When Janice Laws Robinson first came to the United States, she envisioned her new life with rose-colored glasses. Like many from her island, Robinson dreamed of coming to America, dazzled by scenes from American media like “Soul Train” and the concept of the ‘American Dream’.
Surrounded by hard-working family and community members throughout the course of her childhood, Robinson developed a desire to start her own business and work hard to achieve personal success.
An entrepreneur, published author and award-winning insurance professional, Janice Laws Robinson juggles many roles in the metro Atlanta community in which she lives. However, she’s aiming to add a new title to her repertoire this election season: Commissioner of Insurance for the state of Georgia.
Robinson spent her childhood in Jamaica with her grandparents, spending her days going to church, actively engaging in community service and working inside her grandmother’s store. Robinson said she, along with many of Jamaica’s residents, lived modestly, void of many of the luxuries and accommodations commonly seen in the United States. She remembers walking miles to attend school every day as a kid, and traveling on foot to fetch water for her grandparents’ house on early mornings.
Robinson left Jamaica as a teenager with her mother and sisters, arriving in New York in the early 1990s. As an optimistic teen, she expected America to be a land teeming with opportunity. Her early years with her grandmother caused her to develop a passion for entrepreneurship, a passion she knew she’d be able to pursue in America.
“One of the things I heard a lot growing up is that ‘America is a woman’s country’,” Robinson said. “I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew that women had opportunities in America. We could do more, achieve anything.”
Robinson studied business administration at Monroe College in New York City and, after moving to Georgia, at Shorter University’s College of Adult and Professional Studies in Rome. Robinson relocated to the Peach State in search of a warmer climate that reminded her of Jamaica and to pursue a landscape that felt more stereotypically “American.”
When choosing a career, her educational background pointed her toward the insurance industry because it combined her love of community service with her passion for operating a small business. Working in insurance also gave Robinson ample opportunities to work from home, freeing up more time to spend with her then young children.
“Insurance is a way to serve the community,” Robinson said. “I fell in love with the industry. I saw it more as an opportunity to be of service to families [and] to individuals.”
In 2014, Robinson founded J. Laws & Associates, a firm of insurance professionals based in metro Atlanta, specializing in various forms of coverage. After spending over a decade working in sales for major insurance companies in the metro area, Robinson grew tired of having to turn away Georgians who couldn’t afford the constantly rising insurance premium costs, along with those who felt preyed upon and cheated by these mega corporations.
There are some roadblocks, however, that even Janice can’t absolve as an insurance broker. She said the only way to remove these obstacles for Georgians is to incite positive change from a position of political power.
“It was an evolution of serving my clients that led me here,” Robinson said. “The service led me [to run for political office].”
Robinson is running for Commissioner of Insurance in Georgia on a platform that fights for affordable insurance premiums, increased transparency between insurance companies and consumers, effective education for Georgians regarding insurance and personal safety and practices that predatory and discriminatory insurance companies accountable for their actions.
Robinson first ran for the state’s Commissioner of Insurance position in 2018, but lost the general election to her Republican challenger, Jim Beck, coming up short of approximately 130,000 votes. Beck amassed just over 50% of the entire vote, quelling Robinson’s chance to pursue a runoff election in January.
In 2022, Robinson is running for the position once again, empowered by her strong performance four years ago and the need for more affordable insurance options for Georgia residents.
She said her approach to campaigning this year differs slightly from her approach in 2018. She believes she will benefit from being a familiar name and face to voters, which she has attempted to solidify by traveling all over the state to campaign this year.
Robinson also expects the ongoing pandemic to play a large role in voter turnout and outcome this election season, since lower- and middle-class Georgians suffered a significant financial hit as a result of state- and nationwide lockdowns and widespread job loss. Robinson has high hopes for the next generation of Georgia voters, as well, many of whom are voting for the first time this election cycle. To attract recently registered voters, Robinson has traveled the state to campaign, meeting Georgians of various backgrounds in the process.
“I don’t just stay in metro Atlanta,” she said. “I go everywhere so people know: Whether you live in urban, suburban or rural Georgia, your voice matters.”
A devoted wife and mother of two daughters, Robinson also prides herself on being family-oriented.
Robinson said her experiences involving carving a path for herself in the United States as an immigrant and self-made businesswoman shaped the way in which she went about raising her daughters. She taught her children to work hard to achieve their goals and to develop an appreciation for serving their community.
She accepted the challenge of raising her kids to appreciate their Jamaican heritage while teaching them to embrace themselves as Americans at the same time. This process involved immersing her family in Jamaican culture while living in Georgia – through cooking authentic cuisine, listening to music from the island and hosting family gatherings in traditional Jamaican style. It’s through these methods that Robinson keeps the memory of her upbringing alive.
Despite the fond memories of her youth, Robinson said she doesn’t miss life in Jamaica. She takes opportunities to visit the island on a regular basis, but Robinson said with absolute certainty that Georgia is her home.
“I think that I just appreciate my upbringing; I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Robinson said. “[But] I am a true Georgian.”
Even now, decades after she initially left her home country in pursuit of greater opportunities and a better life, Robinson’s perspective of the American Dream remains unchanged. She acknowledged that she couldn’t achieve success without also facing hardship, but credits achieving so much to consciously choosing to think positively.
“I think that I have been able to accomplish every dream that I set my mind to,” Robinson said. “And as I have gotten older and lived longer, I still feel the possibilities are endless.”