“Expanding your business is not stress-free,” admits Bobbi Leppington, but it’s something the co-owner of Design By Bobbi, an Orillia-based custom architectural design firm, has done twice over the past decade – all in an effort to actually reduce stress.
Leppington started her business out of a passion for custom architectural design and a commitment to superior customer service. But trying to manage the start-up while holding down a full-time job proved to be unsustainable and put Leppington’s health into a crisis situation.
“I needed to re-think how to make a living that was more stress-free,” said Leppington.
She made the difficult decision to leave the security of her full-time position in order to be her own boss and grow her small business. Leppington had spent over 15 years as a municipal building official, most recently as chief building official for the Township of Oro-Medonte. With an extensive skill set in building processes, along with her design training and experience, she was committed to making Design by Bobbi a success.
And success came quickly through word of mouth. Steve Rossiter saw the potential and joined as co-owner and client care specialist.
Projects ranged from new dwellings, townhouses, and many residential additions & renovations, to small commercial interior design.
“Bobbi was overwhelmed, sometimes working 20-hour days, seven days a week. I knew we needed to expand and hire additional staff,” said Rossiter.
“We weren’t sure what we were getting into,” said Rossiter and Leppington. “But luckily, we learned about the Orillia Area Community Development Corp. (CDC) and its services.”
“We were able to secure a loan through the CDC that helped us purchase the technology we needed for additional staff, as well as hire a business coach to guide us through our expansion,” explained Leppington.
The process of applying for a loan through the CDC required a completed business plan, which helped the business owners focus on what was most important to the business and the best ways for growth to happen.
“I’m a very good designer,” said Leppington, “but I don’t know as much about expanding a business. The guidance from the CDC was invaluable. They specialize in small business loans, so their understanding and expertise was exactly what we needed.”
“It was another stressful time of growth,” added Leppington, “but look where we are today – with a staff of seven, and one more hire planned for the fall!”
The CDC loan gave the business the ability to increase its staff from two co-owners to a team of seven. The team includes a business manager as well as interior design and architectural technology specialists.
“We originally planned on having our team work part-time from home, as well as from an office in Downtown Orillia that we had set up just prior to the pandemic,” explained Rossiter. “With the lockdown, our plans changed and we’re now all working from home offices full-time.
“We wanted to create a corporate environment that was fun and friendly for our staff,” said Leppington. “The CDC loan, and our ability to purchase the computer technology needed for our design work, has allowed us to do this.”
“We have a nice flow going now,” said Rossiter, who added that they are busier than ever.
With calls coming in every day, typically through word of mouth and recommendations, the company is booking up to four months ahead. And like many others in the home renovation industry, COVID-19 has contributed to the workload.
“People are realizing they can work from home or are simply spending more time at home and are looking for renovations or additions,” said Leppington.
As for the future, the business hopes to expand by providing HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning) services, along with adding interior decorating to its design capabilities. They are also in the process of introducing a new “Compassionate Design Program” to support seniors who want to stay in their homes.
“The possibilities are limitless,” said Leppington. “Right now, we’re happy to be able to continue working with our clients in a way that supports our mission – providing custom design services in an efficient and friendly way, making it a joyful process for the client.”
“Design By Bobbi is our dream,” added Rossiter “but we’re really in the business of making other people’s dreams come true. We love that!”
For more information about Design By Bobbi visit https://designbybobbi.com/ or contact 705-321-8916.