The Refinery to transform ideas into sustainable Coast businesses

The Sunshine Coast is arguably a mecca for the creative industries; many artists, writers and musicians and more proudly call the region “home”, flocking to creative hubs such as Caloundra, Maroochydore and Noosa Heads.

And while the arts are central to the lives of many Australians – and play a critical role in how we navigate accelerated technological and social change as a nation – our creatives face increasing challenges in maintaining viable professional careers.

The creative industries is a sector in which employment opportunities remain precarious; many arts and creative practitioners work in freelance or casual conditions and rely on “soft” money, such as funding from arts grants, prizes, or short-term project funds, to survive.

Of course, artistry and creativity come in many forms and occupations, ranging from artists and musicians through to journalists/writers, visual artists, actors/directors, architects and more. Many creatives have also had to embrace hybrid careers, in which multidisciplinary employment and income generation is the norm.

Enter the Coast’s first creative incubator, The Refinery, a testing ground and training platform, which was recently launched at the new Maroochydore City Centre. It is a 10-week program aimed at connecting the dots between creativity and commerce, to help Coast creatives to transform ideas into sustainable businesses.

The Refinery is a collaboration between Sunshine Coast Council, SunCentral Maroochydore and The Sunshine Coast Creative Alliance, proudly supported by Advance Queensland through #SCRIPT and Arts Queensland through the Regional Arts Development Fund.

Two of the power players behind The Refinery – Bronwyn Buksh, Activation Project Manager at SunCentral Maroochydore and Megan Rowland, Team Leader Creative Development, Creative Arts at Sunshine Coast Council – are thrilled to be a part of the unique creative initiative.

Both have enjoyed diverse creative careers; Bronwyn is an urban designer who has worked across private and public sector multi-disciplinary organisations and in cultural strategy and implementation, while Megan’s background was in the arts and creative sector in dance, fashion and photography, before moving into cultural development and strategy in the last 10 years.

“The Refinery is designed to launch, grow and scale creative ideas into a successful business,” said Bronwyn. “It will also refine, develop, test and explore markets for ideas, experiences, products or services.”

Designed by creatives for creatives, The Refinery embraces how creative practitioners work, practice, collaborate and live within the region, Megan said.

“Drawing on the unique lifestyle and beauty of our location, The Refinery takes a fresh approach to creative business development,” she said.

“We are proud to be able to draw upon many generous contributors from across the local sector to share their ideas, expertise and experience.”

Both Bronwyn and Megan are excited to working with creative industries leaders Creative Enterprise Australia to design and deliver the program.

Meanwhile, other contributors have included Chris Boden, in his capacity with Create Noosa and the Peregian Digital Hub; Mark Paddenburg at the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast; Liz Ellison from Central Queensland University; Phil Smith and other board members of the Sunshine Coast Creative Alliance; and Brendan Beale from People Make Places.

The Refinery’s vision is to establish a sophisticated creative ecology on the Coast, while raising the profile of the region’s creative industry.

In this initial program, up to 30 creatives or creative teams will be invited to participate in a creative “bootcamp” and up to 15 in the 10-week program.

With keynote speakers and workshops lead by industry experts, The Refinery participants will immerse themselves in incubator space, culminating in a public showcase event and the chance to win a $10,000 investment into their business journey.

Both Bronwyn and Megan fervently hope The Refinery will become an annual program that builds momentum and which acts as a magnet for local creative talent.

“Creative people make great places and we need to find better ways of sustaining creative practice on the coast,” Bronwyn said.

“At the heart of creative industries are creative people and ideas – the people have value, the ideas have value and what is missing is a way to articulate the value proposition and translate it into a business model. The Refinery does just that.”

Adds Megan: “We aim to strengthen the creative sector and build the reputation of the Sunshine Coast as a place where creative people can live and work.

“We will set out to explore future trends, potential disruptions and global challenges. And, most importantly, we will deliver an incubator with our unique lifestyle in mind. That means surf breaks, beach walks and iced coffees on us. We will do this in collaboration with an ever-growing network of local, national and international specialists, designers and other forward-thinking partners.”

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