Women Mean Business: More than just a pretty face

Jill Meier, Journal editor
Brandon chiropractor Dr. Chandra Larson. Submitted photos
Dr. Chandra Larson, husband Bryant, and daughter, Ember.

Brandon chiropractor balances career with happy home life
As a young girl, Dr. Chandra Larson dreamed of the glitz and glamour of the pageant world.  
“I remember watching Miss USA, Miss America and Miss Universe on TV with my mom,” she recalls. “I thought it looked fun and I wanted to try it just for the heck of it.”
At age 14, she stepped into that world and was hooked after making the top 15 cut in her very first pageant.
“I was addicted,” Larson confesses. “It was fun. It was glamorous.”
She continued on in the pageant world for the next eight years, and in 2011, won the title of Miss South Dakota USA.
The elite role took her to Las Vegas, where she represented South Dakota at the nationally televised Miss USA pageant.
“That was real glitz and glamour and just a really good time,” Larson, 31, said of the experience.
It was her pageant experience that guided her from pursuing a career in fashion merchandising to studying health and wellness, which eventually led her to a profession in chiropractic care and acupuncture.
“The thing that I always attribute to pageants is strong interpersonal skills. Socially I got to interact with so many different kinds of people from all walks of life. I think that made me a really strong communicator. I think it made me an empathetic person, and I think it made me a well-spoken and poised person,” she said. “I learned a lot on the backside that a lot of people don’t really see that goes on besides just the dresses and all the frill.”
After starting out as a fashion merchandising major, Larson said her focus shifted along the way, drawing her to study health and wellness. She elected to switch majors and “somewhere along the way” she made the decision to pursue graduate school, opting to go the pre-med route.
“I was going to be a pediatrician, I was on the path for that,” she said. “I did a lot of shadowing experiences and stuff like that and decided that was maybe a little too much for me emotionally, because if you have a sick kid or would lose a child, I don’t come back from that kind of stuff. Some people can block it out and move on, that wasn’t me.”
She began exploring different avenues in the health and wellness field and was introduced to chiropractic and acupuncture while working as a chiropractic assistant while in school. 
“I just fell in love with it,” she said. 
Once again, Larson changed her major. Fortunately, her studies reflected the new path she was now on and she was able to forgo any additional schooling.
After graduating in November 2013, she was licensed and practiced in Kansas City until mid-January the following year, at which time, she and her fiancé – now husband – Bryant, made the decision to return to South Dakota to be closer to family. 
In March 2014, she secured an associate doctor position with Chirosport and practiced in that capacity for three years before being invited to buy in as a partner, which she elected to do.
She remembers using the interview experience she gained through her pageant endeavors in her job interviews.
“From the very beginning, from just trying to evaluate and see if this is a place that I’m going to fit in to are these the type of people I want to work for to the actual interview process, which was fairly lengthy because I had three very accomplished doctors that I had to try to impress so they would let me in,” she said. “Also, when you’re doing a pageant interview, you’re marketing or trying to sell yourself and say, ‘Hey, this job is what I’m suited for. Here’s why.’ That has transitioned very well into my career because I am able to communicate what my value is or what I have to offer to people coming into my practice. There’s a lot of different ways that I’ve used that training to better myself and better the business.”
As a partner in Chirosport, Larson is now tasked with administrative responsibilities.
“Now, I’m actually helping with the management portion of employees, annual reviews, all kinds of other things, but I’m really fortunate that I have three other partners to split the workload with. That’s something that’s kind of unique in this case. I never really thought of myself as being an entrepreneur or wanting to start my own clinic because that part of it really isn’t my favorite, but when there’s four of us to split it up, it really isn’t that bad.”
Her business partners are doctors of chiropractic Ross McDaniel, who founded the practice, Jason Henry and Chris Mikkelsen.
She feels her voice is heard among her male counterparts, and believes they balance out one another well.
“All of my counterparts are male so we definitely have some different perspectives on things but I think that has been really good for us in the long run. There’s always some healthy debate but there’s a lot of different ideas and sometimes I bring more of an emotion aspect into it because sometimes, it’s not in the forefront of the male mind. So, yeah, I think there is a lot of challenges with it, but I think they’re all good for the most part. They are so respectful of my opinion and vice versa.”
Larson oversees Chirosport’s clinic in Brandon. They also have clinics in Sioux Falls, Dell Rapids and Hartford, the latter two of which are managed by associate doctors.
“When those doctors hit their three-year mark as well, they’ll also have an opportunity to purchase ownership in their respective clinics,” Larson said. “It’s a nice way to become a business owner without all of the out-going expenses that comes with starting your own business,” she said.
The former pageant title winner knows she is more than just a pretty face, and said there have only been only a few instances in her career that she was underestimated.
“If they take the time to speak with me and get to know me, they know that there’s more,” she said.
Larson balances her 40-hour work week of patient appointments, administrative duties, paperwork and dictation with her family life.
“I try,” she says, followed by a hearty laugh.
She and her husband, Bryant, are parents to a 2 ½-year-old Ember and are expecting their second, due in January.
Having the ability to set her own hours makes it all possible, she said.
“If I need to get off because Ember has a pediatrician appointment, I can just mark my schedule off and nobody will schedule patients then. It’s actually been pretty good on the flexible side of things, which makes it easier for me to get to her activities or whatever needs to be done on the home front. I can usually work my schedule around it, so I’m very fortunate because not a lot of people have that luxury,” she said.
A helpful husband is key, too.
“About a year and a half ago, he started his own general contracting business. So right now, it’s his busy season, so he’s a little more MIA, which is understandable, right? But he does a really good job and he’s a hands-on dad and is very helpful on the home front,” she said.
The couple chose to make Brandon their home four years ago, and even though the city continues to grow, they love the “small-town feel” it has maintained.
“I feel like Brandon, although growing, still has that small-town feel and people need to see your face and know who you are, know that you’re a good person. I felt like being in Brandon would allow me to be more involved in the community and allow me to actually get close in the community. I knew in the long run not only would that be wonderful for family, but it would also be wonderful for business. Also, Brandon has an amazing school district and when we started talking about wanting a family, those kinds of things played into it,” she said.
Larson knows that it’s important to tune into community endeavors and she has been an involved member with the Chamber of Commerce’s special events committee. 
“Being a mom of a 2 1/2-year-old is another additional full-time job, so there’s not a ton of extra time between work and her activities, but I definitely try my best to get my face out in the community,” she said.
If and when daughter Ember chooses to follow her mother’s footsteps into the pageant world, Larson won’t stop her. In fact, she’ll embrace it.
“I would love it because I could live through her vicariously again,” she said. “I think she would have a blast and learn a lot from it. She’s only 2 and a half, but she has a love of shoes, so we’re on the right track.”
Ember is involved in dance classes and swimming, and the family enjoys biking, shopping at local stores and outdoor activities like biking. 
“You name it, we like to enjoy it,” she said.
Larson, herself, may also consider venturing back into the pageant world, too.
“I’ve been asked that a time or two. Some of the pageant directors in the state of the Mrs. divisions have reached out, so I could see myself doing that definitely. Actually, I thought about using that as a good goal to lose weight after baby No. 2 is here. So maybe,” she tells.
As a woman in business, Larson says she feels fortunate to wear that title in Brandon.
“I’ve had a great experience with it,” she said. “I’ve met many other business owners here and a lot of them are actually female. I think that Brandon is a very female-strong town and I have found people to be nothing but encouraging, helpful and all those things.”
As for women considering a career in chiropractic care, Larson offers the following words of wisdom:
“I think there’s a pre-conceived notion that when women go into business that you have be really hardcore, that there’s no emotion in business and it’s not personal, blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard it 100 times. I don’t think any of that is true. I think you just have to be yourself, be a good person and always try to do your best for your patient, your client, whoever’s coming to you for help. If you give them 100 percent they are going to reward you for that. They are going to feel heard and they are going to feel well taken care of. I don’t believe for a second that emotion doesn’t play a role in business. Personally, I think that’s what drives us to be successful in our business is because we want to know that we’ve pleased someone, that we’ve helped someone and that their quality of life is better because of something you told them to do or did for them.
I think the biggest thing is not to be intimidated by the fact that sometimes women do put a little bit more of emotion and themselves into their business. I think that is an asset, not a detriment, and I would just say keep fighting, be you, and it will all work out.”



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