State government funding for business

10:20AM | Tuesday, 8 October

Recently we looked at federal government grants available for small businesses and start-ups looking for funding support.   If businesses are looking at commercialising a product, conducting research and development or keen to branch out into export, there are a number of grant opportunities.   Here we cast our net wider and look at some state government grant programs that are also available to businesses based within their borders, as well as grants offered by capital cities that businesses may also be able to tap.   New South Wales Innovate NSW Minimum Viable Product: This scheme supports small to medium-sized technology businesses to engage with a potential customer. Successful applicants receive matched funding of 50% of project costs to a maximum of $15,000 to demonstrate an idea, prove a concept, develop a prototype or customise a solution.   Innovate NSW Collaborative Solutions: Here the government provides grants of up to 25% of project costs to a maximum of $100,000 to consortia to develop an innovative, new-to-market business-to-business solution. The program’s website says the consortia must include three entities: a technology SME with the ability to develop and commercialise the solution; a pilot business customer in a key sector that is willing to test the solution; and at least one partner that will provide additional technology, research capabilities, or assistance to scale the solution. It says the purpose of the program is to foster collaboration between industry partners toward delivering a compelling, new-to-market solution.   Innovate NSW TechVouchers: The program aims to help technology SMEs to collaborate with a NSW research organisation to overcome a technical challenge or test a new technology. It provides grants of up to $15,000 in matched funding.   For more grants, check out the state government’s trade and investment grants and funding page here.   Sydney   Sydney City Council also has a range of support programs including grants of up to $30,000 in matched funding to encourage small-scale businesses to use underused city spaces, up to $20,000 for events, and up to $6000 in matched funding for improving shopfronts.   Victoria   Innovation Voucher program: This program aims to support companies wanting to explore ways to improve their competitiveness and productivity. Under the Business R&D Voucher, businesses can apply for up to $25,000 while the Innovation Skills Voucher lets businesses apply for up to $10,000 to develop innovation relevant skills.   Employment Start-up For Business: The program helps businesses across Victoria hire unemployed young people and offers up to $4000 for each successful employment opportunity.   Technology Trade and International Partnering (TRIP) Program – Biotechnology and Small Technology: This program provides help for Victorian businesses to attend international conferences, trade events and regulatory authorities. It aims to support the growth and internationalisation of Victoria’s biotech and small tech companies.   More Victorian government grants can be found here.   Melbourne   Like its northern rival capital, Melbourne’s city council also provides a range of business support grants, but through its Enterprise Melbourne body. Some of the grants include funding of up to $30,000 to establish new and innovative businesses, up to $30,000 to expand existing businesses, and up to $10,000 to help enter and expand into overseas markets.   Queensland The Sunshine State won’t be left behind by the southern states when it comes to business grants. It offers a range of grants for businesses which can be found here.   Brisbane   Affectionately known as ‘Brisvegas’, Brisbane is developing a fertile start-up community. Helping with that is the Brisbane City Council’s Budding Entrepreneurs Program which offers $5000 to support digital start-ups.   South Australia Innovation Voucher Program: Like other states, South Australia has an innovation voucher scheme that encourages collaboration between SMEs and research and development organisations. In South Australia the scheme offers grants of $10,000-$20,000 to eligible research and development projects that partner with SMEs with an annual turnover less than $20 million.   Business Development Initiative (BDI) Grant: This grant is available to help start-up and early stage South Australian bioscience companies to develop their business model. Grants of up to $250,000 can be used for business planning, marketing and proof of commercial concept experiments.   Western Australia Designer Fashion Grants Program: Western Australia isn’t necessarily all about mining and digging holes in the ground. This program aims to help fashion designers and businesses to access commercial markets for their products. Grants can include funding of up to $20,000 to improve business viability, up to $10,000 for research and skills development, and up to $4000 to attend international fashion events.   Perth The Perth City Council also has a business grants program and offers funding of up to $2000 to small businesses in its local government area to help with starting a business, growing, or other creative business-related projects that benefit the city.   Tasmania Marketing Assistance Scheme: This scheme helps Tasmanian SMEs with turnover of $300,000-$15 million with marketing activities to develop national and international markets. The scheme provides assistance for advertising, develop promotional materials and travel.   Micro Business Loan Program: The program is aimed at helping people to start a business or grow their existing business. It’s also available to people on low incomes with Health Care Cards and provides small, interest-free loans.   Tasmanian Government Innovation and Investment Fund: Launched last year, the fund helps Tasmanian businesses to accelerate their growth. It provides one-off project grants of up to $250,000 per project to eligible applicants who have a project that, primarily, leads to improved competitiveness and efficiencies, increased exports or import replacement and demonstrated innovation in Tasmanian business practice.   Further help: Another resource for finding government business grants is the federal government’s grants and assistance finder here.

The top five website errors committed by Aussie SMEs

3:01AM | Monday, 18 March

While even our lumbering retail giants are, albeit reluctantly, beginning to embrace the digital world, it appears that the online progress of Australian small businesses is a little patchy.   This week saw the latest report card on how Aussie SMEs are doing online. A survey by design firm Snap found that 29% of the nation’s small firms don’t have a website, with nearly half of those that have an online presence waiting a ponderous six months before taking the plunge.   The research follows previous studies that show the proportion of website-less businesses could be as high as 50%.   Similarly, an Optus poll in May found that just 18% of SMEs offer mobile apps, although 48% say they plan to do so.   With the value of online transactions set to balloon to $37 billion in Australia next year, it’s perhaps surprising that so many small businesses are reluctant to invest in a new website.   But Snap’s research uncovered reasons why small firms may be wary of online. Businesses with websites reported that they encounter a number of problems, which may put off the uninitiated.   Here are the top five website errors committed by Australian small businesses, along with what to do about them:     1. Confusing navigation     The basics of enabling customers to find their way around a website is the biggest headache for small businesses, according to the study, with 65% identifying it as a major issue.   If you are really struggling with this, it’s probably time to get outside help to avoid wasting your time and money.   While navigation (65%) is the major issue for most websites, ill-conceived design (42%), spelling mistakes (29%), unnecessary website downtime (29%) and broken links/error 404 messages (24%) also prove to be bugbears.   Stephen Edwards, CEO of Snap, says: “I think a lot of people designing websites don’t know where they need to go or what they need to ask. People receiving the brief are often backroom technicians.”   “I see a lot of websites and it’s about function versus look and feel, so it’s a very conflicting story.”   “Deal with a professional that has a bit of history in the market. Go to people who have credibility.”   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 2. Ill-conceived design     Shabby-looking sites will immediately put off consumers, who are just a couple of easy clicks away from your rivals. Worryingly, 42% of SMEs say that they have problems with their site design.   Bad design doesn’t just deter people who visit your site, it also has negative search engine implications.   “With a poorly designed site, Google algorithms just don’t become as relevant,” says Edwards.   “You end up getting not where you need to be. SEO is important but you need to have a link.”   Get the basics right – design a clean, uncluttered site that clearly states the purpose of your business.   To help you out, here are five key site design trends businesses are embracing. It may even be worth crowdsourcing a good designer.   Story continues on page 3. Please click below. 3. Spelling mistakes     Concern over spelling mistakes is, at 29%, the joint third most common website woe suffered by small businesses.   These errors can creep in at the end of a long development process, according to Snap.   “Some of these sites drag on [when they’re being built] and people get a bit of fatigue in the process and eventually just say, ‘Let’s get this done’,” says Edwards.   Get someone to proofread all the copy on your website and get friends and family to test it, to ensure there are no amateurish bugs that you’ve missed.   Story continues on page 4. Please click below. 4. Unnecessary website downtime     Website downtime is a problem that bothers another 29% of SMEs. It’s vital that you carefully consider where your site is hosted.   Is your provider reliable? Does it offer tight security against cyber-attacks, which are becoming increasingly common for small firms? Are they responsive when things go wrong?   “This is very important when you’re deciding who you may go to,” says Edwards. “You need to assess where it’s hosted and what it means.”   “What’s the clout of the provider to get it fixed? That almost should be part of the quote. It’s a risk profile you do at the front-end.”   Story continues on page 5. Please click below. 5. Broken links or error 404 messages     Nothing quite beats a broken link or error message to drive away potential customers in frustration.   Worryingly, 24% of small business websites regularly have a problem with these kinds of errors, again underlining the need to thoroughly audit and test your site as you build it.   “It just portrays you may have bought a cheap site or you may be a small entity, because people associate that with your company,” says Edwards.   “You need a checklist to go off when building a website. List the things that could happen, and treat it like a shopping checklist.”

Predicted end of mining boom has start-ups scrambling

7:56AM | Monday, 23 July

Start-ups looking to leverage the growth of the mining industry are being encouraged to act fast, with a report by Deloitte Access Economics insisting the boom will be over in less than two years.

Micro firms failing to adopt eCommerce: Report

11:20AM | Tuesday, 1 November

Only 29% of micro businesses had a website presence in 2009-10, new data has revealed, yet 31% had a website presence in 2008-09, suggesting start-ups are increasingly shying away from eCommerce.

Start thinking about the Christmas cashflow crunch

10:28AM | Thursday, 27 October

I can’t stop thinking about those stats that suggest 40% of SMEs have seen sales fall in the last 12 months and I can’t stop thinking about cashflow.

Victorian firms cutting debt faster than other SMEs: Report

6:27PM | Thursday, 16 June

Victorian SMEs are borrowing less and reducing their debt more than SMEs in any other state, according to a new survey from accounting firm WHK, as businesses feel the effects of Australia’s two-speed economy.