Australia was an early adopter of the business incubator. Designed to help business founders determine the viability of their business idea and help guide them to success, they have received significant investment and support since the early 2000s. Sadly, creative businesses have mostly been overlooked in traditional incubator models.
In response and to help cultivate a sophisticated and self-sustaining creative ecosystem on the Sunshine Coast, The Refinery was born. A joint initiative of Sunshine Coast Council, SunCentral and Sunshine Coast Creative Alliance, The Refinery is the first creative incubator in the region designed for independent artists, early-stage entrepreneurs and creative industry practitioners. Conceived as a testing ground and training platform the program evolves annually; it is responsive to future trends, potential disruptions and global challenges, but most importantly takes into account how creatives practice and live in
Over eight weeks, The Refinery participants (known as Founders) access a network of inspiring industry leaders through an intensive program that includes keynote speakers, workshops and mentoring sessions. The Refinery journey culminates in a public showcase where founders pitch their refined business to industry and future audiences. The first iteration was delivered at The Metropolitan (The MET); a temporary and ever-evolving space located at the new Maroochydore City Centre in 2019. In 2020, The Refinery faced disruption in the form of a COVID-19 and pivoted to online delivery.
The Refinery’s visionary partners and supporters including the Regional Arts Development Fund and CQ University understand the contribution creatives and creative work makes socially, economically and culturally. Through The Refinery we support creatives to develop viable and sustainable businesses that feed the cultural capital of our region.
Applications are open to individuals and groups from across the creative sector including the visual arts, screen, design, architecture, publishing, literature, advertising, media, podcasting, game development, fashion, performing arts, music, heritage and artisan craft. Over the last two years, 30 Refinery founders have graduated from the program. Business concepts have ranged from play-based learning experiences, ephemeral art and audio storytelling, to publishing and social enterprise.
If you start something remarkable, apply for the Refinery 2021. The program runs in May and June 2021. Applications open on January 18. For more information visit therefineryshunshinecoast.com.
Megan Williams – vice president Sunshine Coast Creative Alliance