From Runaway to Role Model
A runaway hippie at 13, Peggy Larsen was pregnant, married and suffered domestic abuse by age 17. Some might say Larsen did not have a promising future. But they would be wrong.
Years later, Larsen is senior vice president at Workers Compensation Fund — a billion-dollar company — and recipient of the 2014 Salt Lake Chamber’s prestigious Athena Award, given to just one woman annually. She is the founder and force behind the nonprofit Amber Haven Foundation, which she started to honor her infant daughter she lost in a drowning accident.
An Accomplished Career
Larsen started working as a file clerk at an insurance agency with a baby boy to provide for. “When I got my first job, I told them I didn’t have any work experience, but I would work harder than anybody there. I treated it like an education,” Larsen says.
She started her career at WCF as a sales person more than 20 years ago and has risen through the ranks to spearhead the company’s public relations, communications, customer service, advertising and sales departments. Her team is responsible for the “Be Here For … ” commercials, stressing workplace safety. “We want to make sure employees are careful at their jobs, because there is someone waiting for them to return home safely,” Larsen says.
Larsen has learned many valuable lessons throughout her career. Among the most significant she says are the importance of volunteering, a good education and being authentic.
Volunteering. She credits the work her team does out in the community, whether it’s helping with Habitat for Humanity or serving at the soup kitchen, with building a workforce that has a strong sense of community and realizes how important it is to give back. She requires her staff to do a project that benefits others quarterly. “Getting out and doing things for others pays back incredible dividends,” Larsen says.
Education. Growing up, Larsen did not appreciate how priceless a good education was. She wishes she’d had the insight and knowledge she possesses now, and someone to guide her back then in making important career decisions. “Instead, I had to do it the old-fashioned way, by working really, really hard,” Larsen adds. She completed two years of college and has passed exams to earn professional designations within her industry.
Larsen is passionate about volunteering with students at Utah Business Week, a program for high school juniors and seniors. “I help guide students in finding their true interests. It is incredibly important to have somebody in your life to talk about next steps in your career path,” Larsen says.
Authenticity. Being authentic has never failed Larsen in her personal and professional life. Being honest and open is the way she lives her life, Larsen notes. “I’ve always tried to stay very true to who I am and not try to represent or be something that I’m not,” Larsen says.
Amber Haven Foundation
In 2016, Larsen established the Amber Haven Foundation as a way to help her child’s memory live on. Amber was just 19 months old when she died in 1979.
The foundation is devoted to helping single, struggling moms not only survive but thrive. “If I can help just one mom, make her life a little easier, and help her find a successful path, it is all worth it,” Larsen says.
Larsen is the author of “Beyond My Wildest,” her memoir of rebellion, tragedy and finding strength. She hopes her story will make a difference in women’s lives. All proceeds from the book benefit the foundation.
“I want single moms to know, although times may be tough now, they can come out on the other end. They have to believe in themselves and take it one step at a time,” Larsen says.