Renew Newcastle graduates thriving

A SWAG of entrepreneurs who received their first taste of commercial success in the inaugural Renew Newcastle program are thriving as independent businesses.

Former fitter-turned-photographer Shannon Hartigan opened a new image gallery at the Hunter Street Mall last week, while creatives Neon Zoo and Conversant Media moved into office space in the former ANZ bank building in August.

Other Renew graduates, who got the keys to their first temporary business sites in 2009 and have since flown the coop, include Studio Melt, Nook, Tanya Fogarty Design, Tim Neve Design and Ciao Meow, now trading as Grey’s General Store of Design.

The Renew Newcastle graduate success comes as the Newcastle City Council voted last night to support a motion by Cr Jason Dunn to give the group access to vacant buildings owned by council.

Renew spokeswoman Siobhan Curran said the organisation aimed to be a conduit to incubate new creative initiatives and seed arts projects, local business and community activities, all the while reactivating empty spaces.

‘‘The fact that some projects go on to become commercial successes in their own right is something we are very proud of,’’ she said.

Neon Zoo co-directors Abby Farmer and Clare Gleeson ran their fledgling branding and design business from a small sunroom in their Bar Beach rental property before moving to a Renew site on King Street, where they met Conversant Media’s Zac Zavos. With their business fast expanding its client list, the duo say they probably wouldn’t have stayed the course without the initial support from Renew.

‘‘They have helped us and in turn anyone who comes to see us is generating an on-flow of business in the CBD,’’  Ms Gleeson said.

Mr Hartigan said Renew had given him the start he needed to build his business and client base.

‘‘It’s been a great experience, and that’s how I’ve been able to afford my own space.’’

TV ads push city shopping

INNER-CITY shop owners are the stars of a new TV campaign that encourages consumers to do their Christmas and summer shopping in the CBD.

Funded by Newcastle Now and airing on local commercial stations, the TV ads aim to promote the ‘‘hand-made and homegrown’’ products on tap. 

Newcastle Now manager Michael Neilson said the ads, the work of Kent Woodcock Creative Solutions,  promoted Newcastle as a unique shopping and eating destination and also spruiked the mooted free-city parking trial. 

‘‘We have unique shopping, amazing cafes, restaurants and bars all within a real and authentic environment,’’ he said. 

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