photo-icon SATC - Nola Adelaide

Meet Adelaide entrepreneurs on the map

As much of the world remains hunkered down due to coronavirus, thinking about what’s outside your four walls – let alone considering a move to a new city – can feel like little more than daydreaming. How long the present situation will last is anyone’s guess. But this is not forever. Life will return to a new version of normal and by the time it does, you’re likely to have mulled over a few important questions. What have you missed? What can you do without? And, ultimately, how do you want to live?

For those with an entrepreneurial itch that you’ve been looking to scratch, or those simply in search of a gentler pace of life, the destinations we’ve selected for this edition of our Business Cities series – Bayonne, Adelaide and Boise – are resilient ones. While they, like all cities, will not emerge unscathed after the cloud of coronavirus lifts, we are confident that, once the world gets moving again, they will present an appealing climate in which to live and work – and plenty of opportunities – in the months and years to come.

As a young architecture graduate, it didn’t take much to convince Ryan Genesin to leave his home city of Adelaide and head to Melbourne for a job. It was only after he decided to found his own interior-design studio – behind projects such as Korean restaurant Ban Ban, womenswear retailer Denim Iniquity and Sydney coffee shop Story – that he made the choice to go home. “There’s so much going on in Adelaide,” says Genesin, who was also contemplating starting a family when he returned to the city. “The stigma of being a small town is quickly shaken off when you head out to some of our amazing nightspots.”

Banban restaurant
photo-icon Ban Ban restaurant

For years the South Australian capital had been almost forgotten by the rest of the country. In the meantime, this hardworking city was quietly building its own fortune. “We do more with less in Adelaide,” says Genesin. “There are some really great firms that are small yet are winning the big national gongs for design.”

“There’s so much going on in Adelaide. The stigma of being a small town is quickly shaken off when you head out to some of our amazing nightspots.” Ryan Genesin

BanBan Restaurant on Franklin Street

This coastal city is booming thanks to local companies that pick up defence contracts, the relocation of the nation’s space agency from Canberra, the country’s most prolific cluster of wine regions and a packed cultural calendar. Between 2016 and 2019, the city’s gross regional product increased by 5.9 per cent; it currently sits at €12bn.

Adelaide initially grew out of British wealth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and then saw major investment again during the 1970s thanks to the car-manufacturing industry. This series of economic highs can be seen in the skyline of stately colonial-era builds and looming brutalist blocks. And the current boom is marked by cranes on the horizon, which are building €2.2bn worth of city infrastructure and commercial developments.

“It’s the most exciting time the city has seen in decades.” Sandy Verschoor, Lord Mayor of Adelaide

“It’s the most exciting time the city has seen in decades,” says Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor. “Liveability is incredibly high and, paired with the current dynamic city culture, it’s fueling residential growth, which then triggers business growth. It’s a virtuous cycle.”

Part of this is down to the 2013 introduction of an affordable small-bar licence. It has allowed more than 100 small bars, cafés, restaurants and galleries to open within the city centre. It’s a far cry from the draconian laws that stifled night-time economies in Sydney and Brisbane.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to stay and do something I really loved in Adelaide,” says Oliver Brown, director of hospitality group The Big Easy, which is responsible for some of the hottest tables in town including pizza bar Anchovy Bandit and Greek taverna Yiasou George. “Adelaide has grown up quite a lot in the past five years and the small-venue licence was a big catalyst for this change.” Brown studied wine-making at university before setting up pop-up bar Red Trousers during the annual Adelaide Fringe arts festival. “Then a landlord who was also the chair of the board of Renew Adelaide allowed us to open our first outpost, Nola, back in 2015 in a really great space,” he says. “Far more experienced operators were tendering for the space but the landlord saw an opportunity in change.”

Yiasou george

Greek Taverna Yiasou George

The Big Easy’s sharply designed and bustling three-restaurant stronghold in the city’s East End owes its success in part to industry-led nonprofit initiatives such as Renew Adelaide. A network of property owners provides subsidies in order to fill empty city lots with young entrepreneurs who want to test their food or retail concepts. It’s a smart move for a state that has traditionally haemorrhaged young talent.

On the southern border of the central business district is concept store Ensemble. Co-owners Bing Rowland, Beccy Bromilow and Emma Thomson impressed their landlord with grand self-funded renovation plans to win the contract for the nearly 200 sq m shop in the once sleepy inner neighbourhood. “There were tumbleweeds rolling down the street a few years ago, so we were nervous about opening in this spot,” says Rowland. But, at €1,650 per month, the place was a steal.

The shop selling leather shoes, womenswear and plants occupies the front of the site, with an exhibition space and artist in residence at the back, and Bromilow’s shoe workshop sandwiched between. “We receive a lot of support from our neighbours and our customers are very loyal and make the effort to support our growing business,” says Bromilow.

The cheaper rents and greater availability of central property compared to other cities mean that people can take risks they might not be able to elsewhere. For example, Rowland’s sister Caitlin and her husband left the Melbourne hospitality scene to open Sibling, a café, next door, all while she was pregnant. “The climate is changing and people are going out and trying things,” says Rowland. “There’s no harm in trying and there seems to be a consensus in Adelaide that we don’t get caught up in our failures. We would much rather celebrate our successes.” — mka

On the map originally seen in The Entrepreneurs 2020 by Monocle Magazine. Licensed by Copyright Agency. You may only copy or communicate this work with a licence.