Preparations are well underway in Victoria for Australia’s largest small business festival, which aims to help owner-operators expand, acquire new skills and identify opportunities.
This will be Victoria’s 13th annual festival and the schedule is packed with events held across metropolitan Melbourne and in various regional centers. Many are available free of charge.
The Festival runs from August 1-31.
Small Business Minister Philip Dalidakis praised local owner-operators for embracing the festival.
“Small business owners have bought into it. We’ve provided opportunities for them to learn, to grow, to expand their businesses, and to also increase their knowledge: whether marketing, sales or even technology. They’ve been able to find something they need,” he explains.
“Small business confidence is sky high. Victoria has more than 576,000 small businesses and there is no greater way to test that confidence than to see how many businesses have started up over the last three years.”
Backing the small business community, this year the Victorian budget allocated an extra $13.5 million for small business mentoring and support. A key aspect of this mentoring is helping business owners understand how they can benefit from the digital economy.
An extra $55 million was allocated to the Investment Attraction and Assistance Program, which aims to attract new businesses to Victoria and help existing businesses expand, creating new local jobs.
And the government hopes the Small Business Festival will excite owners to take advantage of the new initiatives.
“The festival is their opportunity to create new connections. When you don’t have the money, when you don’t have the capacity, you need friends that can help you to connect with customers, sponsors, and mentors. This festival helps owners learn new ways to do business in this country,” Minister Dalidakis says.
Sisterworks is a thriving social enterprise, and one beneficiary of the festival’s many initiatives.
Minister Dalidakis says Sisterworks empowers migrant and refugee women right across Victoria, where English is their second language.
“Because all women, regardless of their geographic location, need to know that they have that support and that they don’t need to move away from their home to get it,” he says.
The social enterprise currently supports 171 women from 55 countries, including 88 ‘entrepreneurs’ who create and sell their wares from a shopfront in inner-city Melbourne.
Founder and CEO Luz Restrepo explains: “We have our work design lab, and our business hub, where women first learn how to make something people love to buy, then they learn how to sell it”.
As entrepreneurs teach their skills to others at workshops, they are also able to share stories of their migrant experience, thereby building bonds within the community.
Also of great benefit to regional Victoria, this year the state budget reduced payroll tax for rural businesses.
“We have lowered the rural payroll tax rates, and we’ve extended the threshold for all businesses right across the state, so from July 1st this year businesses, regardless of where they are, won't’ actually enter the payroll threshold, until they pay more than $650,000 in payroll,” Minister Dalidakis explains.
No wonder business is booming in Victoria.
Watch this story at the top of the page, or catch the full episode on SBS On Demand.