Rebecca Wessels is passionate about supporting Indigenous artists – and bringing their artwork to new audiences. This passion has seen her business Ochre Dawn work with everyone from footy clubs to government.
The South Australian agency recently teamed up with Adelaide Football Club and prominent SA artist Allan Sumner to design the 2017 Toyota AFL Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round guernsey, commemorating the invaluable contribution indigenous players have made to Australian football.
The Guernsey’s design is titled “Kuwa Irrapina Tuwila nakurri-apinga”, which means ‘Awaken the Crow Warrior Spirit’ – and hopes to channel a bit of the warrior spirit in Crows players as they take the field against Fremantle on May 27 at Adelaide Oval.
“Sport is emotional, it resonates with people,” says Managing Director and founder Rebecca. “The players especially loved when Allan explained that it displays the symbols of the Kaurna warrior preparing for battle.”
It has been an eventful decade for Rebecca. She has taken Ochre Dawn from side hustle to full-time job, working with national clientele. The agency specialises in working with Indigenous artists to produce branded products– for everyone from State Government to the SA Film Corporation – while working to educate and inspire the wider community on cultural history and recognition.
What began as a small after-hours project expanded when Rebecca moved back to Adelaide to raise a family. Working a day job at the Australian Refugee Association, and then Tandanya, her own business quickly grew – and has now become a full-time job with a pool of freelance and casual staff.
“I’d have clients order merchandise and say ‘can you do a website too?’ how about social media?’,” Rebecca says. As it grew, Rebecca began to specialise in the areas she was most passionate about. “It moved more into the Indigenous space about three years ago,” says Rebecca. “I’m passionate about preserving language and culture, including my own Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri Aboriginality.”
“Indigenous art always tells a story – there’s something really beautiful about that.”
Today, with an office in the CBD providing a “one stop marketing shop”, Rebecca works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait artists around the country, from emerging artists to established.
Rebecca says Adelaide is the perfect base for a fledgling enterprise. “The community here is amazing. Word of mouth is the reason the business has grown like wildfire,” she says. “Adelaide is entrepreneurial, it’s just buzzing. Everyone seems to want to help each other out and be open to collaboration.”
“South Australia is an amazing place to live and work. I’ll work on a laptop at the beach, then come into the CBD for meetings in the afternoon. As a mum, the work/ life balance and cost of living are unbeatable.”
Her top piece of advice for young entrepreneurs in SA? “Make the most of the access you have! You can’t do it alone. Entrepreneurs tend to be control freaks, but there is so much support when you’re first starting out, from Government training and initiatives, to an array of business networks and hubs. You’d get lost in bigger cities, take advantage of the size and accessibility.
“It takes a village to raise a business, so lean on the experts!”
This month’s Inside Industries stories made possible by sponsor Bendigo Bank