Founder of Art Design Portland (ADX), Kelley Roy’s first ever album was a vinyl single of Debbie Harry’s hit song The Tide is High.

An entirely fitting choice for this United States-based social impact entrepreneur who personifies the song’s catchy and recurring lyrics: “I’m not the kind-a girl who gives up just like that, oh no”. Through patience and persistence, Kelley is leading the makerspace revolution.

Kelley is on her way to Brisbane for the BrisMakerFest at SLQ The Edge on Saturday 3 June to inspire Queenslanders wanting to create opportunities in the realm of ‘making’ and enterprise. When we spoke, Kelley was sitting in Townsville Airport waiting for a flight to Toowoomba – it is her first time visiting Australian shores and she is hoping to share her experiences to an attentive new audience.

The story of ADX begins in 2011 when Kelley established the maker space in Portland, commencing business with a mere two employees. Six years on, ADX boasts 15 full time employees and 30 part time employees, illustrating the increasing appetite for this creative maker space in the Portland community.

 “a giant warehouse filled with tools…”

Kelley describes the ADX business model as simply as “a giant warehouse filled with tools” – it is a metalwork shop, a woodwork shop, jewellery making and screen printing space, all rolled into one. “The community can pay to get access to tools that they might not otherwise be able to afford. We also teach classes for people wanting to learn how to make things,” explained Kelley.

The model also extends to in-house design and fabrication where ADX is commissioned to make products for clients, providing another income stream for the creative enterprise. One project they are working on is designing and making tap handles for a craft brewing company.

The ingredients for this successful business model are the socially inclusive idea of increasing accessibility and building community, as well as redefining the tech-driven notion of innovation.

“I see innovation as people coming together and problem-solving together. The innovation that I feel the world needs right now is communities coming together to create local economic opportunities,” said Kelley who reflected a great deal on what innovation means to her.

“I’m really interested in the small and community-based, and the interconnectedness between the local economies. I believe that will be the most resilient thing that we can do, as we continue to go through these erratic times…”

They are really trying to source the raw materials or the ingredients as locally as possible…

According to Kelley, the interest in the maker movement is on the rise: “I see it expanding and growing quite a bit throughout the United States and I have definitely been meeting more and more people around the world who are starting maker spaces and growing their maker communities locally.”After visiting maker communities in the Blue Mountains, Sydney and Townsville, Kelley has observed a strong commitment to the local supply chain among those Australian ‘makers’.

“They are really trying to source the raw materials or the ingredients as locally as possible, as there is a real ethos around sustainability. The products are a unique reflection of the place in which they are produced,” said Kelley.

Visitors to BrisMakerFest will not be disappointed to hear from this energetic and forward-thinking entrepreneur. Her refreshing approach offers inspiration for burgeoning business.

“I’ve spent the last six years growing the company, bringing on new people into my team and trying to get the business model to work. Now I’m travelling the world trying to share our experience in starting and growing ADX, to help other communities start makerspaces in their cities and towns,” said Kelley.

Kelley believes her patience and persistence ultimately won over any niggling self-doubt she had about growing her business. “It’s so easy to give up… small business is hard, ploughing a new path for the economy is hard and there are lot of forces working against this kind of small, highly-diversified economy when everything is still kind of focused on big industry,” said Kelley.

And as Debbie Harry sang to a young and impressionable Kelley Roy all those years ago: “I’m not the kind-a girl who gives up just like that, oh no”.

Photo credit:

Photo 1: Kelley Roy
Photo 2: ADX factory floor
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