Nate Heinold of Ledgestone Insurance is playing to win

If you’d asked Nate Heinold years ago if he’d be a mover and shaker in the insurance industry, he probably would have shrugged.

“I thought about getting into it when I was 21 and even talked to my own agent about what it was like, but the conversation just didn’t light a fire under me,” Heinold said. “But I’ve always had a desire to be my own boss and that never really went away, especially after a stint in a corporate setting. Once I made the right connections, I moved forward with my career and began building a business from the ground up.”

Heinold began his career with Ledgestone Insurance Group (Washington, Ill.) in 2010. He began with “zero clients” and spent all his time prospecting and cold calling, eventually turning a blank slate into a bustling business. Now the vice-president of Ledgestone — which has sold auto, homeowners, life, health, and commercial insurance throughout the state since 2009 — Heinold spends his days writing business insurance for churches, contractors, restaurants, and lots of other business coverages.

But it’s his passion for disc golf that’s truly put him on the map, both as a businessman and a community advocate.

SMALL IDEA, BIG RESULTS

Although Heinold had always loved playing disc golf — a precision sport in which a Frisbee-like disc is thrown at a target — he didn’t really begin to focus on tournaments until he started his career at Ledgestone. He’d been playing disc golf for many years, but didn’t think about using the sport to enhance his business until he realized how loyal disc golfers are to companies that are involved in sponsoring disc golf.

 “The camaraderie of the sport was a natural conduit to build business relationships,” Heinold said. “I began to think outside the box a bit and had a crazy idea to run a tournament. It took on a life of its own.”

Heinold did his homework by participating in several disc golf tournaments during the summer of 2011. It didn’t take him long to realize that with a small budget and sponsors, he could host his own event. By August of that year, the first Ledgestone Insurance Open was born, and it ended up exceeding his wildest expectations.

“After the first tournament’s success, I decided to go all out in 2012,” said Heinold. “It has been really rewarding to see it grow from a small, business-building idea to something that’s making a difference in people’s lives. We began supporting St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital through the Open and have since given the charity nearly $75,000.”

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Heinold is quick to point out that he didn’t do it alone. The entire Ledgestone agency enthusiastically got on board and helps tirelessly with tournament week activities. Although Heinold plans the tournament each year, the Ledgestone staff — as well as their family members and even a few Grinnell Mutual employees — rally to ensure it’s a success.

Agency principal Don Endress personally supported St. Jude prior to the formation of the event, as well.

“St. Jude has helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it was founded,” said Endress. “Because there is no cost for treatment, travel, housing, and food, families are free to focus solely on their child.”

EYE ON THE PRIZE

Ledgestone donated $20,000 to St. Jude for the 2017 Open, and has aims to donate $25,000 for the 2018 Open, which would push the total amount given to over $100,000. The 2018 Ledgestone Insurance Open will take place from Aug. 9–12 on eight courses in greater Peoria.

“The community impact of this tournament has been phenomenal,” said Heinold. “In last few years we’ve added three new championship disc golf courses, along with a handful of smaller nine-hole courses. The 2017 event had an economic windfall of more than $1 million for our community.”

Although Heinold also competes as a professional disc golfer and remains a busy vice-president of Ledgestone, his wife and 10-year-old son remain his prime focus. The Heinold family likes to spend time hiking, playing outside, watching movies, and traveling. The family will go to Yosemite National Park this summer after visiting Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon in 2017.

“As much as I love what I do outside of the home, I love being with my family more,” said Heinold. “To me, that’s the ultimate win.”

For more information

Visit the Ledgestone Insurance Open website to register and learn more about the tournament. Read about how Grinnell Mutual is in communities like yours.