New program to help local small business

A NEW program to bring 'fresh eyes' to help small businesses in Cooma grow and prosper gets underway early in March.

The program will involve about 15 local businesses in the retail, manufacturing, recycling, engineering and transport sectors.

It will identify problem areas that may be holding the businesses back and focus on positive solutions that can drive expansion and growth.

It could lead to employment opportunities, greater productivity, increased revenue and even population growth.

The program is being developed as a joint venture between the Faculty of Business, Government and Law at the University of Canberra (UC), and the Cooma and Monaro Progress Association (formerly Cooma Unlimited).

The plan involves teams of two or three final year business undergraduate students being attached to individual businesses for three days. There could be as many as 50 students involved.

The teams will analyse the businesses with the aim of developing suggestions and advice that could enhance growth prospects. This might involve a business plan, a marketing plan, or suggestions about productivity gains and efficiencies.

A mentor will be appointed to each small business - local people who can assist in meetings and discussions between the business and students.

Greg Boland, associate dean of the Faculty of Business, has already visited Cooma to pave the way for the introduction of the program.

He sees it as a win-win for the business and the students, who will use it as part of their work-integrated learning process.

It follows a similar - and highly successful - program at Mission Beach in Queensland after a devastating cyclone. UC students produced a wet weather marketing program for the region.

Students also helped the ACT Government develop strategies for countering the increasing use of fake drivers' licences being used to enter nightclubs.

It's all about bringing fresh 'eyes' and new perspectives to existing businesses and coming up with new and innovative suggestions.

"We're not giving legal advice," Mr Boland said.

"They are young students with no axe to grind, complete outsiders and they 'produce' accordingly. They come up with good suggestions [to help the businesses]."

The Faculty of Business gets frequent requests for assistance and advice from individual businesses. The Cooma program is a natural extension.

"We may be able to assist with economic growth. We are part of the region. We are all in it together," Mr Boland said.

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