RMIT: Melbourne’s small businesses join new skills program to reactivate

A new Roadmap to Recovery Program launched this week will help Melbourne’s CBD, Southbank and Docklands business community gain the skills needed to get back on track and thrive post COVID-19.

The free program being delivered by RMIT’s Activator in partnership with the City of Melbourne aims to help reinvigorate Melbourne and reactivate businesses.

Twenty one small businesses affected by the pandemic have jumped at the opportunity to build their skills, including yoga and meditation studios, migration and legal services and others from the retail, events, health and beauty, property and tourism sectors.
Matt Salier, Director of RMIT Activator said the three-month program will provide small business owners with the innovative, entrepreneurial and agile skills needed to develop new market opportunities and re-engage their customer base.
“Longer-term economic sustainability for small businesses in the CBD and Docklands is crucial for a vibrant and thriving city environment and we are committed to supporting them to get there,” he said.
“Small businesses are telling us they need foot traffic to return. While this might be out of our control, we can help businesses identify, test and launch products and services that will set them up to withstand fluctuations in traditional retail and service models.”
The modular course has been designed to be flexible and adaptive, with a focus on skill building, mentoring, and business regeneration.

Participants will work with industry experts and mentors to identify and test new market opportunities, develop new business strategies and learn about emerging technologies and trends.

Diane Curtis, yoga instructor and Founder of The Wellness Union in Docklands is looking forward to the Roadmap to Recovery Program.Diane Curtis, yoga instructor and Founder of The Wellness Union in Docklands is looking forward to the Roadmap to Recovery Program.
Diane Curtis, Founder of The Wellness Union said she will also need to change her business model after her yoga studio shut down during the pandemic.

“I opened my yoga studio in February 2020 and was only starting to build up before I had to close in March,” she said.
“Pre COVID, my customers were all corporates, working in the Docklands. Since reopening, I have struggled to regain the numbers as a lot of people have not returned to their offices.
“I hope to connect to a whole new customer – the Docklands residential community.
“I also hope to run monthly urban retreats and draw in people from outside the CBD to visit our studio and practice a day or blissful yoga and meditation.

“I’m looking forward to learning innovative ways to build brand awareness for our studio and develop strategies to drive traffic back to our studio and the precinct.”

Matt O’Kane, Publican at Coopers Inn and program participant.Matt O’Kane, Publican at Coopers Inn and program participant.
Matt O’Kane, Publican at Coopers Inn in Melbourne’s CBD said the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors during COVID-19.

“As a family owned and run pub in the city, the pandemic has had a devastating on our business, but there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

“We are getting back to basics here at the Coopers Inn. Cold beer, hearty meals and old fashioned service with a smile what we do best.

“We are hoping the people of Melbourne will continue to embrace our traditional pub offering for many years to come.”

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the program was part of a $10 million Inner-City Business Support Fund in partnership with the Victorian Government.

“The City of Melbourne’s top priority is to support local businesses and get our economy thriving again,” the Lord Mayor said.
“We are partnering with a number of expert providers to offer one-on-one advice from industry professionals, mentoring and skills-building programs and online learning resources.
“The Roadmap to Recovery program is a great way for local business owners to build their skills to get through these incredibly challenging times.”
Thomas Jajesnica, owner of Mr Meditate in Docklands, said he’s looking forward to getting back to business.
“Within 10 days of Covid-19 restrictions, my business ground to a complete halt and all bookings were postponed without any certainty of future dates,” he said.
“The goal is to pivot according to market needs. A clear direction in my industry is for online and hybrid learning.

“It allows for cost efficiency and allows remote workers access and engagement.
“I’m excited about professional assistance in conceptualising and executing on new ‘go to market’ strategies.”
Monica Chong, Lawyer Neville and Co Commercial Lawyers said law firms in metropolitan Melbourne were forced to close their practices for onsite work as stage four restrictions are imposed.
“With the stage four lockdown, most of the employees were stood down because the majority of junior staff need supervision and we could not do it remotely,” she said.
“When businesses were forced to close, property inspections and hiring stopped, and there wasn’t much money going around for people to spend on legal fees.

“Tenants were unable to afford rent and even after waiving and deferring arrangements were implemented, tenants are still struggling to pay any bills and other liabilities incurred.

“This is just an example of what happened with commercial leasing.
“We now want to continue to deliver outstanding quality at a reasonable cost; while maintaining ongoing long-term relationships with clients.
“I want to develop skills to help the business to expand, explore international audiences, build valuable services to targeted audience and develop new business models for sustainable growth.”

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