The 2018 Business Woman of Style has overcome heartache and now takes time to smell the roses in her career and personal life.
Sumter County native Rose Connell, 28, beamed with excitement and received high fives when it was announced she would be gracing this month’s Lake & Sumter Style cover.
The private risk management advisor for The Villages Insurance was the winner of a reverse drawing hosted in April at the eighth annual Business Women of Style gala at the Leesburg Opera House, home of Akers Media.
“I was just happy to be up there,” Rose says of making it to the final four. “And then when it was down to the last couple of people, my heart was just beating. It was just so exciting and so cool to hear that I was going to be on the cover. Winning this has made my year!”
The Villages Insurance, which has eight offices and about 65 employees, was eager to participate in the 2018 Business Women of Style, Rose says. “Our marketing director is very involved in the community; she knows everyone is reading Style, and it’s in many offices, too.”
Employed at The Villages Insurance for six years, Rose now works at the insurance’s operations center at Southern Trace, where she specializes in putting together insurance portfolios for clients with high-valued homes, automobiles, and other assets—all personal lines.
“I love the people at my job, the atmosphere, and the environment. It is always friendly, positive, upbeat, and encouraging,” Rose says. “It’s a great company and they care a lot about people. They listen to us, it is very service-focused, and we always put the customer first.”
Clients are served all over Florida, not just in The Villages, and Rose says many customers also have homes in other states that need insurance coverage.
Jody Harter, chief operating officer, praises Rose’s work ethic and dedication.
“I am very proud of Rose and all of her accomplishments and her growth since she has been with the agency,” Jody says. “She is a very caring individual and always has our clients’ best interest at heart.”
Rose’s job in The Villages came at the right time, giving her the 9-to-5 hours she wanted as a working mother. She previously worked in the medical field in Clermont, and the commute became too much after she experienced a personal tragedy seven years ago when her then-fiancé and the father of her two daughters was involved in a terrible car accident.
“He is still alive but is fully incapacitated living in a nursing home. He can’t talk or walk,” Rose says. “When that happened to him, it was challenging. I went through the roller coaster of emotions, and once you go through something like that, it makes you stronger. You learn from it, and you don’t let the little things bother you because you know things could always be worse.”
Rose smiles as she talks about finding love after the tragedy.
“I wasn’t looking; it just happened,” she says of meeting her husband, James. They’ve been married five years, and Rose loves how devoted James is to her daughters, Isabella, 9, and Emily, 8.
“It’s a great relationship,” she says, recalling her husband cared for the girls when she had to devote hours to studying for her insurance state exam.
Rose initially started at The Villages Insurance as a receptionist, a position she held for a year, then received her license to be an insurance agent. She had to wait a year to take the state exam, which she passed the first time—something many people do not achieve.
She attributed her success to James and her employer.
“My husband being at home with the kids helped. Every day when I came home, I was studying at home and he was taking care of the kids so that I could focus on studying,” she says. “My employer was really good, too, because they knew a lot of people struggle [with the exam], so they gave me time during work hours to study.”
Rose cherishes every moment she has with her daughters.
“My kids are Mommy’s girls. We’re together every waking moment that we can be together,” she says, adding she knew her daughters would be so excited to see this month’s cover of Style.
“They are going to be screaming, telling all of their friends, all of my friends, all of our family, and they are going to be so proud.”
Her advice to other working women and young moms is to make the most of their lives, be there for their kids, and set goals.
“Just keep going. Don’t hesitate, don’t question yourself, just go,” she says. “If you don’t ask for something you want, then the answer is always going to be ‘no.’ Have goals, and I’m not going to stop with mine.”
Rose says she feels compelled to help others.
“I like to help people and I like to be involved. I want to do something that makes a difference,” she says. “I’ve pushed through,” she adds of her work. “I was a receptionist, I was a writing agent, I was a manager, and I’m going to keep going.”
Her ultimate desire is to be in a leadership position.
“I want to help people become better than they already are. I want to help people succeed and have the confidence to just keep going,” she says.
Rose also makes a conscious effort to inspire her daughters.
“I tell them to love themselves, believe in themselves, and to push themselves,” she says. “You should always be looking for a challenge; you should always be looking to grow, and to learn something new. I tell them all the time that I am still learning.”
She also believes it’s vital for her daughters to know it’s important to learn from their mistakes.
Someday, Rose would love to travel worldwide, and she notes her desire to try skydiving is a more realistic and closer bucket-list goal.
She’s appreciative of her Florida roots and of being raised by her 87-year-old grandmother, Iris, who lives in Sumter County. They share the bond of being named after flowers.
“I love it, and I do love my name,” says Rose, who has been given roses throughout her life and serenaded with song lyrics and poems about her name.
“I hear every line from the ‘Titanic’ movie, and ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” she says, grinning. “I hear them all.”
Among the lovely Rose quotes:
“There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.” —Ralph Wa ldo Emerson
“What a lovely thing a rose is!” —Arthur Conan Doyle
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” —William Shakespeare
And Rose song titles:
“Nothing’s Prettier than Rose Is”
“Love Is a Rose”
“Rose, Rose, I Love You”