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Small business supports: the big wins and next steps

Last week Minister for Small Business Adem Somyurek reappointed me to the role of Commissioner for another three years. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity to keep supporting and advocating on behalf of Victorians in small business.

We’ve achieved a great deal together over the past three years. In 2017 we developed a template mental health plan for small business owners. Running a business can come with a range of stressors from cashflow and getting paid on time to permit approvals and contract issues. When we started this work, there wasn’t a lot out there for small business owners who were struggling with their mental health. We responded by working with people with lived experience and leaders in mental health to develop a template plan that a small business owner could easily pick up and use. By developing their own plan, small business owners can articulate their pressure points and the help they need, when they’re going through a tough time, to get back on track. I’m committed to continuing to raise awareness of mental health supports for small business and encouraging open conversations to break down stigma.

In 2018 we rolled out the Grow Your Business Together initiative across nine towns in the Latrobe Valley. This followed the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station, which had significant impacts on the community and local businesses. In terms of local trade, the community no longer had extra money to spend with the local traders and people had stopped visiting the area. We responded by holding a series of business breakfasts with government agencies and social media experts. The breakfasts were a chance for local businesses to network, learn strategies to boost their success and hear about the value of a combined business voice for their towns. Each breakfast was very well attended and went a long way in reenergising the business community. The local business networks that took part walked away from the experience with funding to develop a new website. The aim? To help encourage local businesses to work together to thrive.

Latrobe Valley is one example of how issues confronting regional Victoria are often very different to what we see in metropolitan areas. This is why I’m committed to continuing to visit regions across Victoria to better understand the specific issues they’re facing and let them know how we can help.

Over the coming three years, I want to see fewer small businesses in dispute. To help achieve this, I will be more active in engaging small business owners, including those of diverse cultural backgrounds, around ways to avoid or resolve disputes and what they need to know before they sign a contract. We have made inroads by developing a suite of resources in six community languages and will keep engaging small business owners around their rights and the services we provide.

Just six months into our Small Business Friendly Council initiative, we’re so pleased to have had 32 of Victoria’s 79 councils pledge to boost local business supports. Why are we carrying out this work? For there to be a level playing field, small businesses need more support in a number of areas, including managing disruption caused by infrastructure works, getting paid on time and helping business networks to grow. This is what we’re committed to achieving through this initiative, in partnership with local councils. We’re already seeing positive outcomes in response to local needs, including City of Maribyrnong co-hosting a pop up event with us on retail leases. Our team will keep engaging with councils around the local value of making the pledge, with the aim of having every Victorian council say “yes!” to boosting small business supports.