For over 16 years, many people in the small business and self-employment world in the Twin Cities area have come to know Tom Larson, the Self-Employment Manager at Prepare + Prosper. He definitely has had a following. People are known to show up for an appointment and have been told to “ask for Tom.” For good reason too. He has helped thousands of people and small businesses over the years with their taxes and finances.

Tom’s tenure at P+P will be coming to a close in December 2022 as he leaves us to start the next chapter of his career. He is assuring everyone he talks to that this is not a retirement. And after sitting down with him for this brief interview, it’s obvious that he has many more irons in his fire that he plans to take out and use.

First up appears to be exploring his love of teaching. Tom has studied martial arts “forever” and due to some back pain, a few years ago he discovered Qigong. Similar to tai chi, qigong is an integrated movement method used in China for thousands of years. With his interest in combining health and wellness promotion with the qigong focus of flexibility with breathing techniques that keep the brain engaged, Tom hopes to train others in this art. This method has helped him with his own back problems, and he said it has made him feel better than he did 20 years ago.

In addition to teaching qigong, he would like to teach First Aid and CPR in Spanish. His love of Spanish could also take him to many other opportunities in teaching and tutoring and interpreting. And last but not least, he wants to have time to travel with his family.

Tom’s History

In the 1990s, Tom started at CLUES (Communidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio) and worked as a site manager at the tax program for 10 years.  He developed a practical appreciation for the work, stating “One of the best things you can do is put money in people’s pockets!”

He went on to the East Metro OIC teaching job seeking skills, keyboarding, and stress management in a bilingual course in Electronics and Computer Systems.  While there, he had an informational interview in 2006 with AccountAbility Minnesota (now P+P). Shortly after this interview there was a job opening, and Tom was immediately put to work as a manager for the self-employment program. Over the years, he has grown the services and according to him, the sophistication of the program came with it.

Tom will tell you that he has “learned a lot from you.” He learned on the job, and especially a lot from the volunteers, the many people he has worked with over the years. He sees so much of the work as “teachable opportunities” to each other. During the pandemic, many clients turned around and helped us out. He especially remembers one client who, after applying for and receiving unemployment insurance for the self-employed, gave us detailed instructions on how others could do the same – clients empowering us. The Self-Employment Program and its clients have become a tight-knit group.


Tom has lots of specific memories of his time at P+P. He has been amazed at the variety of people he has come to know and help, and now be able to call a friend. There are musicians, artists, and then there’s the veterinarian. She made a mess of her own taxes so much so that Tom offered “I will never operate on small animals if you promise not to do your own taxes!”

In addition to doing research on government services like unemployment insurance, our clients have been so appreciative and generous to us, bringing us water, cookies, chocolate mousse and more goodies all while being so understanding of the challenges with service delivery during a pandemic.

Colleague Carla Gainey has worked with Tom from the start.  “When Tom first joined us, I introduced him to a self-employed painter I had worked with for many years. This customer had personal and professional concerns that required special consideration. Both the customer and I were anxious to make this transition to Tom. After they worked together, the customer was relieved and excited because Tom was gracious, kind, and understanding of his special circumstances. He treated all of his customers with this same genuine respect and dignity.  Tom will be missed by so many people he has worked with over the years.”


When asked about what kind of advice he’d like to leave us all with, he first said “Make sure to wash your hands after handling jalapeno peppers!”  But quickly got serious and offered some good words of wisdom, “Lean on the volunteers, they are extraordinary. Focus on streamlining and simplicity for our clients.”

With that, he ended his comments with this sentiment: “Mil gracias y un abrazo.” Translating to “A thousand thank yous and a hug.” Then also added “I have received so much more than I gave.”

Tom, a thousand thank yous back to you. You end this chapter with P+P leaving a good legacy of knowledge and sophistication. We are in good hands with the remaining staff and volunteers you have trained so well. We will follow your lead and continue to support our self-employed customers with the commitment to compassionate and professional service that you have instilled so well into this program.

Many hugs to you as well Tom! Adiós our dear colleague, from all of us at Prepare + Prosper here’s wishing you the best in your next chapter!

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