Jump to Main Content
USA flagAn Official Website of the United States Government

North Florida District Office Success Stories

North Florida District Office Success Stories

Sonia Taboada and Juan Cafarelli

Jacksonville, FL – Sonia Taboada, Owner of Sentinel Insurance Specialists, Inc., is not only a successful small business owner, but also her own client. Taboada sold nearly 300 health insurance policies, including one to herself, under the self-employed provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) within a few months of launching her own business.

Taboada is originally from Puerto Rico, but lived in New Jersey for most of her life where she gained an appreciation and passion for healthcare due mostly to her personal experience with her son. Her son was born deaf, but was misdiagnosed as having cerebral palsy. Eventually, after the diagnosis was corrected, Taboada faced additional challenges related to her son’s education. Taboada hoped her son could continue in a school that offered “total communication services for the deaf” as he did in middle school; however a lack of programmatic support for deaf students in the district meant her son would have to attend a mainstream high school. The experience left the family in disarray, as her son was harshly bullied in the new school. Taboada decided to relocate to Florida and send her son to the School for the Deaf and Blind in Saint Augustine, FL.  Today her son is a police officer for Gallaudet University, a private college for the deaf.  It was through this experience that Taboada became an advocate for not just the deaf, but also for those who could not get health insurance based on obstacles such as pre-existing conditions.

Upon relocation to Florida, Taboada found employment at one of Florida’s largest insurance companies and obtained her license to sell health insurance with a specialization in Medicare.  After undergoing a voluntary layoff, Taboada worked for a small construction company that could not provide healthcare for its employees. It was in November of 2013 that Taboada decided to leave her position with the construction company, and launch her own insurance business.

“I was greatly bothered by the sheer number of people denied insurance based on pre-existing conditions. When the ACA became law, I saw a great opportunity to help people who previously never had insurance because it was too expensive or they just didn’t qualify,” stated Taboada.

Taboada identified a need for outreach to the Hispanic community and started advertising in Spanish newspapers to generate clientele. Within a few weeks of advertising, Taboada experienced several “standing room only” days in her small office in response to the advertising and subsequent word of mouth referrals she received from the Hispanic community.

Juan Cafarrelli, President and Owner of B&B Granite & Marble LLC, is one of Taboada’s clients. Cafarelli owns a small construction company based out of Jacksonville, FL, and previously was unable to obtain any insurance for himself. Cafarelli stated “I have lived and worked in this Country for 11 years, and prior to the availability of the marketplace, I simply could not afford insurance.”  Because of the ACA, he was able to obtain insurance through the individual Marketplace.

Small business owners with an income-generating business and no employees are considered self-employed (not an employer) and can get coverage through the individual Marketplace. Small businesses with 2-50 employees (generally, workers whose income you report on a W-2 at the end of the year), are considered employers; information about coverage for business owners and their employees is available through the SHOP Marketplace. For more information on the ACA individual and SHOP marketplaces, visit the Healthcare.gov website. 

Taboada faced a unique business problem that startups rarely face; she had to turn people away because she was not able to meet the demand by herself. Taboada is currently working with SCORE to determine the best ways to grow her business. SCORE is an SBA resource partner that provides counseling and low-cost training to startup businesses, but the organization also provides mentoring for entrepreneurs at all stages. For more information about SCORE, visit www.score.org.

Sonia Taboada, Owner of Sentinel Insurance Specialists, Inc. may be contacted at 3980 Southside Blvd. #103, Jacksonville, FL 32216 or at (904) 641-6789 or through www.sentinel-centinela.com.