How we’re scaling up support for businesses

17 May 2024

What does a K-pop cafe, an iconic lunch spot and a shaved-ice dessert bar have in common?

Our friendly Business Concierge case managers support local traders like these to realise their dreams.

We’re scaling up our support for the service in this year’s draft Budget 2024–25.

We’re investing $1.6 million to expand the Business Concierge Service in 2024–25 so we can support even more businesses and local traders.

A highly visible, dedicated team will provide one-on-one case management to local businesses beyond the CBD.

So businesses have the tools and support they need to succeed.

Case managers help businesses save time and money by fast-tracking permits and cutting red tape.

They also assist with approvals and grant applications.

We’ve already halved the time it takes for a business to set up shop – down from eight months to four months.

Read on to discover a taste for these iconic small businesses and find out how we offered a helping hand:

Go to Participate Melbourne to find out more about our draft Budget and Annual Plan for 2024–25.

Heartbaker Bun Mee wins new hearts at the top end of town

Small business owner Hieu Nguyen may be attracting new customers with her tasty lunch treats, but she almost gave up on the idea of a second Heartbaker Bun Mee cafe in the city.

“In covid times I found a second city shopfront, but we didn’t have enough funds or reasons to go on with the plans,” Hieu said.

“I had two little kids and the shop in Flinders Lane. We were very busy.”

Heartbaker Bun Mee in Flinders Lane

For two years, Heartbaker Bun Mee’s plans for a new authentic Vietnamese cafe were on hold.

Enter the dream-keepers.

One of City of Melbourne’s Business Concierge case managers, Caterina Palman, knew Hieu still dreamed of a second cafe.

“It was the tail end of the pandemic and Hieu had been through a rough patch,” Caterina said.

“I suppose I was there for her, someone she could talk to, to build business confidence.”

a person's hand holds out a banh mi in a laneway: long bread roll with crispy pork, parsley and drizzled with sauce
Heartbaker signature dish: crispy pork banh mi

Caterina introduced Hieu to our Better Approvals Service, and stepped her through the permits she would need: from health registration to waste management and more.

“My case manager encouraged me to finish the outstanding paperwork and open the shop on Spring Street.”

“She kept calling me to follow up. She never gave up on me,” Hieu said.

Heartbaker Bun Mee on Spring Street opened in September 2023.

Business owner Hieu Nguyen at Heartbaker Bun Mee on Spring Street

Heartbaker Bun Mee was already popular on the What’s On Melbourne events database and social media ecosystem.

What’s On helped Hieu get the word out about the new venue.

“What’s On Melbourne was very helpful. On the first day we were open in Spring Street, we were really busy.

Otherwise it would take a long time to let people know about us.”

“Many customers have come to Heartbaker Bun Mee from day one, when I first opened my door.

“I like the people. They are kind. They are generous. I feel very warm. It’s not too much hassle to run a business. I am thankful for my customers, their loyalty and support.”

Heartbaker Bun Mee team

In the first week at Spring Street, a group of Business Concierges visited Hieu, to share a welcome pack and wish her all the best.

They also bought crispy pork banh mi for lunch – of course!

Find Heartbaker BunMee at 241 Flinders Lane (Scott Alley) and the new store at 201 Spring Street, Melbourne.

A happier life in Happy Town K-pop Cafe

After a 35-year career as a nurse, Julia Kim asked herself what would make her happy in the next phase of her life.

The answer was K-pop: the global South Korean pop music phenomenon.

So she quit nursing and opened Happy Town K-pop Store in the city’s Paramount Centre.

“There are many K-pop fans in Melbourne,” Julia said.

Happy Town has built a loyal following since 2016, selling albums, light sticks and band merchandise, as well as Korean cosmetics.

Posters of four K-pop stars
Posters of K-pop stars at Happy Town

Her original plan was to open a cafe alongside the K-pop store, but the pandemic slowed things down.

“K-pop cafes are very popular in South Korea and many countries, but we do not have many K-pop cafes in Australia.

K-pop fans have more fun from lots of events.”

As she designed her new cafe, Julia found the permit process very confusing.

“It was causing me to amend the floor plan several times,” Julia said.

So Julia called on the Business Concierge for support.

Her case manager shared a list of permits she would need to open a food business, and followed up every fortnight to make sure she was on the right track.

“It was an amazing service and helped a lot for new business owners.”

Good vibes await at Happy Town K-pop Cafe

Now Julia welcomes thousands of customers to Happy Town K-pop Cafe, serving up coffee and Korean food with a side of catchy K-pop hooks.

Find Happy Town K-pop Cafe in the food court and Happy Town K-pop Store on the upper level at the Paramount Centre, 108 Bourke Street, Melbourne.

Sweet tooth leads dessert bar Bing Chillin to the city

Hot on the heels of opening a new dessert bar in the eastern suburbs, Erica and Edison Chai wanted to share their sweet tooth with the city.

“Finding a store in the CBD was quite difficult. It took us a few months to find this shop,” Erica said.

An initial call to the Business Concierge helped the Bing Chillin duo on their way to sharing delicious shaved-ice desserts with a new audience.

Edison and Erica Chai at Bing Chillin

“They emailed us with all the information. Every document was concise, and we could easily follow the steps provided,” Edison said.

“Even after we received the information we needed, they kept up with us and came back to ask how we were doing – which was great.”

Cute new branding helped Bing Chillin reach a younger audience in the central city.

Shaved-ice dessert and cute branding at Bing Chillin

“The city has a younger crowd, so we wanted to create an attractive store suited to that target audience.”

“We have a lot of people in their mid 20s and early 30s, work crowds, uni students and since we’ve been in the city we’ve had a lot more families coming in to visit too,” Edison said.

Find Bing Chillin at Shop 3, 398 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

FInd out more about our draft Budget 2024–25

We’re scaling up our Business Concierge Service to provide more support for small businesses and local traders.

Find out what else we’re planning.

Go to Participate Melbourne to find out more about our draft Budget and Annual Plan for 2024–25.

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