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RIDING THE RENEW WAVE (*From The Newcastle Herald*)

12 December 2009 | Posted in: Media


Alex Thompson, of Hamilton, registered the name Surfhouse Photography when she was a 16-year-old as part of a long-range plan to be her own boss.

She worked odd jobs in restaurants, at Knights match days and at Subway to put herself through a diploma of photography course in Sydney.

Now 21, last week found her amid her collection of surfscapes applying the fi nishing touches to her self-employment dream, decorating a Hunter Street shop site opposite Newcastle’s old post offi ce.

The recent move was her second within a year.

In a process that says much about the current climate of change within the CBD, Thompson had originally set up shop at a mall address under the stewardship of Renew Newcastle. But recently she fell victim to the Hunter Street Mall’s improving fortunes. No doubt stimulated by the increased activity on the business strip, more conventional enterprises willing to pay commercial rates have started drifting back to the mall.

Since August, several Renew Newcastle projects have moved out to make way for commercial tenants. When one expanding business took out a lease on the site occupied by Surfhouse Photography, Thompson was forced to fi nd an alternative.

With Renew Newcastle having more applicants than available properties, she took matters into her own hands by signing a commercial lease for $360 (including utilities) a week at the new site.

I looked it up myself, the photographer tells Weekender. They were offering six weeks rent free and it’s a better site than the other one; there’s more people passing by here.

Compared with the $20 (excluding utilities) she was paying under the Renew Newcastle plan, it’s a big leap but one which makes her mistress of her own destiny.

Her fledgling business very much typifi es the new model for Newcastle’s CBD. With no budget for advertising, the young photographer is busily marketing her shop on Facebook and MySpace.

And, of course, there is the most traditional marketing means of all: the old word of mouth.