Introducing 8point8 Speaker Katie van Den Brand

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Katie Van Den Brand has a 360 degree view of business in regional Australia.  

Born and bred in rural WA, the former BHP Business Engagement Lead not only co-owns and manages thriving co-working space Maker + Co whilst providing guidance at innovation hub Meshpoints; but also boasts the title of Vice President of the Bunbury Geographe Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Now settled in Bunbury after an escape from the mania (and commuting) of inner-city living,  Katie is dedicated to building a startup and small business infrastructure and ecosystem in regional areas crying out for alternatives to traditional business models.

She says, “What we are working on as a region across state and local government, is how do we map the current ecosystem, identify what's here, who’s here, what are they doing, and how do we put in place what we need to do to grow that ecosystem, and where does that money come from to do this.“

Some years ago, Maker + Co was looking likely to close following a a departure from founder Jordan Gianfrancesco, and in an effort “to stop Bunbury from going backwards” she joined forces with Craig Holland and Colette McEntee to keep the space alive.  Since then it has grown from strength to strength and recently played host to the first Bunbury hackathon, after 18 months of planning.

Katie’s strong interest in the future of work also comes with respect for more old-school ways, and her experience at the Chamber reiterates this. While she recognises members of the Business Chamber may be “the old guard”, they shouldn't be written off, as there is much to be learned from their vast experience and scores of connections.  

“Chambers have been working with all these ministers for 20 odd years, they've got all their numbers, why wouldn't you work with them?  Why wouldn't you go and make it understood what you are trying to do?” she says, noting they are not averse to trying new things.

 “Chambers are going through an interesting phase of growth and transition from being such a traditional old school model, and they are now recognising there needs to be a real transition in order to remain relevant and useful to the business community.”

Katie’s experience working with both old and new schools of thought puts her in a unique position to grow the regional business ecosystem. While she cites lack of funding and internet & geographical connectivity as major constraints; she is determined to keep going, sourcing the right people, creating connections and building the necessary infrastructure, shaping Bunbury into a leader of innovation along the way.

 

If you are one of the 8.8 million people living in regional Australia and want to learn more about the Role of Business Chamber in Innovation Ecosystems from regional operators like Katie get your early bird tickets for the 8point8 Regional Innovation and Small Business Conference here.

Dianna Somerville