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June 27, 2024

Renew is Adelaide’s small business starter dough

Last time CityMag sat down with Gianna Murphy, she was Renew Adelaide’s head of property with a microbakery side hustle, Motherdough. Now CEO, she catches us up on why Renew is needed more than ever.

Renew Adelaide
  • Words: Helen Karakulak
  • Pictures: Matisse Chambers
  • Main picture: (L–R) Timothea Moylan, Gianna Murphy, Sophie Atkinson, Harry Evans, Karina Ward

Gianna put the sourdough aside when she landed the role of Renew’s CEO in 2022. 

Renew activates underutilised property across the Adelaide CBD by offering a rent-free period to cool business ventures spanning hospitality, arts, retail and offices.

“Ultimately, that is really where my heart is,” Gianna says.

Gianna has been with Renew since 2016 and is currently CEO.

She still bakes for pleasure, much to the delight of her Renew team, with regular banana breads and burnt butter chocolate miso cookies wowing the boardroom. 

But Gianna’s experience running a microbakery has more influence on her role than just winning over her staff with sweet treats.

“It absolutely did give me a really good understanding of the emotional aspect of what it takes to run a business,” she says.

Running Motherdough out of her dad’s bakery – the now closed Murphy’s Café Bakery – was a “fairly risk-free environment” for Gianna, but she says the cost of rent is just one small part of the bigger picture of running a small business.

While small businesses battle rising costs of energy and insurance, on top of liquor licensing costs and current shifts in consumer behaviour, Renew still has plenty of interested ventures. 

Head of partnerships and operations Timothea Moylan says in the current challenging landscape, they’re seeing models changing rather than less interest.

“So where they might have initially been focused, perhaps more around the bar concept, they’re looking at more multi-use models and things like that,” she says.

Beyond placing small business in rent-free CBD spaces, Renew help start-ups work through the logistical and emotional challenges of opening a bricks-and-mortar space, including liaising with government bodies and property managers and sourcing experts like accountants.

In the Renew office, you’ll spot this groovy collection of launch event invites marking the businesses they’ve supported.

During the current financial year, Renew has supported 49 ventures and over 200 jobs. 10 per cent are Aboriginal-owned and 60 per cent are non-male operated.

Gianna says throughout her time at Renew she’s noticed younger people, and mostly women, are drawn to their services because of the lower-risk environment, in combination with an inclusive service approach.

“We are also female-led and even when we haven’t been female-led, we have still been predominantly female staffed and so I think that there is a sense of nurturing that exists there,” Gianna says.

“We’re a very relatable team. I’m almost 37 so I’m not like super, super young but I think that progressiveness is probably the key part of it.

“The age is kind of irrelevant, the gender is somewhat irrelevant, it’s more the fact that we’re all quite progressive thinkers and we’re all very open-minded.

“We all have had businesses ourselves or have been in bands or whatever and been in this industry enough to say, ‘we’ve seen all different types of people from different walks of life and we’re very open to embracing that’.”

LOC’s small wine-bar concept proved popular in the square, just below the Renew office.

As we sip our coffees at Carton Deli in Hindmarsh Square/Mukata, Gianna and Timothea tell CityMag the office space above us, The Block, is a prime example of how community and property intersect to achieve Renew’s mission.

Following LOC Bottle Bar opening in 2020, other young, funky businesses were drawn to the square which Renew helped build into a micro-precinct with day-to-night trade.

Gianna says office tenants upstairs – themselves included – come downstairs for a sanga from Carton Deli, a wine at LOC, or to shop at Clarity Records or Room on Fire Vintage.

People within their precinct even come together for a monthly pot-luck style lunch.

“What we’re hearing as well is that people are really craving that sense of community and that goes for offices as much as it goes for cultural spaces,” Timothea says.

“Reversing that Adelaide ‘brain drain’ narrative is super important and the best way to do that is by making Adelaide an interesting place that people don’t want to leave.”


Renew Adelaide

Hindmarsh Square is home to the Block, where you’re never far from a sando. This picture: Johnny Von Einem.

Battling vacancy rates

Gianna says Renew is guided by where the vacancy is in Adelaide, but some vacancies are easier to fill than others.

“It’s much less of a challenge for us to secure ground floor retail spaces and hospitality spaces even though we have very high vacancies in South Australia for office spaces,” she says.

Property Council data released in February found office vacancy in the Adelaide CBD is 19.3 per cent, the highest in the country.

Gianna says filling commercial vacancies can be difficult from both sides. It’s challenging to reach larger property groups that own the vacant buildings and some office spaces aren’t realistic for their Renew clients to become long-term, rent-paying tenants.

A lot of the vacancies that exist are in B and C grade buildings, they’re probably even a little bit too fancy for the average Renew tenant in terms of what is the likelihood of their conversion in that space,” she says.

“Our bread and butter really is the D grade and beyond.”

Gianna says the Block is a good example of an office space that works for Renew clients.

“They tend to have a lot more character and just simply be more affordable,” she says.

“So when we do manage to secure office spaces, it tends to be offices like this, but then they also tend to be mum and dad owners as opposed to massive agencies or massive property groups who are a little bit harder to connect with, a little bit harder to locate.”

Gianna says of their 895 ventures on their expression of interest list, only about 30 per cent them want office space, the rest want brick and mortar venues.

Given the closures of Adelaide’s night-time and hospitality venues we’ve seen in the past year, there’s certainly appetite to fill those spots too.

A report from real estate services firm JLL tracking the first quarter of this year shows that 18.1 per cent of Hindley Street properties are now vacant, an increase of 4.9 percentage points from the third quarter of 2023.

Gianna says ground floor retail and hospo spaces are easier for them to secure, given how many examples they can show landlords.

“It’s really the visual aspects then around saying, ‘if you were to give us the space where there was a hairdresser, we can completely transform it and here is an example where we’ve done something similar to that before’,” she says.

Renew Adelaide

Curating retail experiences

Gianna says Renew is opening property managers’ minds to the idea that retail is an experience, rather than something purely transactional.

Beyond the experience a single venture offers, Timothea says they see Renew’s impact and success when they curate a tenancy, striking a balance between what lessors want and what lessees can create.

“In the Myer Centre, we’ve done a lot of work encouraging people to explore upwards instead of sticking to the ground floors, we’ve got Three of Cups, Page and Turner, Love Lilac, it’s all about encouraging people to check out something different and go up.

“Adelaide Arcade; we’ve worked really hard to curate something that fits with their current tenancy mix, so looking at those kind of higher-end boutique-type offerings.

“Then Topham Mall; I would say is a very community-oriented space so that’s tended to be focussed more around hospitality.”

Inside the Adelaide Arcade. This picture: supplied

Where to shop Renew

If you’re an avid CityMag reader, you’ll be familiar with some Renew ventures from our pages.

Thanks to Renew, you can deck yourself out in Vice Jewellery, explore the world of ‘80s horror and art house video tapes at Vicious Video, shop ceramics at Unica & Co, see pop-up exhibitions, grab a bite at Longplay Bistro and more.

Plenty of powerhouse female-led Renew ventures and graduates of the Renew program are also voices for social and cultural change such as Taboo Period Products, Dulcie’s Vintage and Frida Las Vegas.

“I think Renew specialises often in slightly niche, short, kooky ideas that add something a little different to Adelaide more broadly,” Gianna says.

“I think we’re just cool and interesting and we understand that the value of making a city more vibrant does certainly land with looking at what the next generation is looking for because we’re not just planning for the present, we want to plan a city into the future as well.”

This article first appeared in issue 43 of CityMag print, on streets now.

Pirlta’s got his copy. Get yours while they last! Illustration by Angus Smith.

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