Local business Owners Seek Entrepreneurial Success

April 4, 2011

Less than a year ago, Erica Harper and Rob Danesh enjoyed well-established, successful careers at one of the largest employee benefits consulting firms in the world. Despite their promising futures, last Fall, the two Rochester-natives made the bold decision to leave a world of job stability behind and start their own actuarial consulting and retirement planning services firm.

In an environment of joblessness and career insecurity, many of their friends and colleagues thought they were crazy or worse, doomed. But Erica and Rob saw an opportunity that they still believe was worth the risk.

Before their career tracks crossed, Erica and Rob’s lives followed parallel paths—both were raised in upstate New York, graduated from college and took jobs with large benefits consulting firms: Erica in Boston; Rob in New Jersey. After several years, they each married and started new lives in other big cities: Erica in New York, Rob in Chicago – all the while, taking exams and pursuing their actuarial careers. They each moved up in their companies, started families, and began to contemplate a return to upstate New York. And then in 2003, they each returned to Rochester looking for that sense of community they found lacking in big city life.

“City life was fun when we were starting out, but once we each had families, we were looking for a permanent home where we could put down roots, get involved and feel part of a professional and social community, “ said Harper.

They wound up at the same firm where their complimentary work styles led them to partner on many work projects. “We quickly became each other’s “go-to” person, bouncing ideas off of one another, reviewing each other’s work, and generally taking advantage of each other’s strengths to deliver the best advice to our clients,” added Danesh.

But while they were putting down roots in the community socially, they felt frustrated that the same connections weren’t occurring professionally.

“Being part of a global organization had many benefits and provided great career opportunities, including working with notable Fortune 100 companies,” said Harper. “But the business model developed around these types of clients didn’t translate well to organizations in smaller markets like those in upstate New York.

“We found ourselves hearing more and more, ‘we’d love to work with you, but we just can’t afford you,” said Harper. “It was incredibly frustrating to know we could not help these organizations.”

Eventually, Rob and Erica realized that this was the opportunity they were looking for.

“By starting our own firm, we were creating a winning situation for our clients who deserved the same high-quality consulting advice, regardless of their size,” said Danesh. “And so Harper Danesh was formed with this mission: to deliver the same level of experience and expertise you’d find at the larger firms, but with more attention to service at an appreciable value to our clients.”

Now just halfway through their first year, Harper Danesh, LLC is quickly gaining momentum, and founders Harper and Danesh are optimistic they will see their risk pay off.

Harper Danesh LLC is an actuarial consulting and retirement planning services firm located in Rochester, NY that specializes in defined benefit, defined contribution and postretirement medical plan design, administration and funding. For more information, visit www.harperdanesh.com or call 585.319.4218.

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