Collaboration celebration

Debbie: "We are helping businesses to educate themselves through our Wednesday workshops, and we have also launched an online branding program."
Debbie: "We are helping businesses to educate themselves through our Wednesday workshops, and we have also launched an online branding program."

When the one business walks away with trophies for both the Business Person of the Year and the Youth Award at the 2017 Penrith City Local Business Awards, you know it must be doing something right.

Brooke: "In the future, I’d love to become an Art Director or Creative Director of a small to medium size graphic design studio."

Brooke: "In the future, I’d love to become an Art Director or Creative Director of a small to medium size graphic design studio."

The Creative Fringe’s Debbie O’ Connor said the inspiration for her business came from wanting to support other small business owners.

“I grew up in a very close community at White River in South Africa  where everyone helped each other out.

“After I came to Australia and had a home based business for eight years (White River Design), I started looking for a premises but was put off by the length of the leases and the cost of fit outs.

“Running your own business is hard enough in the first place, so I decided to support my business community.

“As part of my business I outsource to lots of small business people, which gave me the idea of bringing everyone together under the one roof. The client only need visit one place for different services, and businesses can inspire and support each other,” she said.

“So The Creative Fringe was designed to take a lot of the pain out of their decision about where to be based. There are no long term leases, if you choose a hot desk there is no bond, there is no fit out required.”

However Ms O’Connor said that it was hard to sell the concept at first.

“We had to change our perception from focusing on cost, to realising that some people like their own space, so we created three offices. Then we also took a big leap and asked people to pay whatever rate they felt was right for the space. A majority of people chose to pay the normal daily rate anyway.”

Working alongside Ms O’Connor is 2017 Youth Award winner Brooke Allender. 

“I’ve always known I wanted to be in a creative role. Something that’s different everyday and allows me to be surrounded by like-minded individuals that I can learn from and grow with. I really hit the jackpot, straight out of university,” Ms Allender said.

“I draw energy from the people around me, so to be surrounded by so many talented small businesses means I’m in my element. 

“Being in a co-working space also exposes me to many situations meaning somedays yes, I am a graphic designer, and other days I’m greeting visitors and settling them in, answering queries or even running my own creative workshops.”

Ms Allender said the company supported her through various workshops and networking opportunities such as one for under-35 year old professionals called GenYQ.

She advised other young people to not be afraid to jump in the deep end.

“Ask questions, work for free, put yourself out there. It’s all about who you know, so adapt to change and make connections along the way.”