Big ideas for small businesses

By McIvor Times

THE Small Business Bus made its way to Heathcote from Melbourne recently, parking outside the Visitor Information Centre. A service provided by the Victorian government, the Small Business Bus delivers mentoring and advice across Melbourne and Regional Victoria.

The McIvor Times caught up with Cathryn Mahon (mentor) and Gary Heathcote (driver). This is what they had to say.

Cathryn, what does the small business bus do?

Well, I’m a business strategist and mentor, and I travel across Melbourne and regional Victoria providing advice to small businesses with the Small Business Bus service. They’re confidential, 45-minute, one-to-one sessions.

What kinds of problems do you help with?

Mostly I find that people are after a sounding board, someone to bounce ideas off. I help them test their ideas and put structure around them. Lots of people come to us with help for social media, too. It can seem overwhelming, but the trick is a system. It’s possible to manage your social media in as little as two hours a week.

What kind of small businesses come to you for help?

All types, especially those in the arts and tourism. We’ve been very busy today in Heathcote. All sessions have been booked. We’ve had some walk-ins too.

Gary, have you been driving the Small Business Bus for long?

I’ve been driving buses most of my working life and joined the Small Business Bus a few years ago. I’ll be looking at retirement in a few years, I’ve been in the game a while.

Do you have a favourite place?

I can’t say I’ve got a favourite place, but I love visiting the small towns and communities in regional Victoria. It’s interesting to see what kinds of people live in them and what they do for work. It’s great visiting a place like Heathcote as the town seems so alive.

Any memorable experiences?

Last year I had a 10-day job driving Sarah, the wife Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu), and one of their sons around regional Victoria. They were on holiday. I took them to the Grampians and the Great Ocean Road.

What was that like?

Initially it was a bit weird as we were followed the whole way by the Australian Federal Police. But we had a good time. Sarah loved the sunsets in the Grampians. She didn’t want to leave. I remember taking her to Woolworths in Ararat and Coles at Torquay. She was fascinated, because she doesn’t visit supermarkets too often.

I’ve also driven Venus Williams, her boyfriend and her mother as well. But mostly, my job is to drive the Small Business Bus around Victoria.

■For more information on the Small Business Bus and Small Business Mentoring Program see