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Insurance entrepreneur Dan Garzella’s perseverance and commitment to the professional growth of his employees has led to a legacy of helping others succeed.

I nsurance wasn’t on Dan Garzella’s mind as he drove his Mitsubishi Eclipse from Michigan to Arizona in 2003 at 23 years old. A recent graduate of Central Michigan University following friends to the Grand Canyon State, he arrived unemployed and with $500 to his name.

“I figured that I could work as a server when I got there,” says Garzella. “I went to at least 50 bars and restaurants before I was hired, only to find the place shut down on my first day of work. I had to take one of the first jobs I could get, which came from a recruiter at Farmers Insurance.”

Encouraged by his father and mentor to become a scratch agent, Garzella accepted the offer, got his insurance license, and was provided a list of leads for selling home and auto insurance. After 10 years, he become one of the top five agents in the country at Farmers Insurance.

“Perseverance, persistence, and a commitment to the growth and success of others drive me forward,” says Garzella. “I look at every challenge as an opportunity and apply that mindset to my mentorship. I get a lot of intrinsic value out of seeing someone succeed after walking them through a step-by-step process.”

Personalizing Insurance

After working his way to the top of Farmers Insurance, Garzella saw an opportunity to create his own brokerage to better serve clients and provide employees with opportunities for growth. It meant risking everything for a dream that might fail, but in 2014, he took the risk and founded The Garzella Group.

Dan Garzella
Dan Garzella Founder of the Garzella Group

“Starting over was daunting, but I found opportunities in the risk,” says Garzella. “I wanted to make good on the commitments that I made with the team that led to my success and I knew we could do more. So I sold the Farmers agency and used the money plus a business loan to pay the salaries of my employees and worked seven days a week for 18 months before I felt I had a foundation secure enough to build on.”

Since 2014, the brokerage has grown from an idea to handling $62 million in premium organically without acquisition, leveraging cutting-edge technology developed to overcome industry hurdles for customers, employees, and partners.

“I wanted consumers to have options with their insurance rather than defaulting to a one-size-fits-all solution,” Garzella explains. “As independent agents, we can provide consumers with a multitude of options without a scale that caps us. This offers the highest level of creativity for a business owner and increases our ability to solve problems with creative solutions.”

Garzella group team

The Darkhorse Difference

As Garzella Group agents continued to find success, many considered starting brokerages of their own. Rather than turn them away, Garzella wanted to help them by sharing the platform and expertise that made his brokerage successful, and in doing so, launched Darkhorse Insurance Brokers in 2023.

“I started Darkhorse for people in the same place I was 10 years ago, moving from the captive to the independent world,” says Garzella. “It was initially created for agents who had worked with me and were looking to start something for themselves. I figured, ‘Why have them leave when I can build a vehicle to help them create their own companies?’

As someone who understands the fear and uncertainty of starting a brokerage from scratch, Garzella designed Darkhorse to expedite the process and alleviate risk. The foundation that took him 18 months to create can be replicated in two to four weeks for clients with a turnkey platform that allows them to start their own agencies.

“The overriding thoughts in my head when I was starting my own company were ‘How long is it going to take me to recover financially?’ and ‘Will I succeed before my money runs out?’” says Garzella. “The Darkhorse platform solves for time from the operational standpoint, getting a business up and running within weeks rather than months so that agents can sell a policy, generate revenue, and take care of customers.” Beyond providing a foundation, Darkhorse helps entrepreneurs customize their business plans and strategies to determine goals and interests and then matches them with subject matter experts to provide one-on-one mentorship and insight. “The plethora of expertise and experience that our subject matter experts bring allows people to build an agency based off of what they like and are interested in,” says Garzella.

A Legacy of Opportunity

A Legacy of Opportunity In the 20 years since stumbling upon the insurance industry, Garzella has founded four companies including Avalon Risk Management, a proprietary product for commercial real estate developed to boost both NOI and ROI. Like Darkhorse, Avalon was created as a solution to a challenge he faced with the Garzella Group and a desire to expand his services to accommodate the needs of customers and ambitions of employees.

“At its forefront, insurance is peace of mind. It’s support at a time when you need it the most,” explains Garzella, reflecting on the legacy he leaves behind. “I want to provide that same support for my team. I’m proud of the opportunities we’ve created. Every time an employee buys their first house, a car, or anything that improves their life, I know that I helped them.”

I look at every challenge as an opportunity and apply that mindset to my mentorship.

Closing on a dream home is more challenging than ever due to a housing market where real estate prices and interest rates are significantly higher than in previous years. To combat this, Garzella Group developed a proprietary software to provide homebuyers with greater buying power by lowering their debt-to-income ratio.

“ was created as a solution for consumers unable to close on their dream house,” says CEO Dan Garzella. “We work with lenders, real estate agents, and consumers to lower the debt-to-income ratio with reductions in the insurance premium to allow a deal to underwrite better, in turn, helping consumers get their home.”