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Fuelling Local Economies: The role of Councils in small business innovation and community wealth creation

In recent years, business innovation programs have emerged as powerful drivers of economic growth, promoting job creation, forging strategic partnerships, and nurturing a vibrant entrepreneurial culture. These programs establish a supportive ecosystem for businesses seeking to drive growth through innovation. The remarkable success of the Autumn Business Innovation Program, initiated by the City of Sydney, illustrates the transformative potential of such initiatives, offering valuable insights for other cities and regions.

In July 2020, the City of Sydney Council embarked on a mission to integrate the principles of Community Wealth Building into their economic development strategy. This approach aims to generate wealth within local communities by bolstering the local economy and ensuring that wealth remains within the area. The Business Innovation Program (BIP), funded by the City of Sydney and delivered by Disruptors Co, aligns with the key principle of ‘progressive procurement.’ It maximises the benefits of expenditure from major institutions, contributing to social, environmental, and local enhancements while supporting job creation and local businesses.

Over an intensive 12-week period, BIP significantly boosted the confidence, skill sets, and community networks of local tourism, retail, hospitality, and social enterprise businesses. Participants benefited from a diverse array of resources, including bootcamps, business audits, group sessions, guest speakers, tailored one-on-one coaching, and online ‘ask me anything’ sessions. An innovation toolkit and a curated library of resources and worksheets empowered participants to translate theory into tangible actions. The program’s culminating showcase event facilitated connections between the Autumn 2023 cohort and potential customers, investors, and partners.

Catherine Colubriale, owner of Catherine Colubriale Couture, attested, “Participating in the innovation program was an eye-opening experience that revealed my business’s growth potential and areas for improvement.”

In addition to individual mentoring and group workshops, the program sparked a revolution in the entrepreneurial approaches of local founders. Sherril Page, a participant from Pure Energy Healing, emphasised, “This amazing and life-changing program enabled me to allocate significant time each week to work on my business, rather than just in it.”

Extensive evidence demonstrates the significant positive impact of business innovation programs on local economies. A recent report from the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council highly endorses mentoring, coaching, and business networking programs for their economic contributions, both in metropolitan and rural regions.

Irrespective of their scale or location, innovation programs consistently empower entrepreneurs and business owners to connect with seasoned professionals, gain invaluable insights, and expand their networks within and beyond their regions. For instance, the UNSW Founders program in East Sydney has nurtured more than 200 startups, giving rise to 110 new ventures and over 347 jobs. These startups collectively secured a staggering $129 million in funding. Meanwhile, the Bega Valley Innovation Hub has facilitated connections among more than 120 business owners, offering access to networking events, workshops, and mentorship opportunities.

By design, innovation programs play a pivotal role in fortifying local economies. They directly contribute to job creation, enhance the business acumen of entrepreneurs, and cultivate an environment conducive to entrepreneurship. Fostering the exchange of ideas between diverse businesses in clustered urban environments is a prerequisite for innovation in the knowledge economy and the basis for sustained economic growth.

Read some of the inspiring stories from the 21 founders who have completed our Business Innovation Program here. And to discuss how this program can be tailored to suit your region’s specific needs, schedule a meeting with us directly.

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