If you’re one of the many small businesses in Victoria treading water to stay afloat, you don’t have to swim those uncertain waters alone.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, the Victorian small business community has weathered the storms brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it hard to think beyond ‘survival mode’ and plan for the future.
As we sail into a new financial year though, it’s time to start looking ahead. It’s OK to ask for help – and it’s even better if that help is free, and from a professional business mentor who can set you on the right track.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in partnership with the Victorian Government, launched the free Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring program back in August 2020.
Since then, more than 500 Victorian businesses have completed the program, with a further 2200 currently taking part and many more applying each day.
What is the Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring Program?
The Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring Program matches small businesses and sole traders with professional business mentors who can provide guidance tailored to your particular industry or challenges. Whether you’ve had to restructure your workforce, change your business model, rethink a marketing strategy or identify a new opportunity, you can find someone who has the experience to talk you through the solutions.
More than 200 professional mentors have signed up to the program, with expertise in areas like business recovery (including cost reduction, debt and cashflow management), market transformation, digital literacy and engagement, market and supply chain diversification, and reskilling and training.
The program is open to small business owners with less than 20 employees across both metro and regional Victoria. That includes sole traders, partnerships, private companies and trusts that operate small businesses.
How to apply and what you get
Small businesses fill out a simple online application form, which should only take around seven minutes to complete. From there, you should receive confirmation within one to two business days.
The more information you provide, the more relevant the mentor will be to your situation. Following that, you’re entitled to four two-hour sessions that can be done in person (where appropriate), on the phone or via video conference.
The mentor will also provide you with a detailed action plan, and direct you to the right services if you need further support.
Who has the program helped so far?
Businesses like Sonya Michele’s Dog&Boy, a South Melbourne-based fashion label that’s been growing its base in the US, Middle East and Europe.
“I didn’t want to have a mentor that gave me generic information. I needed them to understand my business and look at it objectively and be able to say, ‘These are probably areas that you could focus on’,” Sonya says. “It’s very hard when you’re in the business and you’re so close to it, that you can’t always see it.”
Robbie Carter, from Bill Lang International, was the professional business mentor she met through the program.
“Robbie comes from a similar background to myself with her experience, and also extended to retail and wholesale as well,” Sonya says. “So that meant she understood what that meant for my business. Straightaway there was just a real connection with her and being able to talk to her. You expose yourself a bit personally as well. It felt OK to do that.”
Michael Hastings, who runs Hastings Ostrich Farm in the town of Winchelsea, says his mentor, Clive Pinniger from SED Regional Advisory, helped him “develop a game plan” for the future of his commercial agriculture business.
“Obviously when there’s significant challenges, the first instinct of any business manager is to work harder and sometimes that means you can work within the business and not on the business,” he says. “I applied for the mentoring program because when you’re faced with a challenge, sometimes it’s good to have external people meet with you and provide an outside point of view.”
Rebecca Tilley, who runs Reach Gymnastics kids’ gymnastics and ninja classes in Pakenham, West Gippsland, says the program helped give her ideas and action points in areas of finance, social media marketing and business planning.
“The mentoring sessions were a fantastic opportunity to continue growing my business knowledge and gain much-needed support during a challenging time,” Tilley says. “I genuinely believe the sessions were a game-changer for my business.”
Sign up for the free Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring program today.
This content is brought to you by Kochie’s Business Builders in partnership with the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Victorian Government.
Feature image: Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.