March 11, 2024

Painting a Picture of Success

UCalgary grads Lana Rogers and Kristy Archibald are charting paths, navigating challenges and inspiring the next class of digital media entrepreneurs.
Lana Kristy Banner

In the complex artwork of entrepreneurship, where dreams and creativity converge with determination and risk, the narratives of Lana Rogers, BA’08, and Kristy Archibald, BA’15, show us the colours, painting a story of success, collaboration and empowerment.  

Rogers (founder and director, Gentle Lion) and Archibald (co-founder and director, Pedestrian) Both have founded University of Calgary alumni-built business that exemplify the transformative power of passion, resilience and community-driven entrepreneurship, with both becoming heads of thriving enterprises in the communications industry. 

Being a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ 

For Rogers, the journey into entrepreneurship was initially never on her radar as a Communication and Media Studies major. It was not until after graduating that she found herself truly drawn to the world of public relations, first landing a job with a PR agency. Starting as a co-ordinator, she steadily climbed the ranks, eventually reaching the position of communications director after eight years of dedicated work. It was during this time that she discovered an affinity for the versatility inherent in agency work. Working in such an environment allowed her to explore a multitude of roles and responsibilities, shaping her into a versatile and adaptable professional. 

"I had the opportunity to work with a unique roster of clients, from a variety of industries, and provide them with services that spanned across the entire agency," she recalled. Over time, she gravitated towards the realm of hospitality within client relations, where her adeptness at managing those relationships really showed. At the peak of her career at the agency, she found herself juggling an impressive portfolio, overseeing a staggering 14 clients simultaneously—an accomplishment that spoke volumes about her organizational prowess. 

However, as time passed, she began to sense a shift. "I could feel my time with the agency was coming to an end, that something needed to shift for me," she reflected and found herself at a crossroads, uncertain of her next steps. 

Lana Mid Article Banner

Lana Rogers, BA'07, is the Founder and Director of Gentle Lion.

Have a plan to break it  

In her university days as a Communications major with a minor in Business, Archibald always exuded curiosity and drive to explore diverse opportunities. Engaged in various extracurricular activities, she found herself deeply involved in student clubs, where serendipity would bring her into contact with Rogers, a pivotal figure whose influence would resonate throughout her career.  

"I was part of this student club and we brought Lana and her sister in to talk about PR," says Archibald, adding their initial encounter had lasting impact. 

With aspirations firmly set on a career in public relations, especially after meeting Rogers, Archibald pursued her studies with a determined focus, aiming to secure a position at a PR firm upon graduation. However, the post-university landscape proved challenging, marked by economic uncertainty amidst the recession of 2014. Undeterred by the shifting tides, she seized an opportunity at a social media agency, a departure from her envisioned path, but a pragmatic choice dictated by the time. 

The professional landscape in which Archibald found herself was characterized by rapid evolution, with emerging platforms like Instagram and later TikTok reshaping the digital landscape. Embarking on her journey in social media, she was able to seamlessly blend her writing prowess with a newfound appreciation for social engagement. "It was a very interesting time," she muses, reflecting on the dynamic nature of the digital business world. 

Despite her initial reluctance to embrace entrepreneurship, she found herself navigating the unpredictable waters of freelancing when the agency she was at scaled down and eventually shut its doors. Embracing the freedom and autonomy that freelancing afforded, she delved further into journalism, social media and PR, exploring new avenues of creative expression. 

Reflecting on this period of flux, Archibald remarked, “I was surprised at how quickly I not only pivoted and adapted to working on my own, but just how much I loved it and how everything started falling into place.” 

Once she created her website and started pitching herself to industry contacts, it wasn’t long until she was working more than full time on a broad range of clients and projects in the community and thriving from the variety it granted her. This ranged from writing monthly articles for Daily Hive and NUVO Magazine to copywriting for a few agencies to managing the social media and PR for a variety of local festivals in the city, such as Lilac Festival and Taste of Calgary.   

“I really fell into freelancing, which paid off because I took every opportunity and challenge as it happened and let my career take off from there, rather than feeling a need to control every aspect of it.” 

Change the way things are done 

Rogers had reached her crossroads in her professional journey, at the agency where she had thrived. Departing from a conventional trajectory, Rogers found herself embarking on a consultancy role spurred by community demand for her expertise in marketing and PR. Reflecting on this pivotal transition, Lana reminisced, "I ended up leaving the agency, and my plan was to take a break – get some rest and plan out what my next move was (thinking that I was going to do a complete career 180). None of that actually happened, because as soon as Ieft, I had various folks in the community reaching out to me, asking for marketing and public relations support with their businesses. 

Embracing the newfound consultancy role, she swiftly immersed herself in projects ranging from collaborating with establishments like 10 Foot Henry to supporting emerging talents like interior designer Amanda Hamilton. By 2016 this initial foray into consultancy laid the foundation for what would become Gentle Lion, a boutique agency driven by a commitment to shared values and tangible results.  

As Gentle Lion evolved, vision expanded beyond industry boundaries, prioritizing alignment with client values over sector-specific considerations. Adopting a holistic approach to client engagement, the agency focused on partnering with small to medium-sized businesses, startups seeking market entry, and established enterprises navigating transformative shifts. As Rogers says, "we're not industry-bound... It's more about the values-alignment and making sure that we can truly advocate for brands that stretch beyond convention." 

At its core, Gentle Lion's methodology revolves around facilitating tangible outcomes for its clients, necessitating a deep understanding of their internal processes and systems. Beyond traditional marketing and PR services, the agency assumes a multifaceted role, meticulously identifying operational inefficiencies and providing tailored solutions.  

Rogers elaborated, "We wanted to be able to help businesses from a broader perspective...after going through our process, many of our clients mention it feels like their business just had a therapy session with us…We're always looking at the business holistically." 

With a dedicated team and this client-centric mission, Gentle Lion continues to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of marketing and PR, guided by Rogers’ unwavering commitment to driving meaningful change within the businesses it serves. As Rogers reflects on the agency's journey, one thing remains abundantly clear: Gentle Lion's legacy will not be merely defined by its achievements, but by the lasting impact it has on its clients. 

Take the path less travelled 

Archibald's passion for storytelling, and journey of self-discovery through freelancing through working for an agency, cemented her desires to create and partner on her own agency. Reflecting on her trajectory, she recollected, “I really freelanced for most of my journey to be honest. I worked for myself, but collaborated with different PR firms like Lana’s, we worked together many times. I see freelancing as a serendipitous opportunity in my story. ”  

Her journey toward entrepreneurship was characterized by an affinity for collaboration and a penchant for embracing unforeseen opportunities. Encounters with diverse professionals, including her partner and co-founder Sean Irani, who has a background in film, resulted in the inception of Pedestrian in 2019. The agency's genesis stemmed from a shared appreciation for advertising, with Archibald’s expertise in copywriting complementing her partner's more visual acumen. She remarked, “It's funny it came full circle... I never really intended on starting anything, even with my minor in business, I just wanted to work with impactful brands with an inspiring vision and help them tell their story.”  

Through Pedestrian, she continues to fuel her passion for storytelling, forging meaningful connections with brands and individuals alike. A commitment to adaptability and a deep-seated empathy for her clients have been guiding principles for Pedestrian. Reflecting on the dynamic nature of client relationships, Archibald noted, “I think that's probably what makes work with clients easier - we understand their business and often, we end up becoming half of their marketing department.”  

“When you work with people and are used to wearing many hats - you end up jumping in and helping wherever you can,” says Archibald. “I think that's really something you have to possess as a business owner, to not only be a self starter, but be able to switch on and off in different roles and have an acute sense of detail to see the bigger picture and understand what your client is looking for and why. And you have to be able to do this quickly.”   

This inherent understanding of the intricacies of business ownership underscores both Archibald and Rogers’ approach to client collaboration, characterized by their holistic perspectives and a willingness to offer support beyond the realm of PR or social media marketing. Archibald elaborated, “We'll be talking with the client about doing one thing, but then we ask how other components are doing? We’re always offering advice or help in terms of the entire business because it comes back to social, how you're marketing and how everything ties together to communicate with your audience.” 

Pedestrian’s engagement with clients extends beyond the digital landscape, encompassing a genuine interest in their overall success and growth. She emphasized, "Seeing how it can all come together into one event. For example, we have collaborated with the Inglewood Night Market produced by the inspiring team at Vibrant City Productions, to gain them an engaged audience on social that encompases both attendees and vendors who all see the value and impact of this local market on the community and as a result will share and help promote it as well.” 

She recounted, "I've seen many examples, like Calgary Heritage Roasting Co. or Friday Sock Co.; they started out as small vendors at the night market and now they're thriving businesses that our city is known for, which also speaks to the quality of the event. The team does such a great job and it’s so much fun to promote.” 

Witnessing the evolution of small businesses under their tutelage brings Archibald, Irani and the team immense satisfaction, serving as a testament to their collaborative spirit and unwavering dedication to client success. 

Kristy Mid Article Banner

Kristy Archibald, BA’15, is the Co-Founder and Director of Pedestrian Agency.

Empowering women in entrepreneurship 

"I think women are now empowered more than ever to be able to go out and take risks," says Rogers, acknowledging the profound changes that have opened doors to women in various domains. With the progressive dismantling of barriers and the emergence of inclusive environments, more women than ever are seizing the moment to chart their paths with determination and resilience. This is not to say there is not still work to be done, but Rogers notes the feeling of a shift around her.  

Rogers emphasizes this shift, noting a sense of unwavering resolve women must pursue their aspirations relentlessly. "It’s about seizing all potential opportunities in the moment. If it’s there, I’m going to move on it.” she affirms. 

As Rogers and Archibald embarked on their entrepreneurial odysseys, they found solace and strength in the bonds of collaboration and mutual support. Despite the inherent challenges of entrepreneurship, they discovered that the journey was made infinitely more rewarding by the presence of like-minded individuals who shared their passion and vision. 

The emergence of supportive networks and communities such as Monday Girl, a private members’ club Archibald is involved with that focuses on “connecting the next generation of women leaders,” further underscores the collaborative spirit prevalent among women in business.  

"It's nice to see women have that confidence to break out and realize that you can make it on your own, you can make your own rules, and you can create your own brand and your own business," Archibald says, emphasizing the sense of camaraderie and mutual support that characterizes Calgary's female-driven business community. 

In Calgary's tightly knit entrepreneurial ecosystem, competition takes a backseat to collaboration, with women often actively championing each other's success.  

"Women are really great to each other here,” says Archibald. “We are all willing to help each other and refer clients to each other." This spirit, she says, paves the way for collective growth and empowerment. 

In entrepreneurship, women are not merely participants but trailblazers, navigating uncharted territories with courage and conviction. With each stride forward, they challenge stereotypes, redefine norms and inspire future generations to embrace their full potential. As women like Rogers and Archibald continue to advocate for inclusivity and gender parity, they pave the way for a more equitable and empowered future, where every woman is encouraged to pursue her dreams fearlessly. 

Archibald reflects on the pivotal role Rogers played in her entrepreneurial endeavours. "Lana was definitely one of the people who always supported me in whatever I was doing," she says. This spirit of camaraderie and mutual support would come to define their collaborative efforts, laying the groundwork for a relationship between them built on trust, respect and shared ambition.

A note to your younger self 

Reflecting on her entrepreneurial journey, Rogers expressed a desire for a different shift. One in perspective. "Given that I think I was a bit of a risk-taker, I wish I would have known what I know now," she remarked. Rogers acknowledged her past hesitance to embrace growth, noting, "I was really hesitant to take risks because back there was something imbedded in me that I needed to stay small ." She recognized her previous reluctance to expand as a limitation, " I wore that [small business mentality] as a badge of honor. I am going to stay small. I'm not going to grow." 

In hindsight, Rogers expressed a desire to trust in the growth process and her team more. "I wish, I would have seen that growth can be rewarding, exciting and not scary," she admitted. Additionally, she highlighted the evolution of her definition of success.  

"Redefining success. What I thought success was then, is completely different from what it is now," she reflected. "Success seven years ago was tied to monetary values and a sense of freedom. Now success is based on the abundance of my community and empowering my team to be great leaders, and redefining the agency culture." Rogers' journey illustrates the transformative power of embracing change and redefining one's perception of success within the entrepreneurial landscape. 

Reflecting on her past, Archibald emphasized the importance of maintaining a sense of openness and resilience. "I think I would tell myself to relax a little bit, don't worry so much," she mused. "For a long time, I was very hyper-focused on one end goal, and I think that really helped me build up a network, but it wasn’t until I let that narrative go that opportunities started presenting themselves in places I would have never expected." 

Despite her initial fixation on a singular path, she acknowledged the value of embracing uncertainty. Her advice to her younger self resonates with the spirit of resilience and adaptability that defines her entrepreneurial journey: 

"Worry less."

Leaving a legacy 

As Rogers and Archibald continue to chart new horizons and inspire future generations of entrepreneurs, their journey stands as a poignant reminder of the power of collaboration, mentorship and female empowerment in shaping entrepreneurial success.  

Through their shared experiences and unwavering determination, they have forged a legacy of resilience, innovation and community-driven entrepreneurship — a legacy that continues to resonate and inspire aspiring leaders around the globe. 

Rogers and Archibald stand as embodiments of possibility, resilience and collective achievement. Their journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of community, mentorship and unwavering determination in overcoming obstacles and realizing one's dreams. As they continue to inspire and uplift those around them, their legacy will endure as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come.  

Both Gentle Lion and Pedestrian are listed on the UCalgary Alumni Built Business Directory. This directory showcases the amazing range of products and services UCalgary alumni have to offer. Follow the link to help us learn about your business. 

Note that in order to be featured in the directory, businesses must be founded, owned and/or operated by a graduate of the University of Calgary.