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Third-i: Jacqueline Bowman-Busato on her health stakeholder platform
I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and I was frustrated with the lack of effective stakeholder engagement within my sector, health policy. I’m referring to an A-Z approach encompassing public policy research, building alliances and participative engagement methodologies.
I had a MBA from Vlerick Business School and had specialised in innovating business models for my end project. I had also just completed a four-year contract transforming a patient-led organisation into a multi-stakeholder think tank. And so I set up Third-i in 2013. It’s a Brussels, London and Washington DC-based company that specialises in healthcare policy and innovation-driven initiatives, developing strategies to answer today’s complex healthcare challenges.
The Belgian and Flemish authorities have introduced a number of incentives for those setting up in Belgium, as well as for employers. The tax and employer contributions regime has been a mixed blessing. Taxes are high compared to the UK, but I’m accessing a lot more incentives as a business owner. It’s been invaluable having local languages. I’m a fluent French speaker, but I really needed some Dutch to work out how to access all the fantastic help.
If you don’t have a degree in economics, business or law, you’re obliged to follow a special course in French or Dutch. All administration is in French or Dutch and so even if you have a good financial manager, you need to understand exactly what you’re signing. If I was setting up a business again, I would have sought out a Belgian business partner. I have a very good notary and an excellent accountant who speaks English, Dutch and French.
I initially invested money from my UK company. Very little outlay was needed as it was only me at first and I was working from home. As more projects came in, I felt comfortable taking on two full-time employees (Bulgarian and Ecuadorian/Dutch) and moving into an excellent working space at The Library.
There are already some spin-offs from the business. We are developing the Self-Care Initiative - Europe (SCIE), built on our own expertise to ensure that concepts of self-care and self-management can be embedded in health systems; from policy down to GPs, pharmacists and people in their daily lives. We also run the Third-i Workout Series, which focuses on building stakeholder engagement skills across the professional community.
I really am a woman on a mission and so I don’t consider my business ‘work’. It’s my passion to see effective and sustainable change towards person-centred healthcare systems.
This article first appeared in ING Expat Time