Some couples have brunch together; others start businesses. Maggie May and Josh Kelly do both. In 2016, when Maggie’s macramé workshops outgrew their living room, the couple went hunting for a studio space and fortuitously stumbled across a location with the potential to think big. Breaking the mould of a traditional retail experience, the pair opened Think Thornbury, a community-focussed store and creative workshop venue where thinkers, makers and doers are at the forefront. In partnership with Bank Australia, the bank Think Thornbury chooses to manage their finances, we spoke to Maggie and Josh about creativity, community and business.
You’re the husband and wife duo behind Think Thornbury, but also talented creatives in your own right. Tell us a bit about your creative practices. Maggie May: I have a background in interior design and retail, and taught myself macramé along the way. I started my creative macramé practice Middle Aisle and began teaching workshops in our living room – slowly, the classes became too large to host at home, and that prompted us to find a new space that eventually led to Think Thornbury. Josh Kelly: I’m a musician and play the saxophone. I teach music while also playing in several bands, and am currently working on a new commission for the Melbourne Jazz Festival.
How did Think Thornbury become a way to support your individual creative careers, while also building a stable foundation for your future? JK: We started considering what it would mean to get a bank loan to buy a house, and chatted to Bank Australia – it was an eye opener. We discovered we had no assets to work with. MM: Even as two people working as much as we could, in a creative field, we found it quite challenging. Think Thornbury came from the idea of wanting to build an asset for ourselves using our creative skill set and retail background, while also being community-minded.
Why was it important for you to offer a service that went beyond traditional retail? JK: We knew of so many amazing Melbourne retailers focussed on local design, and wanted to do something different. We decided a strong ethical charter where most things we stock are Australian made was important to us, and from that idea, we really wanted to create a space that activated the community. We wanted Think Thornbury to be more than a shop where you buy things, but a place where you can learn a skill as well, so we started our workshop series with local makers (and Maggie!). MM: We stumbled across a location that was larger than we expected, which gave us the opportunity to think big. We thought, if no one else is going to open that cute creative space that’s very much needed in our community, we should have a crack at it! Our tagline is ‘supporting thinkers, makers, doers’, and running a shop downstairs and workshop upstairs in tandem fully embraces our vision.
Why is it important that you advocate for this sense of local community spirit? MM: Without wanting to sound too idealistic… because it makes people more connected and happier!
What advice would you give someone wanting to take the plunge and start their own creative business? JK: To have resilience! A lot of people give up after their first year because they’re not making enough money or their business isn’t where they thought it would be, but you really have to see the hard times out and push through with your vision. Eventually, you’ll reap the rewards of your hard work.
This inspiring chat was created in collaboration with Bank Australia, a customer-owned bank creating a positive impact for people and the planet by investing in not-for-profits and renewable energy projects. As part of its leadership in the clean money movement, it guarantees its customers’ money won’t support industries like fossil fuels, live animal exports and gambling. Find out more about Bank Australia’s ‘Clean Money’ promise here. You can also flex your creative muscles with Maggie and Josh at Think Thornbury workshops.