Marian University Student Success Story – Kira Schnell-Harrison/Abbey Welsh

February 25, 2021

Former Sabres helping each navigate insurance industry and motherhood

For nearly a decade Abbey Welsh posed the question to Kira Schnell-Harrison annually like clockwork – when are you going to come work with me at State Farm Insurance?

“Anyone who knows Abbey knows she’s persistent and persuasive,” said Kira, a 2009 graduate, describing her close friend who began working for America’s largest property and casualty insurance provider immediately after graduating in 2008.

“For years I watched Kira selling for someone else, not creating her own path, and I just kept bugging her, wanting her to forge a new path that could also help others,” Abbey replied.

That path couldn’t have had a more unpredictable start given the challenges 2020 threw at Kira in her first year of owning a State Farm Insurance agency. But, with a little guidance from her fellow Sabre, she enters 2021 knowing the worst is behind her.

“Let’s just say, it was an interesting first year,” Kira laughed.

“The good news is that the worst is behind her,” Abbey added.

Each arrived at Marian University as an aspiring nurse – Abbey as a transfer student from Viterbo – but they both discovered early that Marketing was a better fit. From there they often crossed paths at the Fond du Lac Blue Line Family Ice Center, where Kira worked and where Abbey frequented as a manager of the men’s hockey team.

“If someone didn’t show up to work the hockey games, I was Abbey’s go-to,” Kira said.

Fitting, then, all these years later, that Abbey now serves as Kira’s go-to.

“I knew a lot about agency life from having seen Abbey go through it, but there’s no way I could have, or would have, done this on my own,” said Kira, who became a regional sales manager at an advertising firm right out of college before moving on to become a strategic account manager for a mattress manufacturer. “I appreciate that we’re best friends first, because there’s that established mutual respect, and it’s allowed me to ask questions without feeling judged.”

With Kira in a Chicago suburb and Abbey in Stoughton, Wis., those questions were asked during weekly check-ins the pair has established, and they’ve also had their staffs connect regularly – Abbey employs two full-timers and one part-timer, while Kira’s staff includes three full-timers and four-part timers.

“With being in different markets, it’s really beneficial for all of us to be able to bounce ideas off each other and push each other to be better,” Abbey said. “Our goals may be different, but in the end we each want the same thing, and it’s been awesome to experience the teamwork being displayed by both groups.”

Bouncing ideas off of each other doesn’t just extend to their careers, though. Within the past year each has had their first child, and their routine conversations have now begun to cover parenting as much as they do insurance.

“It’s important to both of us to be a leading female in this industry, so it’s been fortunate that we each have another person with us on this journey of motherhood,” Abbey said. “And we know that journey includes being the best managers we can be, and setting ourselves and others up for success.”