After supporting 20 local businesses through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Sydney Retail Innovation Program, developed by Investible, is now accepting applications for its third cohort.

Delivered over 12 weeks and at no cost to participants, the program empowers small business owners to adapt and innovate in the face of unprecedented change.

Participants will take part in live virtual expert workshops, personalised mentoring and online learning modules, and gain valuable insights in key growth areas including Digital Strategy, Customer Acquisition & Retention, Financial Modelling, Customer Experience, Ethical Supply Chains, High-Performance Teams, Investor Relations and more.

They will also join an active, growing community of like-minded local business owners who are facing similar challenges and opportunities.

More than 35 businesses across all major industries and sectors have taken part in the previous two Retail Innovation Program cohorts, the most recent of which kicked off in February 2020. The program was in progress when COVID restrictions were enacted. Almost overnight, many of the participants were forced to pivot, including SOUL Dining in Surry Hills. With the support of the program and feedback from their fellow participants, its owners Illa and Daero Kim pivoted quickly and launched a successful delivery sub-brand.

Illa Kim and Daero Lee of SOUL Dining

“We knew takeaway was our only option to survive, but our contemporary food couldn’t be experienced in the same way in a takeaway container. The Retail Innovation Program provided a framework to help us prioritise our focus. Instead of just shutting down, we redirected our team’s energies and ideas to develop BOWL by SOUL – a fresh take on Korean comfort food,” said Kim.

“The new BOWL by SOUL concept was such a hit that we’re now working to find a separate location for it. It’s quite amazing that through this program, we were able to turn COVID restrictions into a new business opportunity.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore says the Retail Innovation Program provides local businesses with an opportunity to adopt new ways of thinking, gain new skills and work collaboratively to support economic and social recovery.

Now more than ever our local businesses and community organisations need access to support and services that will help them recover and grow,” The Lord Mayor said.

“Our program has been developed to support our local retail and hospitality businesses, which like many businesses throughout the city, are struggling. Sadly, many workers have lost their income as businesses closed. This program is an opportunity to adapt to the current environment and develop skillsets that will enable them to thrive.

“This support is part of our wider $72.5 million package to support the business, community and creative sector through the pandemic. Other elements of this package include rent abatement for tenants in our own buildings, bringing forward capital works to stimulate employment, and donating $1 million to OzHarvest to meet our community’s increased food security needs.

“Investible is a leader in Sydney’s entrepreneurial business landscape and I encourage our local businesses to apply to this informative program.”

The Program is supported by leading industry experts and entrepreneurial specialists as well as program alumni from previous cohorts. Investible Head of Programs & Partnerships Elisa-Marie Dumas says encouraging a strong sense of community amongst the participants has played a significant role in the program’s success to date.

“The Retail Innovation Program is uniquely designed to help local business owners develop the mindset, access the resources and discover the community they need to make confident decisions in a changing world.”

“It’s been incredible to see how different types of businesses have banded together to get through the current crisis and embrace new opportunities. It demonstrates that, when working together, small businesses have the power to build more resilient and innovative economies,” says Dumas.

Business owners can apply and register for a virtual information night, which will be held on 28 October 2020.

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