Running a small business may be beset with all kinds of woes yet the range of help on both state and local government level is on the rise. In NSW, the Business Concierge program introduced mid-last year as part of the State government’s Easy To Do Business program had helped more than 1000 budding entrepreneurs get up and running by December.
Operated by Service NSW, the free program takes the confusion out of start-up processes by walking applicants through licenses and permits. The first round of the program has been designed for retail, cafes, restaurants and small bars - the sort of businesses underpinning many shopping precincts – and is now expanding to print and road freight.
Victorian government initiatives are many, including a Small Business Bus which visits locales giving face-to-face mentoring, small business workshops for just $20 and free online resources for locating correct licenses, permits and registrations.
But once a small business is underway, one of the next best moves is becoming involved with a local chamber of commerce or trader’s association. Participants in such groups promote each other to prosper more quickly and networking with hundreds of other members can broaden opportunities immensely. For instance, the South Sydney Business Chamber won a Regional Business award recently for launching a successful magazine promoting nearly 100 small businesses to over 40,000 residents – a move that produced tangible boosts in customers for operators.
Battling major malls
In Sydney, another recent example of collaborative success is the work undertaken by Manly Business Chamber (MBC) on behalf of hundreds of store owners and stakeholders to tackle the ongoing revitalisation of Manly Corso’s pedestrian retail strip.
The renowned precinct on the northern beaches linking the harbour to the beach is as popular with locals as it is tourists. Lined by shops and food outlets, and filled with outdoor seating, new fountains and children’s play areas, Manly Corso still attracts substantial crowds but now faces its strongest competition yet following the recent expansion of nearby regional malls.
As a result, the not-for-profit MBC with the support of retailers and stakeholders engaged the same consultants used to shape Sydney’s enormous Barangaroo precinct to produce a list of recommendations for keeping the Corso as viable and attractive to visitors as possible.
Other initiatives included taking over management of the Manly Markets – a weekend institution - from a private operator after it became apparent the regular event had begun cannibalising local business.
Once it had gained control, MBC was able to change the mix of stall holders to avoid any conflict of interest with existing shops. The markets’ layout and sightlines were also rearranged so as not to block the entrances of stores. The chamber even helped a local charity establish a permanent presence. “Their reps had been walking around the markets spruiking so we gave them their own stall for free,” said MBC’s spokesperson Chantelle Hoare. “We didn’t want the market-goers to feel hassled.”
Catering for crowds
In Melbourne, the efforts of a local trader’s association working with local council led to Richmond’s iconic Swan Street strip achieving a more cohesive look and overall appeal. The street, currently benefitting from Australian Open crowds flocking to and from the nearby Rod Laver Arena, would not be anywhere near as attractive as it now is it not for their efforts.
“Swan Street is a gateway to the Melbourne Park precinct which hosts everything from the tennis to the soccer,” said Swan Street Village Trader’s Association convenor Leanne Quinn. “There are hundreds of tourists and visitors who feed from those areas straight into Swan Street and we saw several years ago that it was becoming increasingly important to get the strip happening with more service industries and beautification.”
Concerted efforts made in conjunction with Yarra Council and Swan Street’s 8-member trader’s committee representing over 300 stores have seen dozens of changes made at a micro level. “We saw all kinds of opportunity to make sure there was consistency and have shopkeepers proud of having their businesses on display,” Ms. Quinn said. “We did everything from making sure stores’ overhead canopies were well maintained to making moves for better and more attractive outdoor seating.”
The changes also attracted new operators who took over existing stores with updated offerings such as a butchery now refashioned to showcase a range of more modern and inspired produce.
Handy websites for small business:
NSW www.smallbusiness.nsw.gov.au & www.service.nsw.gov.au/category/business-services
South Australia www.business.sa.gov.au/
West Australia www.smallbusiness.wa.gov.au/