Inner West Independent

Spotlight on small business survival

Fiona Fitzpatrick from Art with Heart, Catherine Saxelby from Foodwatch Pty Ltd, Founder and CEO of SHE Business Suzy Jacobs, Evelyn Lundstrom from First Impressions. Photo: supplied

Efforts to reboot the ailing small business sector will intensify this month with a number of initiatives to assist innovation and growth.

A “Better Business Community Hub” will be established today, Thursday, at Leichhardt Town Hall, where business operators can interact face-to-face with expert advisors. The initiative is a partnership between Leichhardt Council and the Clearly Business Enterprise Centre (BEC). If there is sufficient interest, the hub will become a fortnightly event.

Next Wednesday, February 19, will see the launch of an inner west chapter of Business Networking International, “the largest referral based business networking organisation on the planet”. In 2013, the Australian chapter claims to have passed on 98,130 referrals, generating $256.6 million worth of business for members.

The Small Biz Bus, another NSW government initiative, will roll into Balmain on February 26. The travelling bus proffers another opportunity for business owners to seek out personalised advice, and will be parked outside Woolworths on Darling Street from 9am to 3pm.

David Baumgarten, chief executive of the Sydney Metro BEC, said today’s event will allow business owners to sit down with a real person for advice.

“It’s about helping people identify their goals [and] where they want to take their business and to hold them accountable to achieve those outcomes,” he said.

“One of the issues is that small businesses basically don’t know what they need until they actually come up against a brick wall.”

Mr Baumgarten said his organisation was conscious of the particular problems faced by high street shops in the inner west.

“We’re working in a society where people will travel to get to a destination business,” he said. “People go all over the inner west to get to a particular client.”

Earlier in the week, a power breakfast for women in business was hosted at the Exchange Hotel, Balmain. SHE Business describes itself as the fastest-growing network of female business leaders in Australia and aims to educate, mentor and inspire women on their path to business success.

Monica Brewer, inner west director of SHE Business, made it clear the group’s purpose is not networking. Rather, participants at the monthly meetings work on aspects of their business, producing marketing plans, budgets, and strategic documents.

“The networks happen because people get to know each other at a deeper level, but they don’t come to network,” Ms Brewer said.

The initial breakfast meeting on Tuesday attracted 22 women and was addressed by SHE Business CEO Suzy Jacobs. The group’s members will meet on the second Tuesday of every month and are held “accountable” to each other on achieving their goals.

Ms Brewer acknowledged rent as a major issue facing inner west small businesses, but told owners it was vital they know their numbers “very, very well”.

“Most people tap into their numbers once a year. Perhaps they could afford the higher rent if they knew where else they were spending their money,” she said.

The Balmain group contains women from a wide range of industries, including a marketer, wholesale jeweler, dietician, and an image consultant. She Business consciously ensures a mixed background in all of their groups.

“It keeps a robust conversation around the room; you get value from sitting next to an accountant a graphic designer – they all think differently,” Ms Brewer said.

It is an important time for small business owners to learn to share, said Fiona Golinelli, executive officer of the Leichhardt Annandale Business Chamber.

“The small business community needs to collaborate more,” she told the Inner West Independent.

“If you’ve got a great service, if you’ve got a great deliverable…then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Sharing ideas shouldn’t be something that they’re afraid to do.”

The chamber will conduct its own networking event on February 18 at Aerocom Technology in Petersham from 6pm.

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