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Icon shows that the future is already here in Macarthur

Icon founder and owner Joe Papadatos with Sheree Gover, head of creative and strategy.

Welcome to the future: Icon founder and owner Joe Papadatos with Sheree Gover, head of creative and strategy.

The outside of the Icon Visual Marketing building premises in Frost Road, Campbelltown doesn’t even come close to hinting that you’re about to enter the future.

That’s no exaggeration – within seconds of entering you know that this high-tech company is where it’s at.

Looking at the rows of people working on their computers produces another awesome sensation: you forget that this is in Campbelltown and realise it could be located anywhere from Sydney to Manhattan.

But this is real; this big marketing company that employs almost 50 people, most of them local, is right here in Macarthur and getting bigger every year.

Icon has been going for 15 years and to celebrate the milestone founder and owner Joe Papadatos and his team have decided to gently wave the company flag, for want of a better expression.

A week out from the January 30 anniversary Joe and his right hand woman, Sheree Gover, take me on a tour of the premises, and to say I’m impressed would be the understatement of the year.

Each department has its own bright, modern room and even the warehouse has a futuristic look about it.

There’s no doubt Icon is a company going places – the sort of company we are lucky to have in Macarthur region.

But if the brilliant premises at Frost Road hadn’t turned up there was a good chance Joe Papadatos and Icon would have packed up and left.

“We are very happy we found this, because at one stage we started looking outside the area,’’ Mr Papadatos tells me when he and Ms Gover sit down to chat about the Icon journey.

“We looked for two years, but prior to moving here, in Camden we were essentially on two sides of the road, in three buildings, we had a warehouse in Smeaton Grange, and we were busting at the seams,’’ says Mr Papadatos.

“We contacted everyone, and I said to them, I need a warehouse and a big office space, and had talks even with local councils about where do you place technically based business, but there was nothing out there.

“Yet between 70 and 80 percent of our people live in the area – so all these incredibly talented people would travel into the city because they can’t get an equivalent job here.’’

Sheree Gover, who is head of creative and strategy, backs this up with her own story: “I grew up here, went to the local high school and the local university (WSU) and soon as I graduated I left the area.’’

Icon offers its customers a complete marketing service, something very few companies do. There’s a marketing department, creative, copywriters, video producers, web designers, PR, production warehouse team and administrative staff.

Since 2016 there’s also been Orange Canvas by Icon Visual Marketing – thus the need for a large warehouse space as part of their premises. Orange Canvas is an online retailer which provides tailored solutions for national and international businesses looking for print, business tools, e-commerce, incentives, recognition programs, conference support and engagement programs.

Like many successful companies, Icon had very humble beginnings – in this case Joe’s bedroom in Camden.

“That’s how it all started 15 years ago, me working from my bedroom,’’ he says.

Before starting Icon, Mr Papadatos was a senior manager in one of the big chemical companies – a “sales and marketing guy’’ who travelled a lot.

The Icon team

The Icon team: “The success of a business is measured by its people,” says Icon chief Joe Papadatos.

He had a young family by this time and decided he wanted to be more at home with them.

“I had learned in working with a lot of businesses that they knew their stuff, but didn’t know how to market it and sell it.

“That’s where it all started with Icon.’’

Aware of the negative perceptions about the Macarthur region, Mr Papadatos established the first Icon office in Parramatta.

“After about six months of commuting to this little office in Parramatta I thought everyone needed, I said to clients I had at the time: it doesn’t matter where I am,’’ he says.

“Three months later I opened up a little office in Hills Street, Camden, and I employed two or three people.

“It was so small when the book keeper was coming in I had to go because there wasn’t enough room for both of us!’’

The next stage of growth saw Icon relocate to Narellan, before returning to Camden.

“Back then it was marketing strategy work, design and printing,’’ says Mr Papadatos.

“There was more design than marketing,’’ chimes in Ms Gover and Joe nods.

“Yep, we had four graphic artists and I was the only marketer,’’ he says.

As the digital revolution rolled in around 2005, Joe said the key was to work out what to do with it.

“Our approach was to build on the tradition of good, solid thinking and integrate the new technologies as you need to.’’

A key part of that was making training of staff a critical component.

“The success of a business is measured by its people, and I don’t say that glibly,’’ says Mr Papadatos.

“I mean I put my money where my mouth is – we spend more money on training our people every year  than anything else.

“Our people are a big part of our success. Sheree, I’d be lost without her, and you can quote me on that.

“Find good people and train them, train them and train them – and then re-train them – that’s kind of our philosophy.

“So I’m saying to Sheree, now’s the time to get our message out there, that we are here, doing good work, we’re not a backyard little mob, doing a flyer here and a flyer there.

“I want the word out there so good qualified digital marketers, designers, web developers and graphic artists can get a good job locally.’’

Like a lot of successful Macarthur companies, Icon just gets on the job instead of devoting resources to promoting itself or its good deeds such supporting Turning Point, a Camden based charity, and many others.

In other words, it’s a humble company, which is how we like them in Macarthur – for better or worse.

“I am not a big noter, I let my work do the talking,’’ says Joe Papadatos.

Looking at the incredible place Icon calls home in Frost Road, nobody’s going to argue with that.

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