Former Choteau resident Megan (Stenson) Larson, a Wellington, Colorado, entrepreneur, was recently named a member of the Northern Colorado 40 Under Forty, by BizWest, the Business Journal of the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado.
Larson, 33, was honored with other members of the group at an awards banquet in Loveland, Colorado, on Oct. 30. The BizWest Journal runs this awards program to recognize young professionals who are the emerging leaders shaping the future of northern Colorado, according to its website.
The journal covers Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties, with a population exceeding 1 million people.
Forty Under Forty honorees must be younger than 40 at the time of the event, live or work in Larimer or Weld counties and be involved in community service. They can be nominated by anyone, including themselves.
The nomination form includes a resume and extensive application. A committee of community leaders and past winners reviews the applications and helps select the winners.
“We received more than 80 outstanding applications for the program and with so many outstanding applicants, narrowing the field down to 40 was extremely challenging for the committee,” said Linda O’Dea, the BizWest marketing and event director.
Larson was nominated for the honor by two friends and former co-workers, Sarah Rice and Kate Hagdorn, who worked with her during the nine years she spent at the United Way of Larimer County.
In a telephone interview last week, Larson said she has had several friends receive this honor and always thought it was cool but never expected to join their ranks.
“It’s a huge honor. I was really surprised by it actually,” she said.
Larson said she appreciates all the support she’s received from the Wellington community, her clients, her friends and her former co-workers. “It’s super awesome and it makes me feel good.”
She said she had 10 friends, clients and co-workers who planned to come to the event to support her, but she didn’t expect one more surprise guest: her mom, Susan Murphy of Choteau.
“My mom showing up was just icing on the cake to be sure,” she said. The awards event feted the honorees with food and drinks and allowed them to network with each other. “It was fun. It was a good event. I think everyone enjoyed it,” she said.
Larson is a Colorado State University graduate, who majored in fine arts with a concentration in graphic design and minored in media studies and art history. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she worked for the United Way of Larimer County, starting as a marketing and design associate and then being promoted to creative manager and then creative director.
In 2013, she founded M Rock Creative, her own marketing and media consulting business.
She is extensively involved in the Wellington community, where she has volunteered with The Family Center/La Familia daycare, WomenGive, Harvest Farm and other nonprofits.
She is the chairwoman of the Wellington Main Streets Program’s Promotions Committee, co-founded and is the chairwoman of Wellington Brewfest, and is a committee member and volunteer designer for Rice Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Organization.
The daughter of Susan and Phil Murphy of Choteau and Tim and Gretchen Stenson of Bozeman, Larson grew up in Choteau, graduating from Choteau High School in 2004.
After high school, she moved to Denver and studied for one year at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. However, she discovered that going from rural Choteau to downtown Denver was not the lifestyle she wanted. She transferred to Colorado State at Fort Collins and finished her degree there, graduating in 2008.
While she was still in college, she and fellow Choteau resident Mick Larson were married. She says they got together after high school. Mick was a senior when she was a freshman and they didn’t date then. They have three children, Audrey, born in 2011, Blaire, born in 2015, and Miles born in 2016. Mick is a U.S. Army veteran who is now a member of the Colorado Army National Guard. Next spring he will complete his degree at CSU, earning a supply chain management business degree.
Larson said she was very fortunate in college to get an internship at United Way of Larimer County that turned into a full time job when she finished her degree. At United Way, she got on-the-job experience in graphic design, social media management, website design and management, digital marketing and more.
Though she started her own business in 2013, she worked for United Way until mid-2016, when the growth of her consulting business made it clear that she couldn’t work two full-time jobs and balance her family’s needs.
She chose to leave United Way and focus exclusively on M Rock Creative. “It’s been the best decision I ever made,” she said.
Her clients are mostly small businesses, startups and nonprofits and include breweries and a trade school. She offers her clients graphic design, social media management, website design and management, digital marketing, and overall marketing consultation.
She said her clients are too small to have in-house marketing and design divisions. They need an expert in those areas to come in and take that work off their plate, and in Wellington today, she said, a digital presence and online marketing is vital.
Businesses have to have a website, a Facebook page and a plan for reaching their customers that way. Websites have to be easy to navigate, offer online payment options and work just as well on a full computer as a mobile phone. “Making it as easy as possible for people to connect with you is huge,” she said.
Larson works from home and so far doesn’t have any employees, but that may change in the near future.
“I’m teetering on that edge of having too much work and not knowing where to put it. I’m getting there,” she said.
After her husband completes his degree, she said, she thinks that if the business continues to grow, she will have to consider opening an office and hiring a couple of employees.
Larson’s business and community efforts remain focused on Wellington. When they moved there 10 years ago, she said, it had a population of 4,000 to 5,000 people and was a bedroom community to Fort Collins.
Since then, it’s doubled in size and the larger population is driving economic development, including many small businesses and business startups that need help with digital marketing — help Larson is happy to give.
“I know a lot of people in town, and I’m really involved in the community,” she said, adding that she is invested in making sure Wellington develops in a way consistent with the atmosphere and values that drew her there in the beginning.
Larson said she loves the flexibility of owning her own business where she sets her hours and chooses her clients. This allows her to volunteer at Audrey’s school and be home for her children as well as stay involved in the community.
She loves working as chairwoman of the committee that organizes the Wellington Brewfest in the summer. “It’s kind of my baby and I love it,” she said, adding that she consults for all three breweries in Wellington and the event raises funds that go back into the community.
“Wellington Brewfest has been huge for the community,” she said, explaining that in the first two years, it raised $14,000 for the Wellington Main Streets program.
Next year, the proceeds will be split between the Wellington Main Street program and a new Boys and Girls Clubs of Larimer County complex, Larson said.