From little things big things grow
Renew Adelaide has helped bring alive over 80 businesses and projects across Adelaide and Port Adelaide since it began providing creative opportunities and changing communities in 2010.
The not-for-profit organisation negotiates with owners of vacant properties to provide short-term rent-free spaces to creative projects and businesses.
“For a property owner, it makes their space look more attractive than a vacant building, and for a start-up, it helps give them a low-risk way to test their idea or to implement something creative,” explains Renew Adelaide CEO Lily Jacobs.
“And for the city as a whole, it encourages a kind of vibrancy, but more generally it just encourages people to try new ideas.
“It means there’s interesting things happening, and it means there’s more going on.”
Renew Adelaide has flourished during a time when Adelaide itself has seen a cultural shift.
“I think, and I think most people would agree, that there’s been a change in the kind of offerings that the city has, and in people’s enthusiasm to try new things,” Lily says.
“And as well in Port Adelaide we’ve certainly seen just a shift in how people are looking at what can be done, and their positivity and enthusiasm for the future or for what might happen.”
Liz Cook currently runs her perfumery, One Seed, from a Renew Adelaide space in Port Adelaide, and believes the organisation has played a large part in growing Port Adelaide’s creative scene.
“I think Renew is actually doing some amazing things and I think without them somewhere like Port Adelaide would struggle on for a long long long long long time,” she says.
“So I think they’re helping shortcut the process of Port Adelaide becoming a really cool place to be.”
Renew Adelaide works in many different communities, and Lily Jacobs says she has seen change in them all.
“Aside from Adelaide or Port Adelaide, we work with the property community and the creative community and government as well, and we’ve certainly seen a huge shift in just how people are thinking about what can be done,” she says.
“And just the variety of ideas that we get coming to us as well has also changed, so that we get a real diversity and people have really thought through their concepts.”
Many projects go on to rent their spaces commercially, but that’s not the real goal.
“It’s more about giving people the chance to test an idea,” Lily says.
“It just allows people to try something without having to commit.
“We’ve had people be in a retail shop and decide that that wasn’t quite the right model, and they’ve leased a studio space and worked on another aspect of their business.”
Mel Waters is one person trying out their idea, running their shop-come-community-hub, Honeybee Cycles, in another Renew Adelaide space in Port Adelaide.
“The opportunity that Renew gives you is unlike anywhere else or anything else,” they say.
“It’s like they’re saying they believe in you, like ‘we believe in your idea, here’s the keys, give it a crack.’
“I feel like Renew are on to a really good thing in that, in my age category, population has forever been moving to Melbourne or Sydney and when they get there they’re having to contend with so many people to get their little idea off the ground, but I feel like people can start new anything here.
“I think Adelaide is at its creation phase and there are a lot of opportunities here for business and collectives to open up here, because it’s being supported.”
Lily Jacobs agrees there is great opportunity for creative entrepreneurs in Adelaide, and believes they are driving the bigger cultural change.
“I think we should certainly, as a broader population, be trying to embrace people who are trying something new, people who are being creative or innovative or entrepreneurial and taking risks,” she says.
“It’s a bit of a cultural shift and I think some of that happens by people keeping going and people who just keep doing what they’re doing in the face of reluctance or resistance or when there’s not any uptake.
“And then, over time, people start seeing that actually it’s interesting or it’s not a bad thing or it’s not dangerous, or it’s okay to experiment.
“So I think a lot of it is up to people just keeping on pushing forwards with their passions and, you know, there’s a fair bit of persistence involved with that, but that’s how you drive the bigger cultural change.”
Images: Jack Brookes