Kari E. Gray is an entrepreneur who has survived for 30 years with terminal liver cancer. At only 25, Kari was diagnosed with no medical options or chance of survival and faced some of the darkest days of her young life. With courage and determination, Kari chose to exhaust all options and opted for alternative medicine – that single decision changed her life. However, when she was denied health insurance, Kari’s life took a course that no one foresaw. At the time Kari was not only a young mother, but also a successful entrepreneur who had the finances to self-fund her expensive procedures. She realized self-funding was not something everyone could afford, and that injustice created a vision for change… but her first battle was with cancer. Through her sheer will to live, guidance from skilled naturopaths, commitment to a lifestyle change, combined with unceasing faith, Kari found the impossible possible with a miraculous remission. Read our interview with the lovely Kari below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my adult life. Surviving cancer was life-changing especially when you see first hand how toxic the healthcare system is. That’s when my naive trust in the system was replaced by facts that forced me to see innocent people sacrificed at the altar of ‘profit at all cost’. This is the dark side of medicine most know nothing about. Seeing health insurance as the conduit to all was an outrage. Thirty years ago I envisioned the ‘simple solution’ when I was denied health insurance. I knew nothing about how to create alternative medicine health insurance so I wasted over 20 years searching in-vain. As an entrepreneur, my personal strengths are problem solving, vision, passion, strong work ethic and good money management. For years I called myself a Problem-Resolution Specialist because as a mom and entrepreneur, it’s what we do. I used these skills to launch three successful companies from the ground up. But this vision for alternative medicine health insurance constantly lingered over my head. I kept looking to insurance for the answer, but found no answers.
In 2012 my life changed when I moved to Hawaii and started working for an insurance company for the first time. There I learned the mechanics of how insurance works and started to study the policies. All of a sudden, it was like the clouds parted and I felt a rush when I realized I had finally found what I had been searching for for decades. Excitement turned to planning how to get the project from conception to launch. I thought the first step to creating my company would be to underwrite the policy I would create. That’s when I hit the first obstacle – myriads of gatekeepers. Said to be a ‘needs based industry’ I thought the answer was to identify the need in a list of ready buyers that would make the pitch clear. Where better to find people than the web? So in June 2013 I launched a website called green-surance.com with a ‘pre-enroll’ in holistic health insurance message. The result? People loved it and soon I had list of pre-enrollments. I took the list to the company and found the same result. In fact no matter the company I approached, it was just more of the same. That’s when I realized this exercise was futile because I was going to corporations with ‘full dogs who don’t hunt’.
When I studied Obamacare which was soon to be enforced, I realized rates would skyrocket, and they did. Penalties positioned the industry with profits like no time in history, but it wasn’t until the president left office that the real sting was felt. The ACA legislation is where I found the ‘back door’ out of Obamacare and insurance. That was another ‘ah ha’ moment when I realized health insurance wasn’t the only option. Exempt from penalty, the ACA called ‘cost sharing’ a ‘ministry’ defined as an organization. With a strict qualifying criteria, cost sharing is like a credit union instead of a bank that owns a health insurance replacement. That’s when I left insurance and set out to find an ACA exempt organization to pitch my vision. I found one with 50,000 members, the director liked my vision, and agree to put it to a member vote and the result was a 94% member approval! That made the beta launch of GreenSurance in June 2015 possible.
Tell us about your business.
GreenSurance is a grassroots crowdfunding member community. Like Costco where only members purchase what’s inside, our health program is administered by the 3rd party co-op and includes all medicine; conventional to alternative. Members who enroll in the health program are exempt from ACA penalty and share financial costs when health issues arise. Because healthcare is incomplete without access to all medicine; holistic to conventional, GreenSurance provides a true health insurance alternative. With significant savings when compared to health insurance, our members find peace of mind knowing they have better quality of care and are empowered with the right to choose. They love that. While each member health qualifies unlike insurance, that means healthy members aren’t paying the price for people who raise the costs for everyone. That keeps members costs down.
I founded GreenSurance with the concept that free people deserve the right to free choice, and choice includes the same dollar limit for all medicine. That means $1,000,000.00 in healthcare for alternative medicine which is why we call it unlimited* because you will never need it. This again is unheard of. For people who live clean and choose natural medicine for primary care, GreenSurance is their tribe. Tackling this monumental project could only happen in phases. We began with a beta launch crowdfunding donation of $20.00 a month paid annually at $249.99 and now we’re building the management platform for Phase 1 – the way we reach our 30,000 member milestone to self-fund. Phase 2 is the roll out of ‘AlternaCare’ our premium health program exclusive to our community. AlternaCare is built entirely on prevention and will prove to be disruptive and revolutionary. Integrating science, technology, integrative medicine with financial solutions, AlternaCare will help people see core issues that are the foundation of lifestyle diseases bad medicine perpetuates. Implementation includes DNA, cellular medicine, energy technology to do what has never before been done in history, because never before has the need for innovation been so clear. Albert Einstein once observed, “Insanity is defined as doing the same things over and over again expecting different results”. AlternaCare is a fresh approach to escape the insanity of waiting for illness to treat. Using methods that detect years before a diagnosis is present starts with deficiencies that are predictable. It’s why health insurance and conventional medicine are ineffective and expensive because there’s no real prevention of disease.
You see the current healthcare model is reactive not preventative. And yes, wellness programs help, but more is needed than change of diet and exercise. People need the veil lifted to understand what their body needs and how to fuel it with the supplements each individual needs. As humanitarians we care about solutions that serve people not profiting from our problems. My mission is to empower people and save lives by taking, “It’s not covered by my health insurance” out of this conversation. I committed to ‘paying it forward’ four years ago and invested years of work to this project without a paycheck because I consider it my ‘badge of honor’. I think it’s time someone stepped up and started leading the way. Today I see myself as the ‘poster child’ for people facing a health crisis. I want them to know cancer is not a death sentence, don’t give up and don’t rely on toxic medicine. Cancer is a wake up call. In order to get different results, different actions have to be taken. That’s why I’m writing an autobiography called, “How Cancer Saved My Life & How It Saves Yours Too”. It’s a modern day ‘David and Goliath’ story of how we can overcome giant obstacles in life no matter the size and how research took me down the rabbit hole as I followed the money and ended up seeing all of the greed around the health industry.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Absolutely! We have a free Brand Ambassador program anyone can enroll in. Each ambassador is issued a unique link to share where a new member who enrolls from the Ambassador link means the Ambassador receives $24.99 as our way of saying thank you for helping us grow. The enrollment link is here: http://www.mygreensurance.com/affiliate-enrollment.
- 2017 NANOE National Association of Nonprofit Organization & Executives Board of Governors
- 2013 Green People Award
- 2013 Hawaii Insurance Producer
- 2013 Pioneer Service School
- 2008 Ezine Expert Writer Award
- 2003 MBE/WBE Award
- 2001 Web Excellence Award
- 1999 & 1998 3 Star National Sales & Marketing Award
- 1995 APHA Championship Award
- 1994 Women Entrepreneur Award
Where is your business based?
We’re virtual and serve members in 50 states including any U.S. resident living abroad with a U.S. address or foreign english speaking person in the U.S. with a U.S. address.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
Lots of research from the patent office to the internet. Creating an available catchy domain name to brand with, and an easy to work with ‘what you see is what you get’ WYSIWYG website building platform to start with.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Google is the best way to get the conversation started. If you have a great product, service, solution, concept or idea – people are looking for you. When they find you they’re excited. Radio and article interviews like ladybossblogger.com and Natural Awakening have been awesome to expand the viral message through social media. But our members love what we do and share the message, that has the greatest impact as well as the healthcare providers who share the word.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Starting GreenSurance with my own $10,000.00 living in Hawaii with no source of income. Yea, that one was tough and it made doing something complicated even more so. I house and pet sat and in one year moved 14 times. But I wanted to keep GreenSurance about people and not bring in venture capitalists so I avoided debt and took the grassroots approach. That meant little money and things took a lot longer than I’m used to, it also meant a lot of work and I wore hats I never dreamed of. Starting a complicated online conversation and simplifying it is challenging. Reminding myself “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither is GreenSurance but if we build it organically, it will have staying power.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I took a giant mountain and moved it one boulder at a time. Every day I accomplished something. When there was little money I did everything free or little cost to see progress. I chose to not let tackling tasks that I’m not skilled at stop me. I looked for people who loved what we’re about and wanted to pitch in. The web is a blessing because it allows like-minded people no matter the distance, to connect. I had to believe in what I was doing or no one else would. I came to realize no one wants to be first but everyone wants this problem fixed. That meant someone had to take a chance. When people say “This sounds too good to be true how do I know it’s real”? I spoke to them and it helped them get over their fear because they knew I was real, and so is my passion to help. It’s been said ‘when you find your passion you’ll never work another day in your life’. I don’t believe that. I believe when you find your passion work is not a chore. Never stop learning, stay humble, embrace change, be patient, look for people more talented than yourself to partner with and align with caring people who have integrity. Realize everything won’t ever be perfect, but even mistakes are a learning tool and never take criticism personally.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I’m a spiritual person whose relationship with Jehovah God is how I lived through all of this. Just starting GreenSurance with no income meant learning to live on little. I had to keep my load light materially. When I look back I appreciate the people whose kind words kept me going when I questioned my sanity for doing all of this. When people believed in what we were doing enough to donate money, time & talent, it meant giving up wasn’t an option, and that’s something I know a little something about.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
We are the only organization doing what we are doing so we ‘own this space’.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
“Wisdom says wait; emotions say hurry.” Self-control is a freedom not a bondage. When applied it means not being driven by emotions best defined as not doing what you feel, but doing what you feel is wise.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Like a marriage, it takes lots of time and attention. Do what you love because it’s your baby. If you are raising or have raised children, you know what that means. Get comfortable pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, success is on the other side of fear. One day when you look back you will realize how much you’ve grown as a person, knowing it came from doing what most won’t, to have what most never will.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
Our website. I built it on Wix, but we wouldn’t have anything if it weren’t for GOOGLE.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
The best book is the Bible and I love jw.org. Currently I am reading “How to Write”.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Building infrastructure on SalesForce was a gift by SalesForce.org. Now we are crafting the platform to collect and manage thousands of members data. We need more members and a great grant writer as well as philanthropy donations, corporate sponsors, pro bono team members and organizations to JV with.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Growing the GreenSurance member community once we have infrastructure in place opens doors to relationships waiting for us to be ready for significant growth. Ongoing development of AlternaCare is how we will be replace the ‘practice’ of medicine with personalized solutions that identify on a cellular level – issues that end guesswork. And instead of throwing money at problems until the symptoms subside, AlternaCare will help members identify core deficiencies that lead to disease years before a diagnosis. This approach will significantly reduce health crises as members are educated on prevention with supplements their body needs, ensuring the highest quality of health and wellness for the 21st century.