Melbourne food stylist Caroline Velik knows food, having styled and created it for years, making her name known as one of the best in the industry.
Caroline’s work spans everything from TV commercials to social media photography, as well as cookbooks with Australia’s crème de la crème of chefs, such as Stephanie Alexander, Shane Delia and Darren Purchese.
But when the pandemic hit in 2020, Caroline’s small business, Caroline Velik Food Stylist, had to pivot and adapt – quickly.
“During the first lockdown last year in Melbourne, I was unable to work,” Caroline tells Kochie’s Business Builders. “I was concerned about the impact on my business.”
Caroline set about looking for guidance on what to do, and found it on a Victorian Government website. There she discovered that the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry had partnered with the Victorian Government to launch the free Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring program.
Caroline was matched through the program with a professional business mentor. Caroline’s mentor worked with her and provided tailored advice on how to adapt and grow her small business. It proved invaluable during a difficult period for her small business.
Since August 2020, more than 600 Victorian businesses have completed the Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring program. Over 1000 other businesses have started receiving mentoring and many more are applying each day.
“It sounded like it might be helpful. I thought that even if I only got one thing out of it, it would be worthwhile,” Caroline says. “As it turned out, the experience was so much more than I had hoped for.”
A mentor’s food for thought
Caroline embraced the opportunity to get advice from an experienced businessperson. The program matched Caroline with Sara Young from Quinlan Consulting – who offered her a wealth of commercial and structural advice.
“As a small business owner, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of the business, especially in a creative industry,” Caroline says. “Sara Young and Quinlan Consulting helped me to develop a clear structure and plan. They formed a firm understanding of my business and gave me advice on where I could make improvements. Sara was always available if I needed to contact her about anything.”
For Caroline, the benefit of the mentorship program was not only to her business, but to her personally as a small business owner, giving her confidence and more know-how.
“The first session was great,” she says of meeting Sara. “We discussed many aspects of my business. Sara gave me a clear idea about what we would discuss over the next sessions and gave me some homework to do in preparation for our next session.
“She structured our sessions clearly, so we could concentrate on one aspect of the business in each session.”
Meet Caroline’s mentor
Caroline knows she may not have encountered someone like Sara were it not for the program. Sara has a lot of experience to share, completing her Bachelor of Business in the USA and an MBA in Australia – and working extensively in Asia.
“I saw joining the Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring program as my way of ‘giving back’,” Sara says, explaining why she applied to become a mentor. “I knew that I, and Quinlan Consulting, could offer useful skills to small businesses.
“Caroline was my first client in the program. I knew she was well-known and respected – but she could take her business so much further. For example, she has a unique space for hire, and I saw that its potential could be harnessed in the evolving climate.”
Sara worked with Caroline to develop a more strategic view of her website, helping her to reorganise and showcase it, and assisted in navigating the commercial lease process. Finally, Quinlan Consulting gave guidance around contracts and staff structure.
It was the overhaul to her business that Caroline needed. “I have recommended the program to many small business owners already. I think everyone can benefit from professional input,” she says. “It has certainly changed the way I look at my business and my customers.”
Applying for the Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring Program
The program is open to the owners of Victorian small businesses with fewer than 20 full-time employees. That includes sole traders, partnerships, private companies and trusts that operate small businesses.
The program offers more than 200 professional mentors across various industries with business knowledge around managing finances, marketing and digital literacy and engagement. They work collaboratively with businesses to improve practices and identify solutions to challenges – especially in a climate where many have had to restructure their workforce and rethink their product or strategy.
Apply via a simple online application form, which will take around seven minutes to complete. From there, you should receive confirmation within one to two business days.
By taking part, you will:
- Receive up to four free two-hour sessions with a mentor.
- Be given guidance to help you make informed decisions about the future of your business.
- Be matched with an industry leader who suits your business needs.
Your mentor will provide you with a detailed action plan, and direct you to the right services if you need further support.
Sign up for the free Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring program today.
This article is brought to you by Kochie’s Business Builders in partnership with the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Victorian Government.