1. You were recently elected President of the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of Orange County. How did this news affect you and what do you hope to accomplish as the newly elected President?
To be honest, I was surprised to be nominated, much less elected because I was only a year into being a Board of Director (BOD) and to the Chamber itself. I didn’t feel that I was qualified, but because I had the support of the other BODs and the current and past Presidents, I accepted the position. I knew I had their support and that I can learn from the experience. I’ve always believed that challenging myself will help me grow as a person.
During my term, I want to focus on expanding our membership by bringing more value to our members. COVID changed the business landscape and derailed some of our members’ businesses. It also highlighted how important relationships really are. I want to provide a platform for the members to expand their businesses by creating solid relationships and provide them with a network of strategic partners so they can support each other.
2. Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up and how did your childhood shape your journey?
I was born in the Philippines, but when my dad died of a heart attack when I was six, my mom came to the US. Apparently, my parents had talked about the future and my dad wanted my brothers and me (there’s 4 of us) raised in the US because he thought there was more opportunity here. My mom remarried and was able to bring us to the US when I was 9 ½. Having gone to school in an all-girls catholic school and having to transition to a coed environment was a culture shock for me and I was teased a lot; it would probably be called bullying nowadays. At any rate, my parents had a small security guard and alarm company, so all of us kids were raised to do chores at first, but when we were old enough to work in the office, we were all drafted to work. I was my mom’s assistant, so I learned to do payroll, hire & fire personnel, and general office administration by the time I was 15. My step-dad was diagnosed with manic-depression, which is now known as bipolar, when I was about 13, so it made my childhood difficult because of his mood swings. Back then, they really didn’t know how to deal with mental illness so we were ill equipped to manage his disease and the uncertainty it creates. My childhood prepared me to be independent and thick-skinned. We were also raised to be hard working and solution oriented with the mindset that no one will give us a handout.
3. There is a lot going on in the news impacting the Asian-American business community. What challenges do you expect to face as the newly elected President?
I’ve been fortunate to have not experienced any outright hate or discrimination in this current environment, but I know of people who have. I believe as community leaders, it’s up to us to be the role models and speak up for those affected. I believe my previous experience as a President of an Orange County Chapter of Toastmasters International, leading a diverse, multi-generational group of people provides me with the experience required to succeed in this environment. I generally believe that most people intrinsically have a good heart and want to help others given the opportunity. I see it as my job to bring out the best in people and help them realize their potential.
4. The pandemic has affected a lot of small businesses. What policies or operational initiatives do you have to support them at this time?
As an independent insurance agency, I provide my corporate clients the tools to help them streamline and manage their employee benefits, human resources, and compliance issues. One of this resource is access to a Human Resources platform to update them on the many legislative changes that affect their small business. This platform also provides them unlimited access to HR Professionals to answer their most pressing employment issues. Additionally, I become an extension of their HR Department and help onboard their new hires to their benefits, answer questions they may have, and when the time comes, I help offboard their employees, helping transition them to either Covered California or Medicare. My hands-on approach provides my clients the peace of mind knowing that I’ll be there to answer any questions and help connect them to resources that they need.
5. As a woman leader, what aspect of your job has been the most challenging for you?
I’m not sure if this is specific to being a woman leader, but the most challenging part of being a leader for me is accepting when people give up on their own dreams and not reach their full potential. Too many people work at a job that’s “okay” and spend their free time being “busy”, but when asked what’s new in their life, the answer is “nothing”. We only get one shot in this life to become the best version of ourselves and to make an impact. If you’re just okay and nothing new is happening, then you’re not growing, and if you’re not growing, you’re getting left behind. We are all made for greater things; it’s a shame not to achieve that greatness.
6. Where do you want to see the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of Orange County in the next five years?
The Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of Orange County has always been the leader of the Filipino Chambers around the country, so I obviously want to maintain that reputation, as well as, increase our footprint. Filipinos are a very entrepreneurial group, highly educated, and customer-centric. I look to reach out to other Chambers within our region to collaborate on projects and initiatives that will help the businesses and communities we serve.
About Geraldine Larson
Although born in the Philippines, Geraldine is California girl at heart, having been raised in Orange County. Growing up, Geraldine’s parents owned a small security guard and alarm company, hard work was instilled in her at an early age, working as her mother’s assistant from the age of 12.
Geraldine has 33 years in the insurance industry and after many years in Corporate America, she has finally taken a step towards independence by starting her own insurance agency in 2017. As an independent broker, she helps individuals and business owners alike achieve their bottom-line, while still providing best in class service. Geraldine specializes in group employee benefits, individual medical including Covered CA, Medicare, and financial services products. Whether individual or business, Geraldine takes a holistic approach to help clients prioritize both their fiscal and physical wellness today to help protect their tomorrow.