Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth. You can check out previous installments here.
Ask Dag Larsen what drives him to make content, and he’ll tell you he’s got “a big mouth and a lot to share.”
But he’ll also tell you that getting on TikTok changed his entire perception of himself–and that he hopes his videos can do the same for someone else.
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Let’s back up a sec. Larsen, who’s based in Toronto, never anticipated becoming a creator. He spent his twenties keeping to himself, running a vintage shop, and was overall “a very private guy,” he says. “I actually never used social media other than for work.”
Then COVID hit, and he had to find a way to drum up more business for his shop. He heard about this newfangled thing called TikTok, and decided to try uploading some fashion and lifestyle videos. Before long, though, he started making videos about his other interests, like exploring Toronto’s local shops and restaurants. When lockdowns worsened and restaurants closed, Larsen started cooking at home, showing people how to make his favorite dishes.
That DIY approach had him branch his content again. People in his comments were always asking questions, and Larsen–who’d been raised by a mom who was determined to imbue him with all the life skills he’d need as an adult–had answers. He started making videos about everything from housekeeping tips to saving money on groceries to manners and etiquette–things some might think would be basic, but which others hadn’t been taught, and maybe were embarrassed to ask.
Larsen doesn’t think they should be embarrassed. He’s happy to hand out knowledge. More than happy, actually: “I was so used to, in the real world, being told that I’m kind of helpless and useless,” he says. “Then I just started sharing these silly things I knew, like these happy homemaker things, and they were of service and they were helpful and it made me feel like I do have value and it does matter.”
Now, Larsen has nearly 650K followers on TikTok, and he’s still finding new and useful tips to share with them. He’s also still running his vintage shop, which survives, in part, thanks to support brought in by the videos that helped change his life.
Check out our chat with him below.
@daglarsen Replying to @Heather some more stuff mom & dad may have been too busy to teach you #adulting #cleaninghacks #cleaningtips ♬ Green Onions – Booker T.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Nice to meet you! I’m familiar with you and your videos, but imagine someone’s reading this and they’ve never seen your stuff. Give me a little bit of intro about you, where you’re from, and the stuff you make.
Dag Larsen: All right. For sure. My name is Dag Larsen. I’m from Toronto, and I basically make videos to help young people learn how to be better adults, whether it’s learning how to cook some simple meals or just not live like a slob and walk around and not sound like a prick. [laughs]
Tubefilter: Very essential information. What did you do before social media?
Dag Larsen: Before social media, I ran a vintage shop, which I still do online. That’s basically what I did all through my 20s. I was a very private guy, and I actually never used social media other than for work. This was definitely a big change for me, but it was positive. It gave me a good self-confidence boost.
Tubefilter: I can imagine. You’re a very private person. What made you want to start making TikToks? Because that’s kind of the opposite end of the privacy spectrum.
Dag Larsen: Honestly, it was the pandemic. I was just trying to think of ways to keep my business afloat. Then I thought, okay, you know what? I’m going to go on this new platform, and I’ll talk about some basic lifestyle and fashion things. Then I thought, maybe this will translate to some benefits for business.
Then what ended up happening is I fell into making videos about cooking and doing restaurant reviews and little chats about different areas. When that picked up, I realized that this was its own unique thing, so I went full force with it, that way. It really started with basically telling people where to go and eat. That was really the whole start of it. Then it changed because of the pandemic. Everything was closed. Now it was like, let’s make restaurant food at home.
Tubefilter: Then it expanded into, here’s how to live and not fall apart.
Dag Larsen: Exactly. You know what? TikTok’s my hobby, and this is my passion, and this is what excites me in my day. I never wanted to be pigeonholed into saying, Okay, I only talk about X. I want to talk about things that I’m thinking about, things that are important to me. Every few months, it takes on, I don’t know, a new perspective, I guess, and where I’m at in my life, and where I want to see the world around me go, because I do have a bit of a voice and people are giving me their time. I’m trying to respect that and give them quality content.
Tubefilter: Pretty cool. Was there ever a point where you were like, “Okay, I’m going to continue doing this TikTok thing? This is working out for me”?
Dag Larsen: Honestly, I would say it was when I made my first video. I was at the St. Regis, at this little restaurant in Toronto called Louix Louis. I went there for breakfast, and it was during the pandemic, and the whole place was just open that day. I went there by myself for breakfast, and all of the servers were there, and the whole restaurant was empty.
I just made it a funny thing and I was like, “Today, I went for brunch, and I rented out the whole restaurant.” It was just this silliness. Then when the comments came in, they were so positive. People were like, “You made my day.” It felt so good, and it felt like I was finding my purpose, which sounds so absurd in this toxic environment of social media, but I just felt I found my purpose and I was like, “Okay. I need to just share my silliness.” It allowed me to feel happier and sillier and that was it. I was hooked on that totally.
Tubefilter: Do you feel like you have made a space for positivity? Is that something that you focus on creating?
Dag Larsen: I turned it into that. I don’t think it started as that. I think when I started it, there was a little bit more of an arrogant, pretentious persona because that’s what I was seeing on the internet. I saw that that was what was growing, and I thought, okay, put on some nice clothes and be a little unattainable. Honestly, the feedback was so negative. It was so divided and I was like, “I don’t like this because I’m not giving people feel good vibes. I’m only giving some.” Then a bunch of people have decided to dislike me, and I know that in life that can become discouraging.
I don’t care about some bot calling me names, but at a point, I knew I had to create a positive space. I looked at it like, people are going to watch for goodness or they won’t. I’m not going to build something being hated. I just didn’t believe in that. Yes, I think I carved out a positive space, because also my demo is pretty young. It’s 18 to 24, which are very transitional times in our lives. It’s where we’re discovering our own identity. It’s when we’re discovering our newer purpose. We’re trying to be adults. We’re trying to get on from under our mother’s skirt, and that was it. I like it. I like seeing people smile. It’s infectious, and I love that.
@daglarsen Rugs in the bathroom 🚩🚩 #cleaningtips #bathroomtips #cleaninghacks ♬ Green Onions – Booker T.
Tubefilter: I grew up with people who were like, “Here’s a YouTube video about how to fill out a checkbook,” because I was never taught that. Your content is the modern equivalent of that. I just wonder what makes you so passionate about making those kind of videos.
Dag Larsen: In this day and age, it’s such a privilege to have, let’s say, a dad who goes to work and a mom who stays at home and can cook, and can clean, and raise her kids and take care of them. Or reversed! It could be a reversal of that, of course. I think that that’s so unrealistic. Most of us grow up with two parents working and just trying to stay afloat that sometimes they’re just too tired to teach us stuff. Or, sometimes parents, especially moms, will just do it themselves and not show us how to do it just because it’s easier.
I was really lucky. I was raised by my mom, and my mom taught me all these things because she was also busy and she knew you have to be functional and you have to be able to do everything for yourself. I think that’s why I do it.
Tubefilter: I think this sort of stuff took off more during the pandemic. People learning to take better care of themselves, for one reason or another.
Dag Larsen: Oh, for sure. I have no rhythm. I can’t dance to a tune and things like that. I made it really clear in the beginning of content. I was like, “I don’t want to do anything suggestive. I’m not going to show skin for views.” I had to be creative and helpful.
Tubefilter: No dancing. Are you sure? [laughs]
Dag Larsen: No dancing! I do Krav Maga very regularly. It’s a type of self-defense. I say, I fight, I don’t dance. Even though they have similar concepts and similar coordination.
Tubefilter: I was going to say, I feel like that should carry over a little bit.
Dag Larsen: You know what? There have been a few times in my living room where I will definitely put on a cute new outfit and dance around when nobody’s watching. Will that translate out and about? I’m just not there yet, but maybe one day.
Tubefilter: Maybe one day. Yes. That’s going to be the headline: One day, Dag Larsen will dance for TikTok.
Dag Larsen: Yes. Oh my god, that’s an amazing headline, actually. [laughs]
Tubefilter: I won’t put that kind of pressure on you. No. You still run your business– Is that full-time? How is your time split these days?
Dag Larsen: How is my time split? I’m a man of many hobbies. I do squash very regularly. I do Krav Maga regularly. I read books, like a big nerd. I play my piano. Then during my day, right now I’m studying, a real estate course. My mother’s in real estate and I’m trying to learn that. I spend my day doing some real estate studying, making content. Then my vintage shop online is definitely a full-time thing. I ship every day. I get in new products weekly. I post everything. It is completely a one-man show, which I actually learned during the pandemic.
Tubefilter: A lot of work for one person.
Dag Larsen: You know what? The natural cure for depression is to keep yourself busy and keep your hands moving. You know that old saying, idle hands are devil hands, or idle hands are devil’s hands, definitely, I can attest to that, for sure.
Tubefilter: In terms of content, do you have a schedule or is it just when things can happen?
Dag Larsen: An idea pops here, and I’m like, “Okay, I’m running with that.” I want to say like, I know this. I’m belittling my own content when I say this, but it’s like verbal diarrhea and let’s see what sticks, and that’s it. I’m okay with any blowback, be it positive or negative, because this is my voice and that’s it.
There’s no schedule. I’ve tried, but then it just starts to become like a job. Then I’m just like, once it becomes a job, the creativity can be stunted.
Tubefilter: Yes. I was curious because you’re hitting the point where you’re going to start getting sponsorship offers, if you haven’t already.
Dag Larsen: Well, I’ve had sponsorship offers and those actually started pretty early, which were really good. Yes, I think my first offer was with a bed company and that was, I think I was maybe six months, seven months in. Then I worked on an app and I did a few other things. Some paid sponsorships and then some things for product. Those, I couldn’t believe it. It was hilarious, but it worked.
@daglarsen Some cleaning tips before I head out for the day #cleaningtips #martinerose #dryerballs #laundrytips ♬ Ariana Grande / Doja cat / Megan Thee Stallion Type Beat(969753) – RYOTA KATO
Tubefilter: That still works for you in terms of it not feeling like a job and it feeling like something that you’re passionate about?
Dag Larsen: Oh, totally. I’m so grateful that I have another business because money is really tight for people right now, and I think that there has to be a really strong responsibility on anybody making content. Even if you have 10 followers that really latch onto everything you say, understand that a dollar is a different value to each person. When you’re selling a product, you have to look past the cash you’re putting in your pocket and remember that you are convincing people to spend their hard-earned money, so don’t sell them garbage.
If I didn’t have other outlets for income, then maybe I would operate in a different space. I’m grateful that I don’t have to, and no matter what I get to keep my integrity. I might die penniless, but at least I have my integrity and that’s a fair trade because you can’t bring your stuff to the grave.
Tubefilter: Absolutely. What has been your favorite part of this whole being online thing?
Dag Larsen: This is going to sound very vulnerable, but it helped me find my purpose and I stopped thinking that I was dumb and helpless. I was so used to, in the real world, being told that I’m kind of helpless and useless. Then I just started sharing these silly things I knew, like these happy homemaker things, and they were of service and they were helpful and it made me feel like I do have value and it does matter. I started to believe in myself.
I’m still working on it. We all struggle with self-esteem and confidence and things. Just because people are on the internet doesn’t mean we’re confident people, a lot of us hide behind our screens because this is our security blanket. I think that that’s a very common thing. I’ve gone to so many events and met so many other content creators and we’re all shy introverts, because we’re so comfortable on a screen space and we’re blocked from the world.
It’s helped me open up in the real world and share my voice and not be afraid that people are just going to laugh at me and think I’m dumb. Honestly.
Tubefilter: That’s good. That’s a hugely positive thing. I feel like your content reflects that, like spreads that confidence to other people. And, look, at a certain point you get afraid to ask things. How to do something.
Dag Larsen: Of course.
Tubefilter: Just stuff like, how to do your laundry properly, or how to save money on groceries. If you didn’t learn that young, it can be embarrassing to try to learn later.
Dag Larsen: Oh, for sure. For sure. Listen, we all have different skills and we all know different stuff, and when I can share a little tidbit of something I know, maybe someone will share a little tidbit with me that I didn’t know. Knowledge is power, so it’s good.
Tubefilter: I was going to say, do you ever share, if somebody comments with a helpful tip, do you ever make a video about that?
Dag Larsen: I do. I do a lot. I would say I’m actually pretty good within my comment space. I do try to respond to quite a bit. I usually take the first hour when I post and I try to engage with that conversation because again, people giving a minute of their life to you is a gift. I know that we’ve lost sight of this because we are in such a consumerist society that we’ve forgotten that time is so valuable.
If people take the time to make a comment and watch my stuff to completion, at the very least you acknowledged me, I should try my best to acknowledge you back. It’s a form of gratitude.
Tubefilter: Absolutely. I know you said your audience is a younger demographic. Have you noticed anything else about your audience and the kind of people who are watching your stuff?
Dag Larsen: Well, it’s really, really funny. I was at a wedding about a week and a half ago, and this woman, she might’ve been in her 50s, maybe her 60s, I’m not quite sure, let’s just say she was in that range. She came up to me at this wedding and she said, “I have to say I love your videos.”
I’m like, “Okay!” She was totally a mom. Then she was like, “I saw a video of you with your mom having a lunch,” and she said, “It just made me feel good.” She said, “My children laugh at me for watching TikTok, but I shared their videos with you and they’re great.” Then I also get so many messages from parents who say, “I share your videos with my kids because I’m convinced they’re going to listen to you.” I get that.
My mom has taught me everything I know, but sometimes it takes like two years for it to sink into the noggin and you’re like, oh, that is a good idea. Sometimes an outside source that’s like parent-approved works. That’s been the funniest thing within my content for sure, is finding that parents are like, “Oh, you’re helpful for my children.” I like that.
Tubefilter: Yeah, this educator position.
Dag Larsen: I think that that’s a really powerful word, but maybe like an older friend who knows some stuff and has been around. I think that’s a little more, I’m not university-educated in gastronomy and such.
Tubefilter: Well, look, I do feel like you have an educational air to you. [laughs]
Dag Larsen: Well, thank you. That’s really kind of you to say. [laughs]
Tubefilter: How have things changed for you since you started gathering this audience on TikTok? Has anything changed for you?
Dag Larsen: No.
Dag Larsen: Maybe.
Tubefilter: Aside from your confidence, maybe?
Dag Larsen: Oh yes. Like for that, absolutely. But my life itself and how I structure my day, has it changed? No, not at all. I will say I’ve definitely become a bit more of a homebody over this time. I would say this has definitely become more of my social experience and there’s a lot of things that I’m just not into. I’d rather do a live and bake cookies and do that than, let’s say, go to a store and buy a sweater these days. Shopping definitely used to be my drug of choice and that changed. Other than being home a little more, because I’m always trying to dig into my creativity because I know I feel more whole and complete when I’m in my own creative element. If you’re too distracted, you just can’t get there sometimes. I’m home more for sure.
I guess I try to watch my mouth when I’m out and about because sometimes I will bump into people and they’ll say, “Oh, I love your content.” I just try to be appropriate when I’m out and about as best as can be.
Tubefilter: Have you thought about bringing on help at all? I know you’re with Viral Nation now.
Dag Larsen: Well, Viral Nation has been a huge help, so this is a nice step forward in the sense that I’m not thinking about this as a business where there was a moment before having some agency representation where I kept kind of, I’d hit myself in the head and I’d be like, “Okay, sit down and do the business side of this.” I didn’t like that. It felt like I was selling me, and it just was like, I like doing– this is free and I like that.
Yes, I’m happy somebody else can oversee the business side because I’ve always been in the numbers and business side of things since a very young age. That’s, I guess been the help. Then I tried for a bit having my brother film stuff, but there’s something about holding the phone myself and using my front facing camera that just feels more natural for me. Not so forced, because I don’t write my stuff, it’s like, I riff. Is it riffing? I guess?
Dag Larsen: Yes. I’d say it’s a little more like that.
Tubefilter: Got you. It’s just cool to me that you’re doing this and running your business.
Dag Larsen: You know what? It’s good to keep busy. I don’t have children, I don’t have a pet, so I have the time. That’s the joy of being on your own without children, without pets, without a traditional nine to five is that you have this, you are afforded the luxury of a selfish schedule.
Tubefilter: Got you. Yes. To be clear, you don’t have to answer this next question, but I did want to ask, I know that you run a small business and during COVID obviously, lots of issues. Has your business recovered, or did it ever falter?
Dag Larsen: I had a retail space and the retail space that I was in they ended up selling the building during COVID. Then the new people who wanted to take over the building wanted some very unrealistic terms and I couldn’t predict what was happening. I closed that down, moved out, transitioned online. I had a live-work studio space for two years. I would say my business changed and it shifted.
Can I match the numbers I did with a three-floor store? No. If I break it down to time, put in and risk, it does balance out in its own way. There’s still a lot of room for growth. Now I’m looking into maybe extending past vintage and maybe seeing about launching some of my own products, some real essentials that I swear by and I use every day. I’m a very selective consumer, so I say, get the best thing you can afford. You don’t need to buy everything.
If I have an opportunity to make some products that are essential to me I would love to do that as my next business venture, because I’ve now come to understand the online space for commerce, which I didn’t understand or grasp all of that earlier. It was a good education and the pandemic just made me shift my life and find stuff. It was positive.
Tubefilter: I’m sure. I’m glad it was positive. Are your TikTok presence and your store two entirely separate things, or do you feel like there’s any traffic being driven from your content?
Dag Larsen: Traffic is being driven in that it is in my links. I have one of those link things on my page. It does bring some new people to my site, but they’re two different things. I’m not on TikTok to hawk product, I’m on TikTok to teach people things. Occasionally I might do a story if something really cool came in and I might say like, “Hey, sorry, this sounds like an ad, but like, this came in. It’s cool. Check it out. Here’s a promo code. Happy shopping.”
A bit. I do try to keep them separately. I do that with everything in life. I’m all about compartmentalizing. My relationship is not for the public. My business is my business. That’s not my social media. My social media is not my brand or my family. I like everything in nice, neat little boxes.
Tubefilter: I know you mentioned that you are potentially looking into launching your own products, but any other plans or goals for what’s going on with you?
Dag Larsen: I would love to do something on TV. That would be really, really cool. I don’t know in what capacity, but I would enjoy that. I’ve done some TV things in the past. I did something with what was it, Global like over the holidays, ways to save over the holidays years ago. I was on the Marilyn Denis Show. I also did Storage Wars. I enjoyed it. I thought it was really fun, and I liked seeing the production value that goes behind making serious content, television-worthy content. I find it fascinating. I love all the backend pieces.
Yes, something TV-related would be really, really cool. I would want to do something maybe a little more in-depth than just let’s clean under our bed. Right now I’m just taking some time to educate myself and improve my skills and basically be an outlet of good resources. That might translate to something. I would love to keep making content as long as possible in whatever capacity it is, because I have a big mouth and I have a lot to share.
Tubefilter: Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s not a bad thing.
Dag Larsen: Not to me, at least.
Tubefilter: I think that’s about it from me. Is there anything else that you would want readers to know about you? Anything else you wanted to talk about?
Dag Larsen: The only thing I guess I want to talk about is me going from being super private and really embarrassed of anybody in the world seeing me to making the transition to going online. I will say that if you invest a lot of time into content and you have a variation of what you like to watch and what you like to see and what you like to learn, odds are through all of that watching you’ve become an expert in your own way.
Don’t get in your own way. Don’t be afraid of the world tuning into you for 20 seconds. It could be the smallest of things, but we all have a voice. Don’t be embarrassed to share your voice. Don’t force yourself to be invisible. There’s no need for that. There’s no need to force yourself to be invisible, and there’s nothing to be shy about. If we can watch other people on the internet, then we can put ourselves on the internet. Sometimes we just need that.
If more people were willing to share a little bit, I think we’ll have a new wave of helpful content and not just a bunch of people showing off their pretty things. That’s all I want to say.