Growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado, Lisa Slagle was no stranger to the joys of playing in the mountains - or the creative energy that percolates in communities where people are getting regular doses of adventure and inspiration. Years later she put her sense of adventure to use running her own creative agency in some of the West’s most iconic mountain towns; including Whitefish, Montana.
“I chose to grow my business in Whitefish because I loved the community, and I want to do everything I can to support it.”
After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design from Colorado State University in 2008, Lisa moved to Crested Butte. She wasn’t making the move for a job, necessarily, but rather for the opportunity to ski during the day and practice her craft as a freelance designer after the lifts stopped spinning. That balance was ideal for Lisa:
“I loved the freedom to explore, and I loved the businesses I was working with. I knew I wanted to keep working with clients in the outdoor recreation industry because they’re so passionate about what they’re doing.”
But, the market in Crested Butte had a few limitations. Specifically, a relatively limited population of businesses and entrepreneurs to work with. So, in 2012 she moved to Salt Lake City, where she worked as a graphic designer and photo editor for the popular outdoor gear retail site Backcountry.com, continuing to build her freelance design portfolio in her off time.
Lisa made it exactly one year in Salt Lake before realizing she wasn’t cut out for city life, and started looking for a small town with close proximity to the adventure sports she loves. She chose Whitefish as her next destination for its optimal mix of great skiing and biking, combined with an emerging community of outdoor recreation-focused business ventures. As she was planning her move, she knew it was time to take the leap as an entrepreneur and give up her ‘fall back’ day job strategy:
“Looking at Whitefish, I knew it was time to go all-in with a creative agency…there were so many cool business owners and like-minded ‘adventure entrepreneurs’ to work with. I knew I could make this work.”
And make it work she has. Lisa’s branding and marketing agency, Wheelie Creative, continues to work with clients all over the Rocky Mountain West while making significant in-roads with Flathead Valley clients like Notice Snowboards, Whitefish Legacy Partners, and Great Northern Cycle and Ski. In order to keep up with client demand, Lisa has added three employees to the Wheelie Creative team: Director of Web Development Pete Francisco, Media Buyer Jessica Downing, and Production Designer Cole Cano. She also works with a team of contract creatives that can quickly and skillfully step up to the plate on any marketing project across a wide variety of mediums.
Despite the obvious business success Lisa has achieved in her new community, her greatest rewards still lie in the quality of life (and quality of work) she’s afforded in Whitefish:
“I get to snowboard every day during the season by working before the lifts open and after, and I get to work with a very passionate community…I love helping these people tell their stories and watching businesses grow.”
For Lisa, a huge part of expressing her appreciation for her new hometown means giving back to the community by teaching design classes at nearby Flathead Valley Community College, and by starting the WheelieLocal Project. The WheelieLocal project is a unique program Lisa created that allows clients who sign up for a one-year branding and marketing contract to donate up to ten hours of design work to a local non-profit of their choice. While that may seem like a lot to take on for a young entrepreneur who already had a full schedule before, Lisa sees it as a ‘passion project’ that allows her to use her skills for a cause she believes in:
“Great design can reach so many people; it might as well do as much good as it can…I chose to grow my business in Whitefish because I loved the community, and I want to do everything I can to support it.”