Bec Webber is known for her no-fuss and results-driven approach when it comes to working with her clients. Since opening engineroom design co. back in 2008, her goal has been to be the agency provider of choice – with a big agency feel, without big agency fees.
Her clients rave about her willingness to collaborate, professionalism and understanding of the needs of the business, which always result in a fantastic outcome.
Bec feels that becoming an extension of her clients own marketing teams and becoming their engineroom is why she started her company a decade ago.
- Tell us about the journey that lead you to start your own business.
To be honest, starting my own business wasn’t anything I really ever thought about. I was very lucky in my whole career, that it all just sort of fell into place. I am a Newcastle girl, but I went to university in Sydney at UNSW, and as part of my degree I had to do a six-month uni placement. I didn’t know any agency in Sydney, so I just went door-knocking. And I was very fortunate that a company called Cowan Design offered me an internship. I didn’t realise at the time that they were a specialised packaging agency, and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me because it formed my career – it was something that I fell into and I just really loved.
Packaging design is quite a unique category in that you’ve got such a small space to communicate so many messages about the brand and the product, and you’ve only got the shoppers’ attention as they walk past down the supermarket aisle. It’s a really challenging space to work in and I just found it really rewarding. It’s just something that I really enjoyed, so I just started doing that for a few years. I worked in a few different agencies in Sydney, all specialising in packaging design.
And it wasn’t until one day I was in a yearly review with my design director and my creative director and they asked me where I saw myself in five years and I answered what I thought. My creative director saw through me and she said, “in five years I can see you having your own agency and having your own team”. My design director was kind of a bit horrified because he was like, “no, she’s staying here”. But it planted the seed because she’d been in the industry for over 25 years, and I had a lot of respect for her. I thought, “wow, she sort of can see that potential in me, so then maybe that’s something I should consider”.
A few years later I decided that I wanted to move back to Newcastle, and I thought, “well, what am I going to do?” My career was so specialised and there weren’t any packaging agencies in Newcastle. I thought I’d be limiting myself, so I ended up to starting freelancing. And whilst I was freelancing to packaging agencies, I started to see that there was this real gap – all the packaging agencies at the time were really large, had high overheads, high price tags. And for small to medium sized companies that had products to sell, that were fantastic, they couldn’t afford a packaging agency to help them sell their product. I started trying to get a few of my own clients and trying to help those people, and I was liking that people liked what I was doing, and they started referring me.
So, the engineroom was formed.
- Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Not really – as I said, I just sort of fell into it through passion and loving what I was doing. But when I think about it, all of my family are entrepreneurs.
Everyone in my family has their own business; all my brothers, my stepsister, my cousins, my aunties, my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law, we all just started running our own businesses. And I think it’s just the way we’ve been brought up; if we’ve got no idea, we just run with it and we just do it.
- What is one action or task you ensure you incorporate into your diary each week?
From a personal point of view – exercise. I’ve just recently started running, I love running. I also have a fitness family in the form of a PT group. I try to do it every day if I can, because I just find it puts me in the right headspace, gets me positive, and it just keeps me motivated. It gives me space away from my kids, family, the housework and work, and it’s something I’ve found for myself.
From a business point of view, the one thing I try and get our team to do every week is – even if it’s just five minutes – we do a brainstorm on ways we can improve our processes or what we offer to our clients or do something proactive or innovative for our clients.
Sometimes we come up with an idea that’ll take a couple of seconds to implement, and sometimes it’s things that are going to take us months to implement. But our whole philosophy is that we really try and build genuine relationships with our clients. I find that if we have some form of discussion about that every week, no matter how big or small, it just gets us in the right mindset and keeps us in the right mindset.
- What do you attribute your success to?
It’s going to sound like a cliché, but definitely the people I surround myself with. I’m very lucky in that throughout my whole life I’ve always had people that believed in and supported me.
Whether that be from my parents, going up to the creative director who planted the seed that I start my own business, to my husband who really believed in me and gave me the confidence, the financial backing and the freedom to start my own business.
And even to the likes of Kristy and James Lawrence who when I first contacted them to say, “hey, I’m coming back to Newcastle, I want to start a packaging and branding agency. Will you support me and help me?” Finally, to my staff now – I’m very lucky that all my staff are really passionate about what they do, and they want to succeed.
I think if you always surround yourself with people who want to succeed, it just sort of rubs off on you, and you can’t help but succeed.
- Which local entrepreneur do you find inspiring?
Locally I would have to say my auntie, Deborah Sowerby, she’s the Co-founder of The Letter Q, Q-And-Co and THE GOODS with my cousin Kendall Sadler. From as long as I can remember she’s run her own businesses. It doesn’t matter how crazy her idea is, if she’s got an idea and she believes in it, she just backs herself. She’s got the confidence and she’s a really hard worker, she’s really determined, committed and she’ll just make it happen. And so, I’ve always admired those qualities about her.
For a little further afield from Sydney I’d have to say I really have a lot of respect for one of our clients, Hana Krawchuk who’s the Founder of Love To Dream. She was just a lady who had her first child and had a lot of trouble getting him to sleep. She picked up on something one of the nurses had said to her that if the child can get access to the hands, to self-soothe, she’ll find he’ll sleep longer. She was a fashion designer by trade, and she just started to experiment with different garments.
Hana invented the swaddle which is now exported to 45 countries – she’s one of the top innovators in sleep products for children and she’s a Lawyer. She’s won so many awards – she’s won the Westpac Business of Tomorrow, the Telstra Business Women’s Award (Entrepreneur), and just last month she won the Woman’s Export Award for Australia which was for any woman in any category in Australia for outstanding export achievements.
And she was just a mum that had a problem I suppose and found a solution. And she’s also just a really big ambassador of helping women get back into the workforce after having children, so I just have so much respect for her.