Council lends a hand to small business

Some good news is in store for Fremantle businesses with the launch of a city-wide pilot program aiming to empower and mentor small business owners.

The Business Capacity Building Program, launched on Wednesday, will provide subsidised support for up to 40 retail and hospitality businesses within the City of Fremantle.

City of Fremantle economic development officer Daniel Thomson said the council was proud to launch a program that facilitated connections between businesses and service providers.

“The idea of the capacity building program is to help businesses to make the most of the people who visit Fremantle and give them an opportunity to get the advice and support they want,” Mr Thomson said.

“Small businesses are crucial to any economy and this program is specifically targeted at retail and hospitality businesses.

“We’re piloting over the next three months and specifically selected retail and hospitality businesses as part of this pilot, as that’s the part of the economy which is struggling at the moment in WA, it’s been a tough five years in the state.”

Leake St Cafeteria is a vibrant Fremantle small business. Photo:Sarah Makse.

Mr Thomson said the support of local business mentorship providers Freo Now, Business Foundations and the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce will help small businesses receive well rounded insights.

“I think it’s really good to all pull in the same direction and understand it’s a difficult economic climate, and the game is to sit down and recognise how businesses can make the most of it,” he said.

Fremantle Chamber of Commerce chief executive Danicia Quinlan said the program was a way for small businesses to harness the investments being made in the city.

“I think to be able to focus our retailers and hospitality sector on setting the foundations to make the most of those opportunities is an incredible benefit,” Ms Quinlan said.

Ms Quinlan said the changing expectations of customers and the rise of online retail spaces had created challenges for brick-and-mortar businesses.

“The capacity program is about sharing experiences and learning and providing foundations for businesses that maybe need assistance, but also allowing those businesses doing really well to find new opportunities to grow into the future,” she said.

The council has appointed two local business mentorship and training organisations to support businesses taking part in the program – Freo Now and Business Foundations.

Business Foundations is a not-for-profit organisation that has been supporting business owners to grow their enterprises in Fremantle for more than 25 years.

Business Foundations business advisor Brian Grindrod said the program was an opportunity for the team to use their business experience to assist business owners to recognise their strengths and shortcomings.

“They’ve decided that there’s two services that we are providing. One, is to do a business analysis so diagnostic on where your business can grow and what is holding it back,” Mr Grindrod said.

“Then we have the business advisory service which is three one-hour sessions. Fremantle council are covering 80 per cent of the costs for that.

“That is to nut through the challenges they are facing and figure out what is the source of their frustration. It could be staffing, but quite often it’s costs, lack of people coming through, lack of volume and in a lot of cases, lack of marketing.”

Business advisor Brian Grindrod will provide mentorship to small businesses in the pilot program. Photo: Sarah Makse.

Mr Grindrod said making support, training and advice easily accessible to small businesses ensured they could plan for the future.

“They are the engine room of the economy. Big companies start small, so you’ve got to support them all,” Mr Grindrod said.

Leake St Cafeteria owner Wade Drummond said he had benefited from his experience with Business Foundations.

Wade Drummond said business mentorship is extremely valuable in small business. Photo: Sarah Makse.

“I’ve used some of their services about getting product ideas and helping with book keeping. I really wish I’d known about it before I opened a café. They have been very very helpful,” Mr Drummond said.

“So many businesses fail because they don’t know the basics. From what I can tell, these programs are pretty important for that.

“I think the pilot program will be nice little information contact for people just getting started.”

Mr Drummond said Fremantle’s bustling and supportive community encouraged him to make his business the best it could be, despite the tough economic climate for business owners.

“I think we have some of the best customers around. They are loyal, they are friendly and they are very vocal.”

The Business Capacity Building pilot program will run until June 30 with the results determining whether the city will expand the program to include other businesses in the future.

Small businesses can register for the program here.

Leake St Cafeteria is just one small business hidden gem. Photo:Sarah Makse.

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