Micah Larsen

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Micah Larsen, part-time marketing professor at the COB here at UM, full-time mama to a little boy named Wilder, and entrepreneur. I teach women makers exactly what to say in their marketing to get booked out and sold out, so they do what they love without worrying about being able to pay their bills.

What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?

That needing approval is often a sign of doing the wrong thing. The most uncomfortable things I’ve done in my life usually ended up being the things that were most worth doing, like writing about taboo woman-centric issues or bringing my baby to lecture with me. Doing things that go against tradition make it easier for the women who come after me.

What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.

Lucky for me, I’ve made a lot of mistakes! One of the biggest was letting my feminist flag fly and assuming that I’d be able to fly under the radar at a very conservative religious institution. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was “too outspoken for a woman at an Old Testament department.” The mistake wasn’t being an outspoken feminist or even questioning authority; it was being hurt when I didn’t get their approval. I learned that I’m just not everyone’s cup of tea (and I don’t want to be).

Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?

Marketing changes all the time, but there are some things about my target market that probably won’t. One of my driving forces is to help women make their small businesses financially viable so they don’t have to choose between being a mother and being a professional. That choice isn’t going anywhere. However, marketing has changed a great deal just since the beginning of the pandemic; we’re focused on e-commerce, agility, and giving people a good customer experience at a distance. I look forward to even more of a focus on sustainability and social good.

What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Marketing myths abound! One of my least favorites is that you should “always be selling.” In my personal and professional lives I’ve learned that when you try to be for everyone you end up making an impression on no one. I like to teach my women maker clients how to market to a specific ideal customer with a unique problem they can solve.

In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?

Everything. My son’s favorite word is “no!”

I’ve become much better at saying “no” to my own guilt about going after what I want and need. I, like many women my age, was raised to be passive, palatable, and to be responsible for other people’s feelings. However, ambition sometimes requires us to put ourselves first. So does — in my opinion — motherhood. I try to reframe it as setting a good example for Wilder; I want him to have healthy boundaries just like I’m learning to create.

What is the one book you recommend most often and why?

This is a tough one! I am always inspired by a good memoir. One of my recent favorites is Braiding Sweetgrass by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer. She describes how traditional and native ways of knowing can complement science (to which I’m a real devotee). It challenged my beliefs, which I think is a good sign a book is worth re-reading.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

I love smart and ambitious college students, and I’ve been lucky to meet many at UM! I’d tell them (and probably have) that they should remember to ask for help. I’m really, REALLY bad at taking this advice, but the women who have taken the time to mentor me are some of the most influential people in my life.

Ignore this advice: “If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a new room.” This probably just means you’re the most arrogant person in the room and haven’t taken the time to get to know anyone. Consider finding a new room, but just to FaceTime with your therapist.

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

“Life is always either a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope.” – Edith Wharton