Doing business online may be the key for small proprietors to thrive in a climate where retail has found itself struggling to keep its head afloat, according to the Victorian Small Business Commission.
Small Business commissioner Judy O'Connell is in the Latrobe Valley holding talks with the local business sector as part of a multi-government initiative to support small business owners.
"I think it's the way of the future," Ms O'Connell said at a Traralgon business breakfast.
"I think the challenge for small businesses, especially those that have been around for a long time, is how they do that when they may not be internet-savvy – you need the training."
Ms O'Connell said her office was working with the state and federal governments to determine how small businesses could be supported in terms of training and receiving the capability to get their business online.
"What we're finding is that new businesses are popping up, retail is struggling and retail is struggling everywhere so those businesses that start and go online and do things smarter or differently are actually starting to thrive," Ms O'Connell said.
She said there was heaps of government support that small businesses could tap into but many owners were not aware of it for some reason and becoming a member of a local business chamber was important to know about the services available.
Ms O'Connell said small business owners would be made aware of the various supports available to them through the Grow Your Business, Together initiative.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise ombudsman Kate Carnell cited, as an example, the availability of a free energy audit which could save businesses money in terms of operating costs.
"One of the examples I gave was a supermarket that we dealt with in South Australia. His energy has gone up by $100,000 a year. They had an energy audit and they saved half of it," Ms Carnell said.
"One of the problems with small business is that you're working in your business in your four walls and you only know what you know," she said.
Traralgon Chamber of Commerce president Luke Henderson said the past 12 months had been challenging for local businesses, however, "there's also a lot of excitement" coming from statements of support from all levels of government.
"There's lots of talk about development, about stimulus, about opportunities for our area – but we actually want to see some of these things happen," he said.