Customer service first: Parkston’s Boyle takes leap into insurance sales at 18

Helping clients a top priority, new insurance agent says

Michael Boyle sits at his desk at Gunkel Agency on Wednesday, March 19, 2023.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Michael Boyle has always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit.

He caught the business bug at a young age, diving into the world of reselling vintage and collectible items online at sites like eBay and Amazon. Browsing garage sales in his hometown of Parkston, he would sometimes come across toy sets or action figures for which he knew there was a market among collectors and nostalgia junkies.

“The last few years I’ve been really focused on my entrepreneurial goals,” Boyle told the Mitchell Republic. “Auctions, garage sales. I’ve built custom websites for people. Pretty much anything to do with selling or making money online.”

He’s been buying and reselling to customers all over the globe since he was 13, but he took on a new venture before he even technically graduated from high school: selling insurance policies as a fully certified agent.

“(I wanted) to see if there’s a way to really help people save some money and make some money at the same time. I looked at (insurance sales) and it was something I really connected with,” Boyle said.


Boyle, 18, is homeschooled and has completed his requirements to graduate from high school. He expects he will finalize that process by taking his GED exam sometime this summer, but his goal at the moment is to be the best insurance agent he can be while working with the Gunkel Agency in Mitchell.

He approached his new goal by first becoming licensed through the state to be able to work as an insurance agent. For that, he studied and completed testing to earn his property and casualty insurance licenses, a process he said required a lot of reading and comprehension of the insurance business.

Michael Boyle sits at his desk at Gunkel Agency on Wednesday, March 19, 2023.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

“It took me a month of just studying every day. You have to learn a lot. They want to make sure you know what’s required by state law, as insurance is a highly regulated field, especially in the last 15 years,” Boyle said. “They’ve tried to cut down on the bad players that give people a nasty taste in their mouth.”

Boyle aims to be the exact opposite of the “bad players” who are sometimes associated with the insurance business. The gregarious teen appreciates the regulations he learned because it jibed well with his business ethics. He wants to be a trustworthy, honest broker who looks to serve the client with the best coverage for the best price, while at the same time providing insurance providers with clients that make sense for their business model.

“It’s nicer for the customer experience. That’s the goal — they regulate producers for the benefit of the public. They serve the public, not the producers,” Boyle said. “(And) that’s what we’re all about, trying to serve the public for the good of the public. We are the middle men between the insurance company and the customer, and we’re trying to make sure that both get the best of both worlds.”

After obtaining his licenses, he did his own research on insurance companies and found one in American National that complemented his own values. He approached a pair of agencies associated with the company and found himself in an interview with the Gunkel Agency in Mitchell, hoping for a chance at getting his foot in the door of the industry.

“The company that I really liked in South Dakota was American National. From what I’ve seen, they don’t do much marketing. They put that money into taking care of their customers. And they do a really good job with their claims,” Boyle said.

Jeremy Gunkel, who operates the Gunkel Agency, said it’s not completely unheard of to have a younger person like Boyle looking to get into the insurance business, but at first he thought Boyle might be looking for information for something related to his education.


“I thought it was for a school project or for a research paper, and he came back about a month later and asked if I’d be willing to hire. I said you have to be 18 at least, so when he turned 18 he came in and started studying for his licenses,” Gunkel said. “He’s a brilliant kid, he’s just got his head on his shoulders for being 18.”

Gunkel said Boyle’s attitude worked nicely with his agency and its association with American National. Gunkel encourages being straight-forward with his clients, providing personal hands-on service and letting them know when he doesn’t know the answer to a specific question.

Taking the time to get the right answer for clients is important, he said. Getting the best information helps get the client the best policy for their money, and it helps insurance companies find customers they know they can work with.

Michael Boyle sits at his desk at Gunkel Agency on Wednesday, March 19, 2023.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Despite his rapid advancement in the field, Boyle is still new to the business, and he’s soaking up lessons and advice from Gunkel and using it, combined with his own interpersonal skills, to help their customers.

While some may think it strange taking insurance advice from an 18-year-old, Boyle said he’s gotten a good response from his customer base so far.

“I don’t look the oldest. I look like I’m younger, but I know what I’m talking about. That helps me. If I can get my foot in the door, they realize I’m not just some 18-year-old walking around with a sales script,” Boyle said. “I care about the product and helping them get the best policy at the best price.”

Gunkel agreed that Boyle seems to be taking to the process well.

“It has worked out awesome. He’s sold quite a few policies for being new to the business. We’ve had to teach him some sales skills, but he’s catching on very quickly,” Gunkel said.


Boyle plans to keep working with Gunkel for the foreseeable future. He prefers to learn through life experience as opposed to the classroom, which means he probably won’t be applying to college anytime soon.

Options available that can provide coverage at a reasonable price

He does have his sights set on owning his own home at some point. And staying true to his business savvy approach, he has thoughts of it being a duplex and renting out one side to earn some extra cash.

But for now he’s content to help his clients navigate the often daunting waters of insurance policies and regulations.

“It goes right back to trying to provide the best customer service,” Boyle said.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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