From Television to Tuscany: How Debbie Travis Landed her Dream Villa

Debbie Travis may be a household name to many, but she hasn’t always been the home renovation celebrity from Debbie Travis’ The Painted House. She strategically worked her way up from model to producer to a successful entrepreneur and hit TV host in Canada, Britain, and around the world. Not only did this witty English native prove her success countless times on television and with 8 best-selling novels, she’s now taken on her biggest solo project yet: a 14 bedroom villa in Italy hosting women-only retreats.


As told to Meghan Jeffery



My first job was… In a shoe shop, which lasted one day, because you have to be very patient to work in a shoe shop. Finally I said to the woman, with 40 pairs of shoes on the ground, “Here, try the shoe box, because nothing’s going to fit.” I got frogmarched out of there.


It taught me… Never to work in retail. And here I am!


The advice I most often give is… Keep pushing.


I would tell my 20-year-old self… Get back to work and just keep going.


My first mentor was… Richard Branson. I knew him in my twenties and I thought he was so special. As a long-haired hippie, he looked different than other businessmen, and he’s kept that mantra his entire life. He’s as much fun as 25-year-olds.


The best advice I received from him was… You might as well do something you love and that you’re passionate about, and when you hate it, just drop it.


I want women in my industry to know… That yes, you can do it. There’s a lot of controversy about if we can do it all—and we can—but there are certain things that go. Sometimes it’s the gym, sometimes it’s girlfriends, but there are different stages when you can have different things. For me what was very hard was girlfriend time. I wasn’t a lady who lunched—I was up the ladder!


I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur when… I think an entrepreneur is a particular type of character. And what I didn’t want, and I tried, was a regular 9-5 job working in an office. I’m too bossy, I like being in control, and I think I can do it better than that person can do it. And when you’re that type of person, you end up doing it all yourself anyway! Of course, have a great team around you, but you are always in control.



I learned very quickly that… In my industry, it’s impossible to leave work at home. Work becomes your home, and it’s important to make the people you work with real friends.


The most exciting part of being an entrepreneur is… Having it all. Even though you’ve got the work side, it’s yours. I have a motto when I do my speeches, which is: “Dream it, Do it, Live it.” The dreaming it is the idea, doing it is the work, and living it is the consequences. The consequences can be dreadful and sometimes, not what you thought they were going to be at the beginning. I never thought I’d have a villa in Tuscany. That’s the journey—and it’s hard work! It doesn’t happen overnight.


My boldest move to date was… Moving to Tuscany and opening a villa. The minute I signed I thought, “You idiot. You can’t do this!” I didn’t know the language and had 90 builders starting at 6 and ending at 8—it was endless. It’s 13th century and I did the full renovation on my own.


I stay inspired by… Other women. I love what Women of Influence does. I love TED talks. I’m inspired by the Italian way of life. Every day they have the passaggiata at 6pm where everyone goes for a walk to meet your friends and talk about your day. I learn from them what humanity and community means. In the West we often don’t have time for that. Eating healthy, copious amounts of wine, it inspires me every day.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… First of all: I didn’t go to Cambridge University, although Wikipedia says otherwise. I left school at 15! I had no education whatsoever, I’m very proud of that. You probably wouldn’t know I’m stupid.


The future excites me because… The future always excites me. The future is endless. It’s endless opportunities and it’s completely up to you. Success is about how you see opportunity.



Interested in hearing more about Debbie’s career journey? Purchase your ticket to our Women of Influence Luncheon Series Opener where she’ll be speaking live!

Eight ideas for celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8

Not sure how to celebrate International Women’s Day? Created in partnership with SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU.—Putting Women’s Health Firstthis list of options can help you find a way to show your support that suits you best.


Mark your calendar: this year, International Women’s Day lands on Tuesday, March 8.

If you’d like to join in on the celebration but you aren’t quite sure what to do, check out this list of eight ideas for inspiration. Whether you have a few moments to spare or are looking for a bigger commitment, there are options to make International Women’s Day meaningful to you.


Get informed about the day

Not sure what International Women’s Day is all about? Here are the basics: this global celebration was created to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It’s also meant to draw attention to how much further we have to go—think of it as a call-to-action to accelerate gender parity.


Give a shout-out on social media

It only takes a moment to let your friends and followers know about International Women’s Day. Post on Facebook, share on Instagram, or Tweet your support. Looking to do more than just note the date? Take the opportunity to promote the achievements of a woman you admire in politics, business, or the arts.


Support a women’s charity

The spirit of International Women’s Day is about supporting women and girls, and fortunately, there are number of great charities that are female-focused where you can direct your resources. If you don’t have much time or cash to spare, there are great alternative options. For example, you can donate your Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Points to a local women’s health charity, and SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. will match your points from March 3 to March 8. (You can donate your points by logging into your optimum account at, and encourage your friends to join in using the hashtag #ShoppersLOVEYOU 


Make a pledge for parity

The theme of the 2016 International Women’s Day campaign is a Pledge For Parity, which recognizes that although great progress has been made, there is still room for improvement. Announce your own pledge committing support to women and girls in Canada, or simply try to make or encourage changes that help the cause progress, whether that means supporting women and girls in achieving their ambitions, or aiming to challenge your own unconscious bias.


Make a pledge to take care of yourself

The day is designed to celebrate women, and that includes you! Find time to relax, give yourself a treat, or make a pledge for a longer commitment to balancing your mind, body, and spirit. It doesn’t take a lifestyle overhaul to make a difference—you can set yourself on a path towards optimal health with a few simple steps.


Sign up for a women’s event

You don’t need to celebrate exactly on March 8 to join in the spirit of International Women’s Day. There are a number of great organizations offering female-focused events throughout the year. With a quick search you’ll be sure to find one that suits your interests, from supporting a cause with a charitable run such as, to attending an inspirational talk from a female role model.


Connect with your creative side

Use some time in the day to connect with your creative side and explore your own talent. Finding the creativity within yourself can boost your spirit and allow you to bring your best self to work and play. Whether you’re celebrating International Women’s Day with your family, friends, or on your own, there are plenty of fun DIY projects, new makeup tricks, or other creative projects to try.


Start a conversation

Make a point of speaking to one person today—your partner, a co-worker, a friend, that lady in the coffee line next to you—about International Women’s Day, about gender parity, or about a woman you admire. Better yet, tell that woman you admire why she’s a role model for you.


What is SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. all about?


We truly believe that when you put your health first, you’re giving the people close to you the best gift of all—a better you.


SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. – Putting Women’s Health First – is our commitment to helping you stay focused on being your best in body, mind and spirit. It shares the expertise of our partners and connects you with others in support of local, community-based Women’s Health initiatives across Canada. Find one that moves you and join our journey to strengthen Women’s Health across Canada!

If your charitable group has a program to help women in your community lead stronger and healthier lives, we may be able to help.