2011 The time had come to leave home | White River Design
Debbie knew that something had to change, and 2011 was the year for it.

The time had come to leave home

The time had come to leave home. Have you ever spoken to one of your team and had an epiphany?

This happened for Debbie while chatting to Marnie. Remember that WRD had been a home based business, so when Marnie shared that she would normally get to work early, grab a coffee, have a chat and settle in before the day officially started. However, when coming to work at WRD she would instead sit in her car until 9am on the dot so that she didn’t interrupt any home time.

Added to that, going into Debbie’s kitchen, turn on her kettle open her cupboard for a cup, then her fridge for milk was just one example of how a team member can feel a little uncomfortable working from a home office.

After this chat Debbie knew that something had to change, and 2011 was the year for it. The time had come to leave home.

Our first big move

Our big news in 2011 was that we moved into premises! Debbie was never ashamed of running a business from home. On the contrary, it had been a very smart business strategy as she never paid rent and a lot of her home expenses were shared with the business – telephone, electricity, cleaning…

For her, being a ‘home based business’ was merely geography. It didn’t define our level of design skills or service. We aim to operate to our highest standard no matter where we are located. In saying that, it was time for this business to spread it’s wings. Debbie’s beautiful children were needing their home to be a place that they can relax when they get back from school, and Debbie needed that too.

The office was on Henry Street, right next door to John Todd and his amazing team at the Western Sydney Business Centre. The fun part was decorating our new space and of course throwing a new office launch party.

What we learnt from moving

Moving into premises was not as easy as it sounds.

  • Real estate agents wanted me to sign a 2-3 year lease, however off the back of the GFC we had no idea where the business would be in 2-3 years time.
  • We had to fit out the office but we couldn’t afford all new furniture… So we had to track down quality secondhand furniture and then get a removal company to deliver everything.
  • The fit out included things were weren’t even thinking of such as a fridge, kettle, toaster etc
  • We had to lay data cables for our telephones and computers (wifi wasn’t very stable back then)
  • All up it cost me $30,000 (on top of rent)

It was an expensive exercise and a seed was planted that would later grow…

Thank you to a special man

John Todd Western Sydney Business Centre

This is John Todd. If you run a business in Western Sydney it is virtually impossible not to have come across him or any of his advisors from the Western Sydney Business Centre. John is probably rolling his eyes as he reads this, as he is a very humble man, but this man is the reason why WRD is still going 20 years later. He offered us an office at a rate that we could not only afford, but allowed us to be on a month to month lease – we stayed for 3 years! This took so much pressure off making the decision to move out of home. Over the years we have received mentoring and advice through his programs and Debbie has also been asked to mentor and present for WSBC.
“I would like to personally thank you John for all that you do for businesses in our local community. You really do change lives and I am forever grateful to you and all that you do.” Debbie

Team building

WRD Team Building

After the big move into premises we needed a bit of fun, so we spent a creative morning at Artescape in St Leonards. We were kitted out in our head to toe protective clothing. We proceeded down a small spiral stairwell into a room like no other. Each of us had a clean canvas secured to the paint splattered wall. After smearing colour directly from our hands to the canvas the rest was child’s play. With everything to assist in our painting (except a paintbrush) we continued to throw, slap and spray paint throughout the morning. We finished with 3 individual pieces and one team artwork that can still be viewed in our new office today.

Group business coaching = fun,  accountability and results

Ignite Melissa Browne

We started business coaching with the Ignite Series run by Business Advantage Coaching which was run by Melissa Browne. She got us following the Verne Harnish principles which saw us setting weekly, monthly and quarterly goals along with a theme. We still use these principles today and find it a great way to keep on track. One of our very first rewards was heading to Spa Sublime in Katoomba for ‘The Works’ day spa.


Unsolicited advice #9

Embrace change. It can be challenging, sometimes difficult but it always results in growth. The reality is that everything changes – and in the world we are living in, it is changing at an alarming rate. If you don’t learn to adapt with it, you will be left behind. To quote George Bernard Shaw “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.”


Young entrepreneurs

The Young Entrepreneur Business Mentoring Program was run through the WSBC and networking group GenYQ. It saw business people up to age 30 paired up with more experienced business owners. DebbieO has received so many benefits from being mentored, so she put her hand up to mentor Rebekah Drummond from Origin Fitness. Read more>>>

Young Entrepreneur Business Mentoring WSBC GenYQ
Western Sydney University Work Experience

Work experience

It can be hard for students to find work experience placements – especially in our local area. It can sometimes be challenging to have Year 10 students. But it is always fun to have Uni students join us in the studio. Sarah Herbert did her 120 hours of work placement with us when she was in her third year. Studying a Bachelor of Design at Western Sydney University.

Our annual sponsorship

Every year, WRD supported a not-for-profit offering free design services for an entire year. In 2011 were proud to support Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. This was our third year providing them with free design service. Giving them a professional image without using up their vital resources. A developed brand means that they have a better chance of gaining sponsorship and gave them far more exposure for the amazing work that they do.

Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy WRD

Our very old portfolio

If you had any design work produced by WRD in our earlier days, you may want to see if your work popped up in our portfolio video.


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

Published: Feb 13th, 2023