government grant

Huge Assistance for Victorian Small Businesses impacted by COVID-19

All information directly from Business Victoria website.

Grant Overview

The Victorian Government has launched the $500 million Business Support Fund to help small businesses survive the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) and keep people in work.

The Fund is part of the Victorian Government’s $1.7 billion Economic Survival Package.

Eligibility criteria and application guidelines are outlined below. Please read them before completing an application.

Applications can be made via the ‘Apply now’ button at the bottom of this page.

Program closes on May 31st.

At a glance

Potential value of grant

Funding of $10,000 per business is available and will be allocated through a grant process.

Eligibility

Businesses are eligible to apply for a grant through the Fund if they meet the following criteria:

More details about eligibility and guidelines on how to apply below.

1: What is the Business Support Fund for?

The Business Support Fund is for small businesses that employ staff and are subject to closure or are highly impacted by the shutdown restrictions announced by the Victorian Government as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes businesses in the hardest hit sectors including:

  • Accommodation and Food Services (e.g. cafes, restaurants, caterers, hotels, motels)
  • Arts and Entertainment (e.g. cinemas, performing arts venues, creative spaces, performers, museums)
  • Health and Beauty Services (e.g. hairdressers, barbers, beauty therapists)
  • Sport and recreation (e.g. gyms, swimming pools, indoor climbing, play centres)
  • Tourism (e.g. tourist transport, tour operators, tour arrangement)
  • Retail, other than supermarket, groceries, liquor and pharmacy businesses
  • Other Services (e.g. real estate agents)

Eligibility for this fund will be assessed against the industry classification of the applicant’s Australian Business Number.

Applicants should ensure that the industry classification linked to their Australian Business Number reflects their current business activity and is up-to-date.

This information should be read in conjunction with the Restricted Activity Directions issued by the Deputy Chief Health Officer to-date.

If you have further questions about the Business Support Fund or eligibility criteria, please read the FAQs.

While owners of businesses that do not employ people (non-employing businesses) are not eligible for funding through this program, they can seek support through the Commonwealth Government’s Job Seeker Payment Program.

2: How can the funding be used?

Examples of what the grant funding could be used for include:

3: Evidence of eligibility and compliance

  • Applicants must certify in writing that they meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Applicants will be subject to audit by the Victorian Government or its representatives and will be required to produce evidence, such as payroll reports to demonstrate impact, at the request of the Victorian Government for a period of four years after the grant has been approved.
  • If any information in the application is found to be false or misleading, or grants are not applied for the purposes stated in the terms of funding and application, the grant will be repayable on demand.

4: How to apply

Applicants must submit an application online via the ‘Apply now’ button on this page.

Applicants are required to provide a copy of their most recent Business Activity Statement (BAS). Other supporting materials can also be provided.

For guidance on what is considered acceptable as BAS please refer to the BAS Statement Examples.

Note: Lodged Business Activity Statements are available on the ATO’s Business Portal or through your tax agent.

All questions in the application must be completed and any requested documentation attached to ensure timely assessment and grant payment.

Please refer to the FAQs page for answers to questions you may have about your application.

If you require further assistance please call 13 22 15 or email Business Vic.

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jesse hunter holding a camera

Snappy and flashy: Brisbane camera retailer makes two-day pivot to offer personalised sales online

Another great example of how a business owner has flipped his business to a new offering for his customers. These successes really highlight the need to think about what you and your business are able to offer during this time.

Written by Stephanie Palmer-Derrien @ SmartCompany

After COVID-19 forced the closure of its two stores, Brisbane photography retailer CameraPro has taken its personal approach to sales online, offering would-be customers a store-style shopping experience via video chat.

camera retailer store owner JESSE FLIPPED HIS service offering in two days

Founded in 2007, CameraPro caters to a market of professionals and enthusiasts, predominantly selling a high-end range of products both in-store and online.

Already, customer engagement was a big part of the business, founder Jesse Hunter tells SmartCompany.

“I was a one-man show online and delivering directly to customers in my own car 12 years ago,” he says.

Now, as well as having two showrooms focused on individual interaction with clients, the business offers courses and webinars, building a community of camera-lovers.

Hunter had actually been considering introducing a video-shopping service for some time already, he says.

In order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, he made both his physical stores click-and-collect. And, at the same time, he realised it was time to get the new service off the ground.

“We made the decision pretty quickly,” he says.

“I briefed the team on Monday, and we had it up and running on the Wednesday.”

It was quick innovation, but as a store specialising in camera equipment, Hunter had all the equipment available to him and ready to go, as well as the know-how to get things going.

Through the website, customers can set up a video call with a team member, who can show them the physical product they’re interested in, explain the main features, and answer any questions.

The idea is to give people a personalised, in-store experience, even from the comfort of isolation.

“It gives customers a much better grip of what they’re purchasing than just looking on a website,” Hunter explains.

“Doing our best”

The scheme is part of Hunter’s strategy to keep the business afloat, and most of his employees on board. Of his 35 staff members, he’s had to let two go so far.

The rest, he’s trying to re-deploy to “future revenue-generating projects”, he says,

Many of the team members are photographers, who have been charged with creating new content for the business. Others are now leading webinars and online training sessions.

“We’re still building the plan, but we’ve already actively made some very significant, quick changes and created some new initiatives to keep people on board,” Hunter says.

“We’ve certainly been doing our best.”

As of yet, the founder doesn’t have figures to show how the new service has translated into sales. As sales still go through the same platform, it’s hard to know which customers have had an e-chat, and which haven’t.

“We haven’t yet been able to attribute the breakdown of what sales volume has been driven from that specific medium,” he explains.

But, the team has had a lot of “anecdotal positive feedback”.

In fact, customers are also reaching out and asking for personalised service support, for example, asking for walk-throughs for upgrading their firmware.

For Hunter, it’s more about maintaining a relationship with clients during this time, and offering a positive experience.

“That’s probably been the single core focus of the business from the beginning,” he says.

The business isn’t run with what Hunter calls a “transactional culture”.

Rather, the team is trained to work with customers, to follow up with them, and not to push any one product over another. Already, transactions typically include multiple chats and multiple channels, and customers are invited to take part in training sessions and events to help them hone their skills later.

“Customer experience and customer service has been a key driver for me.”

“Unprecedented” change

Over the past 12 years, Hunter has grown CameraPro through the global financial crisis, and contended with the advent of social media and the sharp improvement of cameras on mobile phones.

But, the disruption brought about by COVID-19 is something else altogether, he says.

“It’s fair to say its unprecedented in terms of the speed of change,” he says

“The speed has been the real hard one to grapple with.”

Even in an industry that has always been fast-paced, the founder has never had to innovate quite this quickly before.

“It literally was pretty much over the course of a weekend,” he says.

“We’re constantly changing and having to adapt quickly, but probably not quite this quickly,” he adds.

“We’re updating forecasts on a weekly basis at the moment … I can’t think of any other parallel.”

We can help you flip your business and start selling online today. Contact us for a chat today.

liquor on shelf

BOOZE SUBSCRIPTION STARTUP SEES UNEXPECTED SALES SPIKE, AS CUSTOMERS TURN TO WHISKY TO “TOLERATE THE APOCALYPSE”

Written by Stephanie Palmer-Derrian

BOOZE SUBSCRIPTION STARTUP SEES UNEXPECTED SALES SPIKE, AS CUSTOMERS TURN TO WHISKY TO “TOLERATE THE APOCALYPSE” 1
FOUNDER JOEL HAUER (LEFT) AND THE WHISKY LOOT TEAM. SOURCE: SUPPLIED.

As the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing economic effects, hit Australia, Joel Hauer braced to take a hit to his whisky subscription business Whisky Loot. But it never came.

For many people, it turns out whisky in the mail is just the tonic for tolerating isolation. With an increase in gift subscriptions and existing customers ‘doubling up’ their orders, Whisky Loot is on track for a bumper coronavirus season.

Back in January, when Whisky Loot bagged its first funding round of $400,000, the business had about 1,300 subscribers. Now, that number is closer to 2,000, Hauer tells SmartCompany.

March was Whisky Loot’s best month of the year so far, he adds.

And in April, “It looks like we’re going to get close to doubling March”.

In fact, the founder is expecting this to be his biggest month of sales ever, outside of Christmas or other seasonal events.

As it became clear the coronavirus crisis would have serious economic consequences, Hauer and the Whisky Loot team started to prepare for a dip in business.

“We didn’t quite know which way the business was going to go, so we started extending our runway,” he explains.

“The cash we had that we thought would last us four months, we needed to extend to last us 12 months.”

But the crash Hauer was expecting never came. Unexpectedly, the opposite started to happen.

“We thought we would get all these cancellations on our subscriptions. But the cancellations actually reduced compared to an average week,” he says.

At the same time, the numbers of new subscribers started to increase.

“It was a bit of an unusual turn of events for us,” he adds.

“We ended up being quite profitable in that late March period.”

Initially, that growth was “very much organic”, based as far as Hauer could tell on the startup’s existing Facebook Ads spend.

In hindsight, Hauer theorises that other struggling businesses may have taken their investment out of Facebook Ads, meaning the ones that remained got more airtime.

“Instead of us getting a new subscriber every $50 that we spent on Facebook, we were getting a new subscriber once every $30 we spent on Facebook.”

Even so, just last week Whisky Loot doubled its ad budget for Facebook, because things were going so well.

“We doubled down on what was working,” he adds.

More whisky, more often

That’s not all Whisky Loot has doubled down on. It is also offering subscribers the option to double up their deliveries, receiving six 60ml bottles a month, instead of the standard three.

Hauer had been discussing the business’ surprise uptick with a friend, who suggested people may well want more whisky in their lives at a time like this.

“We’ve never considered doing anything more than once a month. Our only other option is quarterly,” Hauer says.

All of the news reports suggest people want to save money, that they’re losing work and facing hardship, the founder notes. So offering them additional products felt counterintuitive.

However, when he put out a customer survey, asking how frequently they would like their deliveries at the moment, more than 50% of customers said they would welcome more whisky, more often.

The team whipped together an offer for people to get two boxes in one delivery, for $99 instead of $59.

“About 25% of our subscribers opted into that,” Hauer says.

“We didn’t want to do it without knowing how customers were thinking … but it proved to be something people wanted.”

At the same time, Whisky Loot has called upon three additional Australian distilleries, and created a one-off, non-subscription box featuring a tipple from each.

The business is donating $15 dollars for each box sold to the distilleries, to help them with their own cash flow during this period.

As for the motives of the customers who are spending — whether they have a desire to help Aussie distilleries, to support a young startup, or just a desire to drink whisky — it’s hard to say.

From customer service feedback, it seems that some, especially those that have been subscribers for a matter of years, aren’t cancelling because they do indeed want to support local small business, Hauer says.

“It’s hard to tell whether that’s because of us as a business or because they’ve got that habit of receiving three new whiskies to try every month.”

However, Whisky Loot has also seen an increase in gift subscriptions, and the team can see what people are writing to their loved ones. Many of the messages talk about offering “something to help you through isolation”, Hauer says.

“We can’t go to the bar right now,” he adds.

“Everyone has got a little bit of a ‘going out’ budget that they’re now not spending. It fits within the accessible home-delivery service that is a bit of a surprise every month.”

Whisky Loot customers seem to appreciate a little treat in a time when there are not many of those to be had, Hauer suggests.

He shares one customer review that says the service “helps you tolerate the apocalypse”.

“Ever since being relegated to the social distancing wasteland I’ve been pining for some kind of excitement and meaning in my dreary, housebound life,” the review says.

“Whisky Loot has filled the black void of my heart and truly makes life worth living.”

Whisky delivery may seem like a frivolous service, but “people actually really need us right now”, Hauer laughs.

Expansion on hold

Despite its recent run of success, Whisky Loot has still had to make a few tweaks to its 2020 roadmap.

Hauer had been planning to embark on a second, larger funding round within the next month or two. That’s been pushed back to at least September.

“It’s still the plan,” he says.

“We’ve realised we’re in a great position. We’re a business that was going really well in the good times, and even better in the bad times.

“It’s still a great opportunity for investors.”

The business was also about to move into a bigger warehouse space that it would be able to grow into over the next three years.

“That would have been a huge expense plus probably triple what we’re paying in rent,” Hauer says.

“That’s been pushed back.”

He was also planning on investing in a new industrial bottling machine for the warehouse, but that’s also been put on hold.

All of this is about extending the runway and protecting the business if things do go south, says Hauer.

“We’ve extended the amount of time that the cash that we’ve got and the revenue we’re generating is going to buy us,” Hauer explains.

“It’s pretty much the same plan, it’s just pushed out a little bit.”

Finally, Hauer had had plans to launch Whisky Loot in the US in November. The timeline on that expansion is now completely out of the founder’s control.

“That’s really going to be determined by how much the borders can open up,” he says.

“It’s still in our plan, it’s just moved forward to a date in the future that we’re guessing at the moment.”

What can we learn?

Without an online presence, this business would not be able to function. It’s time to really stop and think “what can my business achieve with an online presence?” Make sure you set yourself up for success in this trying time.

fabulous catering

HOW ADAM POPE IS COMPLETELY CHANGING HIS CORPORATE CATERING BUSINESS AFTER LOSING $55,000 IN BOOKINGS IN TWO DAYS TO COVID-19

Written by Eloise Keating

fabulous catering
SOME MEMBERS OF THE FABULOUS CATERING TEAM. SOURCE: SUPPLIED.

On a regular Monday, Melbourne entrepreneur Adam Pope would receive about 50 new enquiries for the catering company he runs with his wife. 

Fabulous Catering employs 180 people and operates in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. On average, the company would complete 70-80 catering jobs a week, providing gourmet food for corporate events and offices, weddings, birthdays and other special events. 

But that was before the outbreak of COVID-19. 

This week, Pope says his teams have received just three new enquiries, and there are only 18 jobs on the books. 

On Monday and Tuesday alone, the business saw $55,000 worth of bookings cancelled. 

Pope has operated his business for 13 years and the company turns over about $5 million a year. 

But a large chunk of that revenue is now in jeopardy as several major contracts have come to an abrupt halt. 

Pope tells SmartCompany that over the weekend it started to sink in just how dire the situation is — and the speed at which his business needs to respond to the crisis. 

The first step

The first step in that response has been to launch a range of ready-made, frozen meals that individuals and businesses can order to be delivered to people’s homes, including a special ‘isolation pack’, designed to get anyone through a 14-day period of coronavirus-induced isolation. 

The meals are priced from $9.95 each, and the company is offering free pickup and delivery within 15kms of Melbourne’s CBD. 

“We thought, well what have we got?”

“We’ve got fridges and freezers, and the wholesale food chain is unaffected. We can still get pasta, mince meat. All the things that are in Coles, we can get, apart from toilet paper,” Pope explains. 

“We had to think quickly.”

It’s a new frontier for the business, but Pope says it has all the infrastructure and systems already in place. 

“With large quantities of people now working from home, and there also being a very big worry about hygiene, we can offer a full contactless option,” he says. 

“Orders are online, there’s no cash handling, the meals are delivered on ice and taped up in a box, our drivers all have hand sanitiser and gloves.”

Pope says the business is also working to offer consumers food packs containing all the ingredients they will need to prepare their own meals, as well as meat packs that contain everyday products that are now seemingly not available on supermarket shelves. 

fabulous catering
THE FABULOUS CATERING READ-MADE MEALS. SOURCE: SUPPLIED.

“Snippets of information”

To say it has been a stressful few days for Pope and his team would be an understatement. But the 35-year-old business owner is optimistic, and focused on preserving as many jobs as he can in the business. 

Many of the company’s 180 employees are casuals and Pope says the amount of work he will have available to them will depend on how well this new business model works. 

“We have some full-time employees and we’re prioritising fieldwork for them; we have some existing functions still on,” he says. 

“We are getting our office staff to do deliveries so there’s no loss of jobs.”

While Pope believes some of the already announced government stimulus measures will help his business, he says savings of a few thousand dollars won’t necessarily make a difference. 

A number of state governments have said they will waive payroll tax obligations for small businesses and Pope says that would “absolutely benefit” his company. 

But with a payroll of more than $1 million, a tax benefit of between $2,000 and $4,000 a month is “not huge”. 

On the other hand, if his business was able to delay payments associated with business activity statements and Pay-As-You-Go withholdings, Pope says he would be looking at savings to the tune of $30,000 to $40,000 a month. 

Pope would also like the government to consider allowing business owners access to superannuation savings as a means of investing back into their own businesses. 

“I’ve got a bank of super that I can’t touch, sitting there not earning much interest,” he says. 

“I would much prefer to invest it in my own business, rather than it losing money on the stock market.”

Pope says a number of business owners he speaks with via a Facebook business group feel the same about their savings, and it’s these groups, along with his own personal network of business owners, where he is finding the most support and information about how to survive these difficult times. 

“There’s only been snippets of information,” he says when asked about if the federal government is doing enough to keep businesses informed. In particular, the confusion about whether large-scale gatherings would be prohibited affected a number of events booked with Fabulous Catering. 

“You have to go searching yourself,” he adds. 

“There’s mixed messages on what can be done and what can’t be done.”

Make sure your business has an online presence that can’t be missed, so your business doesn’t miss out on anything that’s currently left.