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I'm not going to lie.

What would you do if you were celebrating 20 years in business?

What would you do if you were celebrating 20 years in business? I’m not going to lie. This was massive thing for me. Mainly because I never set out to have a business as such. But secondly, because my father was an accountant and he used to tell me that most businesses failed within the first 2 years. To be able to add a zero to that number is really something to celebrate – wouldn’t you say? What would you do if you were celebrating 20 years in business?

I hope you don’t mind a bit of indulgence

We’re taking a little trip down memory lane. It’s been fun (and sometimes hard) to remember all of the people, projects, events and shenanigans that have occurred, but a few highlights have really stood out. This blog is all about 2002  – the year it all started!

How it all started

Imagine being in a foreign country, with no friends or contacts (other than your husband’s family), pregnant with your first child and told by your boss that they weren’t going to give you maternity leave? That was how and why White River Design started. An opportunity leave my job early while keeping my creative skills relevant as I took a year out of full time work. But that’s not quite what happened. Read the full story here >>>

Why White River Design

If you’ve ever spoken to me you would have heard my South African accent. I moved to Australia in 2000 after marrying my Australian husband David. However, I grew up in a small bush town nestled on the border of the world famous Kruger National Park called White River. Most of my family still live there today, so by naming my business White River Design, I never forget where I have come from, and I have a little piece of home with me every single day.
White River Design Original Logo
This was our original logo!

What to do when you have no friends, contacts or clients?

While networking I heard that 10% of the homes in Glenmore Park had a home based business – and with 6000 homes, that was a lot of potential.
I had a concept that would solve a number of problems at the same time:

  • I needed clients
  • Businesses needed exposure and
  • people needed a way to easily get in, around and out of Glenmore Park (a true rabbit warren of a place)

Glenmore Park Business Directory

I created the Glenmore Park Business Directory – a booklet with local business advertising space, a map and bus timetable for the area, coupons etc which was delivered to all of the homes in the suburb. Remember that this was before Facebook or even when websites were common or used much (am I showing my age?) I made a mock up and with my new-born strapped to me, I door knocked until I had 100 advertisers to fill the book. Do you remember this? I’d love to hear from you if you do.

I converted 25% of them into design clients, and as they say, the rest is history. Or is it? Find out what then happened in next week’s email.

PS: I couldn’t afford stock images so local businesses gave me photos to use, and each year my children made it onto the front cover.

You have to start somewhere

The very first logo I designed was for a company called Wise Advice Financial Services. Lance Munday who is sadly no longer with us, was the first business owner to trust me with his brand. The company is still going strong. I charged $500 for a logo back then (excluding GST).

When I look back on some of my early work – I literally cringe! To make ends meet I used to design wine labels for birthday presents, wedding bonbonnieres or corporate gifts (back when giving alcohol wasn’t frowned upon). It was quick and dirty, but it paid the bills.

3 people who made an impact

John Donne very famously said “No man (or woman) is an island”.

This quote is most definitely relevant when it comes to business. You cannot do it alone. Of course my husband, David has been my biggest supporter. But if it weren’t for these three people, I would not be in business today. So to Ian, Jane and Melissa, I say ‘thank you’ and am filled with gratitude.

  Ian WillisIan Willis worked for the Western Sydney Business Centre (then BEC). He was the first person I got business advice from. He told me to “network, network, network.” It may have seemed like simple advice, but for someone who knew nobody it changed everything. Ian may be retired but I’m an avid fan of WSBC and John Todd (current CEO) and all they do for small business.
Jane HoldsworthJane Holdsworth was the CEO of the Penrith Valley Economic Development Corporation. She also started the Penrith Valley Home Based Business Network – the first network I ever joined. She enabled my first big branding opportunity that opened so many doors (more of that for next week). Mentor, hero and friend, I learnt so much from this incredible woman.
Melissa BrowneMelissa Browne, was a shy young accountant who I met through the Penrith Valley Home Based Business Network. She became my accountant, client and life long friend. She has seen me through ups and downs and has been an incredible role model. I have watched her flourish into a confident powerhouse who I am so proud of!

Getting some early exposure

What’s better than you talking about you? When other’s are talking about you – particularly in the newspaper. Back then this was one of the only local mediums to gain exposure. Being part of the Home Based Business Network opened up these types of opportunities, which were invaluable to me to help build credibility. Read article here>>>

Home Based Business Network newspaper


2002, what a year! Look out for more blogs celebrating my years in business.

Written by our Creative Director & Branding Specialist Debbie O'Connor - Consultant, Strategist, Keynote Speaker

Published: Jun 6th, 2022