Guide to doing business in the City of Melbourne

19 January 2024

Melbourne is a great place for businesses to start, grow and go global. 

Whether you’re a cupcake whizz or a game-changing biotech startup, you can find valuable support and networks on your doorstep. 

Read on to chart your journey from brilliant idea to making bank. And subscribe to the Business in Melbourne newsletter for regular updates on news, grants, free training and support. 

Seek support from our Business Concierge team 

Our Business Concierge service makes it easier for traders to operate in the city – with fast-tracked permit approvals, business and marketing support, and industry contacts. Our dedicated team of case managers is on hand to support businesses, small, large, or just starting. 

We serve all industries, including hospitality, accommodation, retail or night-time economy venues, biomed, fintech, professional services and health and wellbeing, education or training premises. Even if your business falls outside these classifications, assistance may be available.  

Start a conversation using the Business Concierge online form

To learn more about the Business Concierge Service, meet team member Lisa Guest.

A woman in a brown coat in a public mall
Business Concierge team member Lisa Guest

How to start a business in Melbourne  

Register your business 

If you’re starting a business, you’ll need to apply for an Australian Business Number / Tax File Number with the Australian Business Register

Depending on your business structure, you may need to apply for an Australian Company Number with ASIC. If you plan to trade under a name other than your own, you must register a business name with ASIC. You can also register as an employer with the Australian Taxation Office

Get your permits and licences 

To conduct business activities in the City of Melbourne there are a variety of permits, approvals, licences and registrations you’ll need, depending on the type of business. 

Did you know? 

You can use our online self-assessment tool to find out what permits you need, or start a conversation with our Business Concierge Service for further advice and assistance. 

The Australian Business Licence and Information Service guided search can also help you find the right information on licences, regulations, council approvals and compliance requirements to help you start, grow or close your business. 

You may also need permits or permissions from other organisations. For example, if you plan to serve alcohol you’ll need a liquor licence from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.  

Certain businesses (including conveyancers, debt collectors, estate agents, introduction agencies, motor car traders, sex work service providers and travel agents) must also obtain a licence from Consumer Affairs Victoria

A group of smiling people collaborate around a laptop
Whatever stage your business is at, our friendly Business Concierge team can help you connect the dots for your onward journey

Surround yourself with support and knowledge 

You don’t have to go it alone.

Join your local precinct association to take advantage of networking, training, promotion and knowledge-sharing among businesses in your neighbourhood.

Our Business Concierge team can also share information about training, funding and operational guidelines to help your business run smoothly. For example: 

These are just a small number of the resources on hand to help you succeed in business. To discuss your needs, contact the City of Melbourne’s Business Concierge Service

Meet some of Melbourne’s most successful international students 

A breast cancer genetics expert, an international baking sensation and an artist featured on the cover of TIME magazine – be inspired by international students who’ve gone from nervous first days in Melbourne to the world stage, building businesses and elevating their peers. 

To learn more, visit Astounding alumni.

Raymond Tan from Raya Melbourne is a former international student

“I’m slowly building my little dessert empire – one shop at a time.”

Raymond Tan, Raya Melbourne

Apply for a business grant 

The City of Melbourne offers a wide range of grants and sponsorships to individuals, community organisations and businesses in the arts, recreation, events and business sectors.  

Applicants that reflect creativity, inclusion, sustainability, knowledge and economic prosperity are encouraged to apply.  

Grants and sponsorships help recipients deliver quality programs, events, products and services that bring a wide range of environmental, social and economic returns to the city. 

To learn more, visit Grants and sponsorships. Our Business Concierge team can also direct you to various grant programs run by other organisations.

Small business grant winner Mörk Chocolate’s new location in Queen Vic Market’s beloved Dairy Hall

“We are proud of how our business has grown and strengthened, and especially with the opportunities and jobs we have been able to create.

“The support that the City of Melbourne offered early on helped provide the confidence and trust that we had what it takes to make it.”

Josefin Zernell, co-founder of Mörk Chocolate

Celebrate success with a prestigious award 

Melbourne is full of fantastic business success stories.  

Each year we present awards for Small Business of the Year and Small Business Innovation. Recent recipients include passionate cheesemonger Hakim Halim from RIPE Cheese, and GAIA Project – a group sending lettuce into space to change the face of agriculture. 

Hakim Halim from RIPE Cheese, winner of Small Business of the Year

“I thought being part of the corporate rat race was what I wanted. But once I started building a business with a purpose bigger than myself, everything made sense and I found joy,” Hakim said. 

“That joy has pushed and motivated me to overcome any obstacles that we face, and work tirelessly to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves.” 

Hakim Halim, RIPE Cheese

We also celebrate the people behind inner-city businesses that have stood the test of time with our Lord Mayor’s Small Business Achievement Awards. Among the recipients are legends who have been in business in the city for 10+, 20+ and 40+ years.  

Recent awardees include a yacht club in the heart of Carlton, a centre providing holistic pregnancy care in Kensington, a West Melbourne restaurant serving up the city’s hottest curry, and a doughnut institution at Queen Vic Market

To apply for an award, visit Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards.

Six people looking at the camera holding trays of dough balls
Lord Mayor Sally Capp learns the art of doughnut making with Julie and the American Doughnut Kitchen team.

Your business might also be eligible for the Melbourne Awards, which celebrate the people and organisations making outstanding contributions in the following categories:

  • Aboriginal Melbourne – ganbu guljin 
  • Access and Inclusion 
  • City Design 
  • Arts and Events  
  • Community 
  • Knowledge and Innovation 
  • Sustainability 

To read about more of Melbourne’s brilliant businesses, visit Economy

Go global from Melbourne 

Invest Melbourne 

We’re supporting local startups as they journey from prototype to global impact through our Invest Melbourne team, by equipping them with valuable networks and information.

The impressive startups work in all sorts of industries. They reduce emissions from city buildingsempower urban designers to build better neighbourhoods, and run a patisserie that celebrates the limitless potential of people with disability, to name a few.

Two people standing close. One is wearing chef's whites and holding a plate of desserts
Brother sister duo Jess Colgan and Brett Duncan, co-founders of plant-based patisserie GingerSnap

“Working with the City of Melbourne as part of their Invest Melbourne program has helped us make a seamless transition into our new home in West Melbourne.

“Business Concierge has been incredible from the beginning – consistently checking in on us throughout the construction phase to see how we were going, referring us to the lovely marketing team, and sharing relevant grant applications.”

Jess Colgan, GingerSnap

Our TradeStart advisers are focused on helping small and medium-sized health and technology businesses identify and secure opportunities in global markets. The TradeStart network is an initiative of Austrade. 

Here are just a few of the game-changing medtech and biotech startups going global from Melbourne:

  • Ventora Medical is designing a neonatal airway pressure monitor to empower doctors with information to help them care for babies who experience breathing difficulties. 
  • Tessara Therapeutics is creating human “mini brains” – each one-milimetre model taking us closer to finding cures for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. 
  • Smileyscope, the world’s only medical-grade virtual reality device, is making medical procedures safer and more enjoyable for patients in every children’s hospital in Australia, and in more than 40 centres in the USA. 

Meet more inspiring medtech and biotech startups.

A child using the Smileyscope device

“The talent, infrastructure and innovation resources in Melbourne enable entrepreneurs to be able to thrive and create sustainable businesses locally, and bring these innovations to the world.

“The TradeStart team has helped us connect to other groups locally and internationally, as well as identify resources such as grants and opportunities to raise awareness of our work. We’re grateful for their support.”

Dr Evelyn Chan, Smileyscope

Our Invest Melbourne team can help you unlock your business potential and join the many innovative and successful companies investing here in Melbourne.

To learn more and start a conversation, visit Invest Melbourne

Keep in touch through the Business in Melbourne newsletter

Subscribe to the Business in Melbourne newsletter for regular updates on local business news, grants, free training and support. 

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