We had the good fortune of connecting with Dana Larson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dana, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
It’s funny…the few times that I’ve thought about formally starting a business, nothing really came of it. It’s like I became paralyzed by the planning piece of it. But the many times that I’ve put myself out there in a small way—say, taking a small contract project—I’ve found that it has grown beyond what I ever would have planned, and before I knew it, I had a thriving business on my hands. I learned that just doing what I loved for people was the best way to start my business. But it’s also not terribly surprising to me that I would own my own business. My parents owned their own business since I was 10 years old. Everyone in the family played some part in the business, and when I was 13 I began working for them on the weekends, answering phones, waiting on customers, scheduling appointments, mailing statements, and the like. That was my first legit job where my earnings were reported to the IRS, but I began picking berries when I was 10 and babysitting when was 12. I was never afraid of hard work.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve done so much in my career. I started out as an instructional designer and then moved to being an ad copywriter and copyeditor. From there, I expanded into marketing consulting, followed by the founding of my own full-service advertising agency with two other partners. To be honest, I hadn’t wanted to start the agency because I knew just how much work it would be. But my husband at the time really wanted to own an agency and I soon got sucked into the whole endeavor. When my marriage split up, so did the agency, but it was 2006 and time to focus on something new anyway…digital. So, I pivoted to digital content strategy, which was new at that time, and I made a niche for myself. I started two successful content practices at San Francisco digital agencies. Then in 2016, I pivoted again—this time to events. I really wanted to bring my digital background to events, but it seemed the idea was a little premature. So, I decided to learn everything I could about the way events were done, giving me a solid foundation to build on. Then the pandemic hit in 2020, and everyone in events was looking for someone with all the skills I have¬—digital, content strategy, marketing, storytelling, writing, events. All of a sudden, digital and storytelling were the keys to success, and they were in my pocket. In fact, when I made the transition from one client partner to another six months ago, I was told it took five people to replace me. If I’d only ever done one thing in my career, I would not be nearly as valuable as I am to my clients. I’ve always looked for opportunities. Staying open and curious is the key to being able to seize new opportunities when they arise. In this way, I am always sort of reinventing myself while also drawing on the deep expertise I have across so many different disciplines. When I meet with a client about their needs, I can better understand their big picture because I’ve actually worn a lot of the hats they’re showing me.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Since I no longer live in Texas, I would be the one visiting my oh-so-stylish friend, Ariane Coldiron, who would treat me to all her favorite spots. First things first, we would kick the week off with a workout at Bar Method Southlake. After a harrowing workout, we head to Dallas for lunch in Bishop Arts at Paradiso where you can relax with cocktails and tasty treats in the outdoor dining room on a warm afternoon. That leads into an evening of walking around Bishop Arts, shopping at the curios and tasting the various samples at the salumeria. You have not lived until you have had pie at Pie Emporium and picked up a candle at Jackson Vaughn. On Day 2 we head out to Spa Adolphus for a day of pampering! From there, we head over to the Highland Park Village for some shopping while enjoying an amazing chocolate chip cookie or cupcake from BIRD Bakery. Day 3 is all about Lake Lewisville boating with friends – it’s the best way to spend a day! After that we go to Joe T Garcia’s for the most amazing enchiladas, margaritas and making new friends. On my last day in town, we head over to The Grassy Knoll and Book Depository for the JFK tour, which is honestly so fascinating and I learn something new every time I go. After building up an appetite with all that history, it’s time to go to Clyde Warren park for lunch at the food trucks and picnic on the lawn. Maybe we will even check out the Box Garden for some live music before ending the evening at Uchi – its interesting and surprising textures and flavors never disappoint.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m sad to say that I’ve lost touch with her, but the person who has had the biggest impact on my career was probably Billie Smith. When I was plucked out of a sea of customer service reps working for Continental Airlines at Houston Intercontinental Airport to be a subject matter expert on their computerized reservation system, she saw potential in me I didn’t know I had. She took me under her wing and taught me to be an Instructional Designer and Computer-Based Training developer in the time before Microsoft Windows even existed. I was in awe of Billie’s poise, intelligence and stature. She was one of the most interesting women I’d ever met, and SHE believed in me—a shy girl with no college degree and no experience but plenty of ambition. She gave me the confidence and training I needed to land a job at Compaq Computer Corporation (the fastest growing computer company in the late 1980s). From there, I was able to grow and morph my career in ways I never could have dreamed of. If anyone out there knows Billie Smith of Houston, who used to date Sam Cook, let me know. I’d love to know how her life has gone over the last 30+ years, and I’d love to thank her for believing in me!

Website: danalarson.com

Instagram: /danalarson

Linkedin: /in/danamlarson

Twitter: @danamlarson

Image Credits
Black and white photo by Jessica Hill Lovely.

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