Direct Benefits, Inc. is a managing general agency that provides one-stop employee benefits brokerage to over 12,000 independent agents, brokers, consultants and general agents in all 50 states.

"By partnering with financially strong insurance carriers we are able to create exclusive niche products for the individual and small group marketplace. Our mission is to provide our agents and their individual and small employer clients with the same or better insurance benefits that Fortune 500 employers provide.  Finally, we are committed to fast, responsive customer service and "Best in Class" marketing and sales support."

best company award 2016

Tom Mayer - Founder - Rainmaker

Tom Mayer is an energetic and resourceful professional with more than 25 years' business experience, predominantly with entrepreneurial growth firms.

He has founded five companies including a "Kid for Rent" lawn service he started at age 11. His second endeavor was "White Wolf Maintenance," a cleaning restoration company. In 1991, after graduating from Hamline University, Tom sold the business to his brother, Pat, who still owns White Wolf even today.

Tom then co-founded and grew "Five Star Gourmet Meat Company" into a $4 million home delivery business with 90 employees. Five Star was featured in publications including Forbes, Success, and Twin Cities Business Monthly.

In 1995, Tom sold his interest in Five Star so that he could attend the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and earn his MBA in Marketing and Strategy in 1997. During graduate school, Tom started Superior Foods, Inc. and happily sold frozen foods door to door out of his 1995 Nissan Pathfinder until he entered the employee benefits field in 1999.

Tom founded Direct Benefits, Inc. in June of 2001. Direct Benefits is a managing general agency that specializes in distributing dental, disability, life and vision benefits to over 5000 agents, brokers, consultants and general agents nationwide. Tom and his  20 member staff have helped our agents write over 6000 employer groups and thousands of individual clients that comprise over 100,000 insureds.

Tom served as the Retention Chair for Region 4 of the National Association of Health Underwriters from 2006-2009. In fact, he won the NAHU's National Recruiter of the Year Award in 2007, 2008 and 2009. His hobbies include backpacking, cooking, dog-sledding, kayaking, mountaineering, rabbit hunting, reading, scuba-diving, traveling, trout-fishing, and spending time with his kids. His favorite foods are Nueske's applewood-smoked bacon and oatmeal-raisin cookies.

                                               Tom on Rainier Tom take DBI to new heights!  Top of Mt. Rainier!

Tom in the News

See Tom quoted in Naifa Advisor Today - Sept 09 MN Insurance MAgazine August 07 - Tom Wins NAHU Top Recruiter!
HIU Magazine - Sept 05 - Tom with Toothbrush Check Out Direct Benefits in MN Insurance Magazine
Check out HIU-Tom running with the Bulls Article HIU Magazine - Tom's Membership Article
MN Insurance Magazine August 08 - Tom Wins NAHU Recruiters of the year...AGAIN!           MN Insurance Magazine - Direct Benefits Celebrates 10 years
Delta Dental of Minnesota - Newletter Note on Direct Benefits  Direct Benefits HIU Magazine Dec 2014
Tom Mayer continues to Surprise - MN Insurance Magazine  Rainmaker Scholarship to Hamline University Student

Diane Lysen - Sales Executive - Benefits Fairy Godmother


Diane's career in the health insurance industry started in 1972 at Control Data's employee benefits department. In 1983 she joined Hanratty & Associates as Office Manager and Account Manager. 3 years later in 1986, Diane went to work as an Account Manager at Chandler Insurance. Her manager at Chandler recognized the talent she had working with clients and encouraged her to consider sales on a full-time basis.

In 1991 she and a former property and casualty colleague formed Consultants 4 Insurance Benefits. As a partner and Vice President of Benefits Administration and as a Benefits Advsisor to employer groups, she successfully helped the agency achieve a preferred agency status with many carriers in both health insurance and ancillary products.

The Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters (MAHU-NAHU) has played a major role in Diane's career. She has been a member of MAHU-NAHU for 27+ years. After serving on the Board of Directors for 12 year, Diane became President of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters in 2001-2002 and Chair of the Board 2002-2003.

In 2003 she was awarded the Symanitz Award, which honors only one person each year in the state for their outstanding contributions to the insurance industry. Diane continues to serve on MAHU's Professional Development Committee.

Diane's position as Sales Executive at Direct Benefits gives her the opportunity to utilize all of her skills and industry knowledge. She looks forward to waving her pink magic wand to increase sales for the agents and brokers doing business with Direct Benefits.

Diane enjoys spending her free time with friends and family, trying new recipes and tasting new wines. Traveling for work and pleasure continues to be a big part of Diane's life. She can now cross off white water river rafting in Fiji from her bucket list. Diane will tell you it was the experience of a lifetime. Being a part of Direct Benefits helped her achieve that goal.

Maca Barnes - Sales Support – Benefits Matador

Maca headshot

Maca was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. She started learning English when she was three and graduated University as an ESL teacher.

She did a Summer Work and Travel Exchange Program where she worked at a ski resort in Colorado and met her husband who is a Minnesota native. After finishing college and doing 2 years long distance, she decided to say goodbye to her high school students and moved to Minneapolis where she started doing translations and interpreting work.

Outside of the office she enjoys time with her husband Joe, family and friends, training her 2 year old Mini Australian Shepherd named Grizzly, learning Italian, French and someday Russian, Going to the lake, working out and baking chocolatey things.

Katie Quinn - Sales Executive - Benefits Superhero


Katie was born in San Antonio, Texas and moved to Minnesota when she was three. She has enjoyed growing up in Minnesota with frequent visits back to Texas.

She began her insurance career in high school while involved in the Work Experience program, in which she won the Student of the Year Award. Starting at EPIC Agency, a property and casualty general agency, she worked in an office support capacity for all departments. Her responsibilities included accounts receivable, customer service, renewals and advanced on to become a licensed auto Underwriter. By joining Direct Benefits, she has continued in the insurance industry by building her sales career in the life and health fields. Katie enjoys building relationships with agents while improving her industry knowledge and problem-solving skills. She is a current member of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters (MAHU – NAHU).

Outside the office Katie stays busy continuing her education at Metropolitan State University and searching for the best Mexican food in town. She enjoys the trying out new recipes, traveling whenever the chance, spending time with family and friends and cheering on the Dallas Cowboys.

Tracey Hagemeier - Finance and Human Resources - Benefits Princess

traceyTracey brings more than 8 years of experience in the insurance industry to her position with Direct Benefits with prior employers ranging from Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota, Park Nicollet Medical Center to the State of Minnesota.

Tracey has a long list of experience in a wide variety of areas ranging from employee benefits to insurance billing, claims review and even the development of ceramic dental molds. While working her way up the ranks with previous employers, she also pursued and achieved an Associates Degree in Veterinary Assisting. Tracey takes pride in her ability to effectively resolve customer concerns while also balancing the responsibility of new group implementation.

Tracey's hobbies include, but are not limited to - biking, bowling, music, reading, caring for animals, and trying to figure out what will happen next on "LOST".

Carrissa Metz - Contracting - Benefits Therapist Officer

Carrissa joined Direct Benefits after more than 12 years in the healthcare and insurance industries. Her career path has included working for companies like Diversified Pharmaceutical, Smith Kline Beecham, United HealthCare and Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota. She's worked her way up from Member Materials to Contract Installations, Proposals, and Underwriting and now finally to Sales. Carrissa's role at Direct Benefits is to wear all those hats and more. She takes pride in providing creative and responsive solutions to our agents and then making sure everything is processed smoothly for their clients.

Outside of the office Carrissa enjoys traveling to new places, spending time with family, catching up on the latest movies, and completing home improvement projects around the house.


Lisa Talcott - Sales Executive - Benefits Coach

Lisa TalcottLisa Talcott came to Direct Benefits Inc. from a diverse set of management experiences, most recently from a brief assignment as the General Manager of Aspen, CO based PostTime Media, a 21st-century branding company specializing in developing  B2B outreach and customer platforms for optimizing growth potential across a wide range of market demographics. Just prior to PTM, she’d been the Account Executive at another central Rockies entrepreneurial endeavor, Advantage Branding Group, which specialized in branded apparel and promotional products. Under Lisa’s guidance, the business saw year-over-year growth of over 200%, while maintaining and expanding a strong local and regional presence and initiating national outreach efforts.
Lisa came to the branding business after an exceptional career in the vacation rental market, serving as the General Manger for Vail Rentals by Owner and Denver-based Resortia, Inc. Lisa propelled 12 resort markets in the central Rockies to over $12 million in annual sales and 300% growth at their 2007 peak, guided a managing team effort to upgrade system applications and design, and was an integral part of a major national and international market expansion and investor effort.
Lisa began the property management phase of her career as the Operations Manager at Beaver Creek West, a Vail Valley condominium complex where she oversaw maintenance and housekeeping staffing and systems, and specialized in owner and tenant relations and rolling horizon capital improvement and property upgrade programs.
Prior to moving to Colorado, Lisa spent a year at the University of Central Arkansas as an Assistant Volleyball Coach, where she directed recruiting and training for the NCAA-II program.  
In 1998 and 1999, Lisa worked in and around Osaka, Japan for Nova Intercultural Institute as a Trainer and Teacher in an English conversation school setting where she developed curriculum and managed a team of 15 English-speaking teachers and 8 Japanese staff at the Kishiwada satellite location.
Lisa graduated from the University of West Alabama as the first Honors Program graduate in their history. This followed a storied 2-sport career as a starting Volleyball and Softball scholarship athlete.
Lisa guided her Lodi High School softball team to the Wisconsin State Championship game as a pitcher, while growing up on the 3rd-generation dairy farm that thrives to this day. Lisa lives with her husband, Karl, children, Michael, Diana and Elsa and their dog, Steve, in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Shelly Kramer - New Agent & Product Onboarding - Benefits Shaman

Shelly Kramer has been in the dental insurance industry for over 10 years. At Capital Benefits Groups she served as an internal operations manager working with customer service, inside sales and marketing, new business enrollment and plan design development as well as helping agents with their renewals. In addition to working at Direct Benefits as our "Benefits Shaman", she works part-time as a 2nd degree Reiki (energy work) practitioner.

Shelly has been an active member of NAHU since 2004 and has also taught Ancillary Benefits Class' at Kaplan Financial Education. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering with the Angel Foundation and Toastmasters CC. Shelly's hobbies include building Faerie houses, cooking, gardening, kick boxing, yoga and making the world a better place by laughing as much as possible.

Barbara Boukal - Individual Sales Manager - Benefits Yogi

Prior to joining Direct Benefits, Barbara worked as a nurse at St. Joseph's and United Hospitals in St. Paul. She moved onto raising her 3 children and in 1997 began her full-time insurance career with State Farm. While at State Farm she worked in sales and customer service in Property/Casualty, Life/Health, expanding to bank products and commercial insurance. In 2007 Barbara moved to Capital Benefits Group and employee benefits. Her many duties included sales, marketing, project management, administration and customer service. She joined Direct Benefits in 2012 as a member of the Individual Dental & Vision team.

Barbara has a B.A. Degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Minnesota and is NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) certified as a personal trainer and yoga teacher. She enjoys reading, the never ending quest of learning, yoga, kickboxing, weight lifting and spending time with her children, family and friends. The "real" reason for joining Direct Benefits was to conceal her true identity--- Cindy Crawford.

Kelsey Stilwell- Sales Support - AKA- Benefits Genie

Kelsey photo

Prior to joining the Direct Benefit’s team, Kelsey’s varied career path has included processing a huge caseload of Social Security applications for Premier Disability Services, working as a cosmetologist at Fantastic Sam’s and providing administration and marketing support for KeyStone Energy Advisors. Kelsey graduated from Minnesota School of Business with her Associates Degree in Business Administration in 2011 and from Rasmussen College with her Bachelor Degree in Business Marketing in 2014.

Kelsey strives to push the limits and challenge herself on a multitude of different levels. Being able to take a challenge and turn it into a goal is the best way for her to learn and understand all aspects of life. Outside of work Kelsey loves to spend time with her husband Michael and their puppies, Ace and Jackson. They love to enjoy the outdoors, hunting, fishing and camping. She also loves to bake all things gluten free and spend time with family and friends.


Kristine Bausch- Sales Executive-Benefits Top Gun

Kristine's headshot


Kristine came to Direct Benefits after 11 years as a senior coordinator serving as the main liaison between the chief operating officer and the franchise field and home office support divisions at Regis Corporation.
Kristine was born, raised and still lives in St. Paul MN area. After high school she started college at the University of Minnesota Duluth and eventually graduated from University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a degree in psychology and sociology. Kristine’s background also includes 2 year of customer service experience at ADP payroll and 4 years at Caregivers Network, a small healthcare provider, where she served as the office manager responsible for payroll, HR, accounts receivable and payable. Outside of work, Kristine enjoys spending time with friends, family, Sweet Pea-her cat and complex home improvement projects.

Tys Sniffen - Tech Support - Web Monkey

tysTys is heading up Direct Benefits West as a vaguely experienced website developer and project manager. With knowledge of internet marketing and usability issues, Tys tries to keep the insurance language to a minimum and ease-of-use at the top of the list.

Having run his own efficiency consulting business as well as doing a stint as a consultant in Human Resources, Tys brings a "let's get this done" mentality to the Direct Benefits Team. He has a Bachelor's degree from Hamline University, and has previously been an Executive with the Boy Scouts of America, a Sales Director for an international software company, and a Sales Rep in a number of industries.

Other aspects of heading up the west coast office include always carrying the five foot long tooth brush to the conventions, living off-the-grid and three miles off the paved road in a yurt (a round Mongolian-style tent), practicing martial arts with his lovely wife Melissa, growing his own food and hot-tubbing as often as possible.

Stacey Williams- Individual Sales - Benefits Whisperer

Stacey Williams

Stacey was born in St. Paul and has always lived in the Twin Cities.  She started her working career while in high school working as a DJ at the local roller rink.  That experience established her love of music, especially Prince, which happened to be her first concert at the age of 14.  Stacey served in a variety of sales and management roles with Dayton’s, Marshall field’s and Macys for 25 years and eventually “retiring” at age 45.  

She’s loves spending time with her 2 grown children and with her animals, two German Shepherds and an abandoned kitten.  In addition, Stacy loves the St. Croix river for boating, canoeing and camping.  Finally, she’s a big supporter of the Southern Minnesota Animal Rescue Team and always looking to round up the stray cats in her neighborhood.

Jodi Vance - Individual Sales - Benefits Referee

Jodi Vance webhead 2016

Jodi comes to Direct Benefits with over 25 years of experience in a variety of medical fields. She’s done everything from being a transcriptionist (typing speed of 150 words per minute) to an office manager to being a HR director. In addition, Jodi served as the manager of administrative services for Advanced Practice Solutions for 10 years. During that time period Jodi was able to learn many aspects of a business including contract negotiation and recruiting and sales. One of the highlights of that career was that she was able open a clinic in the Las Vegas airport from an empty shell.

Jodi was born in Iowa and raised in Coon Rapids Minnesota. She initially pursued a degree in nursing but ended up in business graduating from Inver Hills Community College and eventually earning her B.A. in Business Management from Metropolitan State University in 2012. This was a great accomplishment in her life. Jodi want to prove to her children that it’s never too late finish your education and that perseverance pays off.

Jodi has 4 sons; 2 biological sons and 2 “life” sons. She doesn’t like the term “step” so she uses “life.” While the 4 boys were growing up, she was an avid soccer mom. Jodi didn’t miss a game, literally, and was even President of the boys’ soccer for 2 years. Now with the boys out of the house she can have some free time and enjoys cross stitching, sitting in the sun, gardening and traveling; especially to Disney World.

Jonathan Jakubas - Sales Support - Insurance Elf


Jonathan Jakubas- Bilingual Individual Sales-

Jonathan grew up in South Minneapolis and graduated from Minnehaha Academy in 2007. He then went on to Loyola University Chicago and earned degrees in International Studies and Latin American Literature. After college Jonathan worked in international tourism before starting his career in healthcare with HealthPartners in a customer service role.

In 2014 Jonathan earned his insurance license for Life and Health and worked at Gravie in his first sales job. He’s always had a knack for dental benefits since his mother is a local Twin Cities dentist. Even as young kid Jonathan remembers hanging out in the dental office making bitewings in the lab just for the fun of it. In addition to having been a “total theater nerd” Jonathan enjoys painting watercolor, trying out new local restaurant, running and travel to fun places.

Dana Hoen - Individual Sales - Benefits Sheriff

Dana Hoen

Dana came to Direct Benefits after working as an Account Coordinator in the Cosmetics field for the past 9 years. After high school, Dana went to cosmetology school and worked in cosmetics sales at Bloomingdales and Macys for 11 years. She was born and raised in Saint Paul.

In her free time Dana enjoys to spend time with her friends and family, travel, and check out new restaurants all over the city. Dana has a real love for animals. She currently has 3 rescue dogs that live with her full time. Dana and her husband are fosters for 2 local rescue organizations. She hopes to have her own rescue when she retires someday to the Island of St. John. She loves to cheer on the Wild, Twins and Saints.

Aimee Bortnem—Agent Concierge - Benefits Psychic


Aimee grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to Minnesota in 1999 to get married. She was in the beauty industry for 10 years running multiple salons across the country and takes pride in being the youngest person in company history to hold that position. She has also spent time as a volunteer Special Ed Para.

Aimee is a proud mother of 2 kids along with 2 dogs. She is a huge people-person and absolutely loves helping others. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering, traveling, boating on the lake, watching her kids compete in gymnastics, walking her dogs, family time and working out.

Ashley Kloncz - Individual Sales - Benefits Wizard


Ashley grew up in Lakeville, graduated from Lakeville North High School and played hockey all throughout. After graduation, she continued her education and hockey career as a collegiate athlete at Augsburg College now Augsburg University. She worked at Direct Benefits as an intern throughout all her summers while in college and had the opportunity to work as a Sports Medicine Assistant (SMA) for multiple different athletic teams during her last year at Augsburg. Ashley majored with a B.A. in Exercise Science.

Outside of work, Ashley enjoys going up north, being outdoors, spending time with family and friends, and absolutely loves animals.

Claudia Wendt Vann—Operations Support & Renewals Coordinator—Benefits Fixer

Claudia Vann

Originally from the Chicago area, Claudia came to MN through a job transfer with a division of the St. Paul Companies. She spent 13 years in the insurance/financial services industry in multiple roles including sales, marketing, training and management. She has held the designation of Certified Financial Planner since 1983. Claudia left corporate America to stay home with her 2 children during their early years; and then tried out the non-profit arena working with seniors. That worked out so well she stayed for 12 years. Her husband is an “insurance professional” and introduced her to the Direct Benefits family.

Claudia enjoys gardening, quilting, reading, hiking, biking, being the family communicator, and spending time with her husband in any pursuit.


Jennie Garofalo—Individual Sales—Benefits Baker

Jennie Garofalo

Jennie has worked in a few different roles within health & dental insurance – working as a Human Resources representative handling group insurance for 2 environmental sciences companies before transitioning into individual insurance as a licensed broker and advisor to those seeking assistance with everything from reviewing detailed plan options, to step-by-step enrollment to help resolving claims issues. Jennie has always had a passion for helping others understand and feel confident in their own understanding of the complexities that can be involved with buying and using individual insurance.

Jennie hails from our capital city and headquarters of Direct Benefits in Saint Paul, MN. She grew up as part of not 1, but 2 extraordinarily large families – both of which resided in Saint Paul as well. As the granddaughter of a baker, Jennie enjoys baking sweet treats for her family and friends – thus earning her the title of “Benefits Baker” at Direct Benefits. At one point, she attempted to start a catering company since she enjoyed hosting, cooking food and baking sweets for her family and friends. She has also worked as an independent Tupperware consultant for over 5 years – which utilizes Jennie’s super organizational skill set and allows her to help families save money & stay organized while keeping healthy and clutter-free.

John Unruh—Sales Support—Benefits Cowboy


John joined the Direct Benefits team in May of 2017.  John has over 25 years’ experience in the financial services industry.  He started his career at Wells Fargo bank for 5 years before jumping on the Insurance bandwagon at Life USA.  He was working there when Allianz Life purchased them.  He left Allianz to work as an insurance wholesaler at American Financial Marketing, where he worked as the Senior Vice President of Sales.  He then formed his own insurance wholesaling company, Integrity Marketing Systems which he ran for 10 years.  During his career, he has had over 200,000 phone conversations with agents, educating them on products, helping them increase their sales, and growing their business.  John is a licensed insurance agent and has “walked the walk” by servicing his own clients and growing his own insurance business.

He is married to his wife Kari and they have two children, Nicole and Nate.  He enjoys living on the lake, hard water fishing, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, bicycling and walking his German shepherd, Sugar.  

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