NSW Trade & Investment has scrapped its small business events programs, claiming the events often failed to provide adequate advice and assistance to small business operators.
A NSW Government initiative, Trade & Investment aims to drive sustainable economic growth across the state by working with businesses and industries to advance investment, innovation, and activity through initiatives such as business events.
Its small business event programs include Small Business September, MicroBiz Week, the Young Entrepreneurs program and the Women in Business mentoring program.
All of these programs have now been scrapped, and five small business offices will be forced to shut, including the Parramatta Business Centre and those in Goulburn, Broken Hill, Tweed Heads and Coffs Harbour.
Small Business Minister Katrina Hodgkinson admitted NSW has underperformed in assisting small businesses.
“Last year, the inaugural Small Business Commissioner [Yasmin King] travelled throughout NSW and met with over 500 small business owners,” Hodgkinson told StartupSmart.
“Many small business operators indicated they are quite often unable to take extended time away from work to attend training courses and seminars.”
“While small business events can be a great way to get out and network, many small business operators found that training events and networking opportunities…did not often provide the practical advice and assistance they were actually seeking.”
Hodgkinson says the State Government will redevelop its Business Advisory Service – which expires on June 30 this year – into the Small Biz Connect program.
According to Hodgkinson, this will provide for the expansion of small business support services across the state.
“Small Biz Connect will introduce a new approach to the delivery of advisory and support services to small businesses in NSW,” she says.
“[It will provide] simple, user-friendly access for clients, and access to a statewide network of skilled advisors.”
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, says NSW Trade & Investment is increasing its focus on face-to-face support for small businesses, which is good.
“Rather than waiting for people to turn up to meetings, they’re focusing on going out into the businesses,” Strong says.
“We’re all so busy that getting to small business events is hard yakka. It’s a really good change and it’s something we’ve been asking for.”
It’s understood the intellectual property associated with former programs will be made available to all current business enterprise centres, future Small Biz Connect providers and local councils.
“This will broaden the accessibility of these programs across the state and allow more small businesses to benefit from these programs through better connected services,” Hodgkinson says.