Pendleton Heights graduates join forces

PENDLETON — There’s always something entertaining going on when Adam and Nanci Custer get together with her brother Lucas DeShong and his wife, Natalie.

They all get along well, and there is never a dull moment.

“We love being around each and would definitely hang out, even if we weren’t family,” Adam said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s just great.”

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Turns out the four are more than close family and good friends.

The four Pendleton Heights High School graduates are also business partners.

Since September they’ve all four been in business together, owning an American Family Insurance company.

The couples have two offices — one at 737 E. Water St. in Pendleton that opened in March, and another at 7962 Oaklandon Road, Suite 110.

Adam, 35, was the first to become interested in the insurance business after working with his mother for many years at her State Farm office. A member of the Class of 2001, he went on to Manchester College, where he studied small business management and non-profits, with the idea of eventually owning his own insurance agency.

He opened his first American Family Insurance office in 2014 with Nanci, Class of 2003. She has degrees in political science and philosophy from Indiana University Bloomington.

Nanci, 33, was thrilled when she and her husband convinced her brother and his wife to join the office this past fall, and now the four are equal partners in the family business.

The fact all four have grown up in the area and have known each other and members of the community for years makes their operation a true family business, they said.

“Our business is not just about numbers and policies for us,” Nanci said. “It’s about being able to have an impact in our community.”

The business union was just meant to be, Lucas said. Lucas, 36, a member of the Class of 2000, studied automotive technology and management at Lincoln Technology. He worked for several years in the high-end automotive industry and brought skills he developed there to the insurance company he now partly owns.

Lucas and his wife made the decision in late 2017 to move over to the insurance industry and haven’t looked back.

“It really has been terrific,” he said. “It’s much better than we even expected.”

While there was some concern about working so closely with family members, the couples realizedtheir blend of personalities makes the professional association run smoothly.

Natalie, Class of 2001, has known Adam since the two were childhood friends in preschool and knew they’d get along well. However, she wasn’t so sure about working with her husband, Lucas, to whom she made a second vow when they married — that they’d never work together.

“We’re just very different in our approach to things,” Natalie said. “But, it’s actually worked out well in this kind of business because we complement each other so well.”

Lucas, the more social of the two, makes better one-on-one connections with people, while Natalie enjoys working in the customer service end of the business, she said.

The four business partners meet most Tuesday mornings to brainstorm, then split up with one or two people going to the office off Oaklandon Road with the others staying in Pendleton, the location that sees the most foot traffic.

So far, it’s worked out well.

From friendly competitions, during which losers have to eat disgusting flavored jelly beans, to more serious moments of working together, helping families get through difficult times, the business truly is a family affair, the four said.

However, there is one rule — no business talk over holiday dinners, Adam said with a laugh.

Both couples are also parents. Adam and Nanci have a daughter, Emmiline, 8, and Lucas and Natalie have two children, son Lincoln, 7, and daughter Mila, 4.

For more information on the business, call 317-567-2457 or email [email protected].