– Words by Angela Cowan Photography by Lia Crowe
Spend five minutes chatting with Tara Armstrong and you’ll not only find yourself instantly at ease, but also likely in awe of her energy and enthusiasm, both of which serve her well in her role as co-owner of Vancouver public relations and marketing firm Armstrong + Lan.
She began her career in 2011 as marketing director for Vancouver’s award-winning Glowbal Restaurant Group, after completing an internship with a PR company in the UK.
“I wanted a job that was cool and interesting, where you got to do lots of different interesting things,” she says. “I got in touch with Glowbal and they hired me pretty much off the street.”
Prior to the internship, Tara had spent her working life in restaurants—from dishwasher up to managing the whole show—and definitely credits her frontline knowledge with how quickly and successfully she moved up the ranks with Glowbal.
When she decided to go out on her own, fate intervened, offering up a business partner.
“I was introduced to Michelle Lan. We met at the Flying Pig for a glass of wine and never looked back from there,” says Tara.
Both her partner and her clients have been amazing, she adds.
“It’s been really great to pick people that you want to work with. I’ve been fortunate to work with the most talented people in the industry who are doing great things. When you’re working with people who are pushing boundaries, it forces you to push your own boundaries.”
When the first waves of COVID-19 hit, it turned the restaurant industry upside down, and demanded a new way of thinking about the business.
“All of them had to shift what a restaurant is and what it represented at the time. They had to push out of their comfort zones and boundaries, and so we did too, to support them in their efforts.”
New business angles like delivering food to vulnerable populations, expanding takeout options, and fundraising became the norm.
“Even in times of crisis, the creativity that came out of it was really inspiring,” says Tara. “I love the people that I work with. My clients are amazing. And seeing how they’ve come out of all this…they are so brilliant in what they do. Truly.”
The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
I’ve become a bit obsessed lately with reading about women industry leaders who also happen to be moms. There are aspects of each of them I’d love to experience! Joanna Griffiths of Knix, Elizabeth Blau of Blau & Associates, Natasha Koifman of NKPR, and Italian politician Licia Ronzulli are all at the top of my list.
What is the food you could eat over and over again?
This is a hard one! But I think my answer would have to be spaghetti Bolognese. It’s the perfect meal no matter the occasion—happy, sad, sick, stressed, celebratory. And is there anything better than homemade noodles?
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?
I have a hit list of restaurants around the world that I must try before I die. Michelin starred, food trucks, dives and everything in between. I would do a world food tour, stopping at every spot on my list until it’s complete.
Chewed gum under tables. Why?! Why do people do this!?
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
I’m not very good at doing nothing. But when we were in Costa Rica, we came across this beach, miles long in either direction as far as the eye could see. The only people on the beach were us and the owners of a converted shipping container plopped right in the middle of the beach serving ceviche and beer. I could spend an awful long time sitting on that beach, doing nothing (except eating ceviche and drinking beer).
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
My master’s thesis title, Managing Tiger Out of the Woods. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall
when my paper landed on my professor’s desk and he read that.
What makes your heart beat faster?
I have a seven-month-old daughter, Frankie. The excitement she has when I or her dad walk into a room and sees us presents the ultimate heart flutter feeling.