I think before I was a top producer, I realized the need for an assistant. So I hired an assistant quite early. That helped me out a lot. I think it’s very important. That’s one thing I teach my agents. Once you can afford to get an assistant, even if it’s part-time, it’s going to tremendously help to scale your business. And then once the opportunity presents itself, if you can bring your life partner, brother, sister, or anyone that is family in to help because your family will have your back and be more invested than anyone else, that’s also a game changer as well.”
“But I’ll tell you what, at the beginning, I was pounding the phone just like anyone else and it was more challenging for me because of my accent, but I had to embrace it. So that was the adversity I had to overcome because in my head I thought people would not want to talk to me or buy from me. After all, I have an accent. But I made it work to where I was having fun with it. I completely did not care. I acted like, what accent? I don’t have one. And it worked in my favor. I feel like people would love talking to me because of my accent. And I always had little jokes. I always make them laugh. But I kept saying to myself, you know what, this phone thing is not great for me. I’m better in person. Let me try to build my business in person.”
“I became a big networking person and I started going to a lot of networking events. Maybe that’s why it took a little bit longer for me at the beginning, but I knew that’s something that I could actually scale. I was part of BNI groups, networking groups, you name it. There was a point before the pandemic when I knew 50% of the business owners in Tampa Bay and everyone knew me. I managed to become very well connected, my phone was ringing, and I was getting referrals, like inbound calls, which was amazing. I established really good connections among the small businesses in Tampa Bay. So I became good at networking and then I was like, well, I can scale this. And I started thinking I’m going to take advantage of my disadvantage, which is that I’m Bulgarian. Hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians live in the U.S.”
It was an idea and a mindset and a way to give back that fueled Ivelina’s career.
“So we started focusing on helping and serving my niche market, the Bulgarians in the U.S., and trust me, then I understood we did not move here for nothing. If I have this mindset, then most Bulgarians have this mindset. We’re hardworking people and a lot of them have businesses and are successful. So I started looking to educate the self-employed and business owners who are Bulgarians and then created a brand with my husband’s help, called BulGuard Health Solutions, catering to the Bulgarian community. We’re kind of popular in that community. They have seen us on Facebook, and they have seen our videos and our events. We are major sponsors to some of the Bulgarian Culture centers in the U.S. We donate a lot to them to maintain those centers, like the one they have in Chicago, where there is a big Bulgarian hub. So that’s something that has worked for us. We get multiple phone calls every day. I get at least seven to eight phone calls from people, mostly Bulgarian, and some other Eastern Europeans as well. It’s all word of mouth, and it’s been very good.”
Everything is going well for Ivelina, her husband Andy, and her growing team, but she still aches for the one thing that would make her overjoyed right now… and that is to be with her family. Ivelina’s parents were the ones who years ago applied to enter the green card lottery for a chance to come to the U.S. They didn’t win, but as Ivelina soon learned, she did!
It was exciting and heartbreaking all at the same time.
My parents have been applying for a green card lottery since it came into existence in Bulgaria in 1994, hoping to get it. I didn’t even know that they submitted my paperwork. My dad called me one day and said, “Hey, congrats, you want a green card?” And I said, “Well, I never applied for one.” He’s like, “Well, we did it for you so you’re good to go. We didn’t get it, but you can take advantage of it.” So I felt like I couldn’t disappoint them. They wanted me to get something more from my life.”
“At first I said, no, I’m not going back to the U.S., I’m staying in Bulgaria. I’m finishing my master’s degree in a couple of months. I have a good job and a good apartment. I thought I was having a good life and I don’t remember exactly what happened back then, but in a few weeks I thought about it and I decided that if God opens a door for you, don’t shut it, go right through it. And I thought to myself, you know what, I’ll give it a chance and if it doesn’t work out, I can always come back home.”
It took some time, but it did work out for Ivelina and her new life in the United States. She just wishes she could have brought her parents here as well.
“It’s an emotional topic for me,” says Ivelina, “because just a few months ago I applied for my parents to get a tourist visa just so they could come visit me, and they got denied. I think I’m going to get a lawyer and try to help them get a green card. I don’t think they want to live here at this point. They’re in their early sixties and have a peaceful, comfortable life in Bulgaria. I help them out financially, so I don’t think they want to move here, but I really would love for them to visit. I know they do want to visit as well, so I’m going to try again. But it’s challenging. It’s very hard and it takes time.”
It seems everything worthwhile does take time, even building an amazing career at USHEALTH Advisors. So Ivelina has some advice for a prospective agent, or even a new one starting at the company, and it’s advice that would be useful for anyone starting anything of value, especially a new business.
“I think no matter how great you are, if you’re in the wrong environment, you are worthless,” says Ivelina. “So you have to make sure you’re in the right environment and you’re surrounded by the right people. And you have to always focus on surrounding yourself with people who truly care for you and want to help you and support you. I found that with people like Jason Greif. He’s been a tremendous mentor for me and he was the one that planted the seed of this dream that I didn’t even know I had the capacity for.”
“Another thing I’ll say is that the only limits you have on your potential are the limits you set for yourself. If you truly believe that nothing is going to stop you, then it’s going to happen. You accomplish what you believe in. I think it’s all mindset.”
“Years ago, I thought it sounded impossible for me to get where I am right now. If you told me I’d have laughed at you. It seemed impossible. Every single day I had to repeat to myself, I’m successful, I’m successful. And now I’m making a multiple six-figure income and I live in a beautiful home in the nicest neighborhood in the area. I have a happy marriage. I have to remind myself all the time, and I have to manifest it every single day. And that’s been my mindset. Even if it was not the reality when I first thought about it, I repeated it to myself and I envisioned it and I believed it with my entire body.”
“I told myself I was meant for more.”
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.