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All sewn up

Portugal [WORKSPACE]

The Oliva factory in the Portuguese city of São João da Madeira was founded in 1925, producing sewing machines that became an iconic household staple and were popular across the former Portuguese colonies. Yet Oliva fell on hard times in the wake of the financial crisis and the factory closed its doors in 2009. In 2013 city officials decided to revamp the old, dilapidated building and turn it into a creative hub and business centre known as the Oliva Creative Factory. “It has become an effective way of fighting youth unemployment and is reinventing our industry once more – but this time in the creative sector,” says the city’s mayor, Ricardo Figueiredo.

In less than a year the business centre has attracted a total of 21 enterprises, from new branches of established companies to start-ups. In March, creative agency Dezaine decided to relocate its offices to Oliva as it felt the need to be closer to this community. “Oliva has provided us with the right platform,” says Pedro Andrade, Dezaine’s ceo. “It has put us in touch with several people who we’ve been able to create partnerships with.” For Figueiredo, the building’s past and present are now aligned. “The old Oliva was an engine for the city,” he says, “and the new one is managing to do just the same.”

New start

Montréal [WORKSPACE]

Notman House’s stately manor façade belies its present mandate as “home of the web in Montréal”. Built in 1844, the heritage building escaped demolition in 2009 to reopen this summer as a shared workspace for tech start-ups. The 26 companies operating out of Notman House are picked by Noah Redler, the campus director. “Our goal is to foster companies with a combined value of ca$1.5bn [€1bn] over the next 10 years,” he says. “Integrating a tech hub in a heritage building illustrates the necessity of combining existing business practices with innovative new technologies.”

Riveting skills


London-based Gaolhouse Denim founder Will Unwin (pictured) works with prisoners to create a line of premium denim jeans. His aim is to provide employment for prisoners and combat the UK’s 26 per cent rate of proven re-offence.

He will soon work with ex-offenders, too. “We want to provide them with sewing machines in their own homes so they can do sampling and designing with us,” says Unwin. “It’s a way for them to utilise their tailoring skills learnt in prison.” Inmates in Her Majesty’s prisons are able to elect for sewing workshops during their time inside, which allows them to learn the skills from a basic level.

Milking potential


China’s insatiable demand for safe baby formula has meant that milk powder is sometimes referred to as “white gold” in Australia. But until recently, long bureaucratic protocols in both countries have prevented fresh dairy exports.

The 119-year-old agricultural co-op Norco finally made a breakthrough in May when it negotiated an industry-first deal that allowed commercial quantities of perishable milk to be sent from farms in New South Wales to Chinese supermarkets in just eight days.

Norco’s one-litre bottles have already attracted significant interest from China’s growing middle class and sell for around five times their price in Australia. “We believe the potential to develop China into a 20-million-litre-a-year market is there,” says Brett Kelly, Norco’s ceo. “They see Australian milk as clean and green.”

Asia’s growing appetite for dairy could give more leverage to Australian farmers, whose milk pricing has been increasingly dictated by the country’s two major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths. But there are potential issues. In Western Australia, demand from exporters has dramatically driven up the value of milk-producing livestock, encouraging some cash-strapped dairy producers to sell vital parts of their herd to maintain cash flow.

“Rather than heifers being sold into the local market, which won’t support the same prices, they end up on a boat,” says Phil Depiazzi, president of the Western Australian Farmers Federation’s Dairy Council. “With these heifers leaving the state in large numbers, there is concern that we will have an inability to meet the demand of the domestic market in the future.”


Kerem Alper, Engin Ayaz



Atolye Istanbul is a shared workspace geared towards building a creative community in the city from the ground up. After a decade abroad, co-founders Engin Ayaz (pictured, left) and Kerem Alper returned to their hometown to open Atolye (Turkish for “workshop”), providing a workspace, auditorium and meeting rooms for local entrepreneurs. The hub has 25 permanent and 50 flexible members.

How do you see Istanbul’s entrepreneurial scene?
kerem alper: From our experiences of living in cities such as San Francisco, New York and London we know that an entire ecosystem is needed to establish the entrepreneurial identity of a city. In Istanbul this is still in the early stages of development but our feedback to date has been positively overwhelming.

What challenges have you faced so far?
engin ayaz: The big challenge here is staying independent because conglomerates dominate the market. Boutique, niche companies and hubs like ours are a new concept. Perhaps that’s the bigger challenge: cultural adaptation. Atolye is creating a new way of working, collaborating and community-building.

What’s in store for Istanbul?
ka: Istanbul has the potential to be the next focal point for design, technology and entrepreneurship with its layered history and promising future. The city is currently going through a transformation with a developing economy and a rise in the supply and demand of new ideas.

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