Pathways to Business

Discussion Paper


On the evening of Monday 30 May 2016, I hosted a policy workshop at Woodend Neighbourhood House to discuss pathways for young people into small business in regional Victoria. As part of this workshop I invited small business owners from across the Macedon Ranges to share their stories and insights into the challenges and roadblocks they confronted when starting their own business. This group came from a diverse range of industries being:

  • Auto Electrics
  • Fruit and Vegetable Sales
  • Accommodation Services
  • Wine Production and Sales
  • Electrical Solutions
  • Hospitality
  • Clothing Retail
  • Event Management
  • Youth Leadership
  • Freelance Application Development
  • Sports and Outdoor Consultancy
  • Small Business Consultancy


The format of this policy workshop was a series of questions asked of the group which broke into 3 discussion groups to report back to the whole.

Below are the questions that were asked of the discussion groups and their responses:


What do you now know that you wish you knew when you were starting out?


  • It took longer than expected for the business to flourish
  • Not realising the importance of good staff
  • Knowing your key strength and weaknesses and working with them
  • The need to have better financial and accounting skills
  • That it is okay to seek business advice
  • It is okay to make a profit and you shouldn’t be guilty of this
  • It is not hard to get started.


What were the roadblocks you faced both establishing your business & growing your business?


  • Self-doubt
  • Getting the business through the door
  • Establishing the brand
  • Positive cash flow
  • Setting up accounts with suppliers
  • Getting the right staff
  • Dealing with your bank
  • Internet connectivity
  • Not having an office hub or shared office space in the region to use facilities and infrastructure
  • Locations of industrial estates are not easy to find for potential customers and businesses located there are not well indicated
  • Understanding and interpreting compliance requirements
  • The difficulty in getting Place of Assembly Permits in order to hold events
  • An impression that local council does not prioritise the success of small business as part of its economic strategy.


Looking back on your education and training were there subjects, courses or experiences that really helped you get started in your business? If not can you suggest what education training and/or experiences might be useful?


  • Practical skills in the area of your business are of the upmost importance
  • Short courses in specific areas of your business
  • Higher education does not provide much use in the successful operation of a small business
  • Industry specific Podcasts
  • Local business networks
  • General reading, writing and mathematics
  • Apprenticeships that are flexible and provide skills needed in a small business environment, i.e. Apprenticeship in Project Management

What could Government have done to better support you both establishing and growing your business?


  • Provide a government funded mentoring service for small business owners
  • Create and implement hubs which would provide a centre for skills and workforce development opportunities in regional Victoria
  • Implement government funded traineeships with a focus on the skills needed to be successful in small business.
  • Implement shared office hubs in regional centres that would provide shared facilities to be accessed by businesses in the region.
  • Provide fast, efficient and reliable internet connection.



The information gathered in this workshop will form the basis of conversation at internal government policy discussions that will be held later this year. The purpose of these discussions will be to develop policy ideas from suggestions and feedback gathered at community forums such as this workshop.

As the representative for Macedon in the Parliament of Victoria, I will ensure that the above feedback and ideas are conveyed at these meetings in addition to any insights and advice following on from this discussion paper.

Mary-Anne Thomas


State Member for Macedon