Making magic happen for city businesses

6 June 2023

Meet the business concierge who’s working behind the scenes to bring dreams to life for city businesses.

Every time Lisa Guest takes a call from someone with a question about running a business in the city, she looks for the magic in the moment.

“Behind every question, I know there’s something delicate and important in our hands,” Lisa said. She’s a case manager with our Business Concierge Service.

“No matter how big or small the idea, here’s a person who believes in their dream, and we get to help those ideas come to fruition.”

Lisa and her colleagues are tasked with helping businesses connect the dots as they open, run and flourish in the municipality.

“Often when I’m speaking with a prospective business, I remind myself that it’s more than a question about opening a cafe. Behind every idea, there’s often a family. Maybe it’s the family’s life savings,” she said.

Since January 2022, the Business Concierge team has provided free advice and mentoring to more than 15,500 city businesses – reducing the time it takes for a business to start up in the city and supporting them as they embrace Melbourne’s new rhythm.

Woman of the world

Born to “hippy parents” in Argentina in a time of political unrest, Lisa was six when her family moved to Brazil. She grew up there and studied journalism.

Restless, she packed a bag and headed for Australia to learn English, surf and travel. She stayed in Perth for 23 years, meeting her husband and raising two children.

“I always felt like a big fish in a small pond in Perth. I was too bubbly, too ‘everything’ for Perth.”

When her kids moved to Melbourne to study and broaden their horizons, she soon followed, and landed with City of Melbourne as a public health officer.

That’s how she began to fall in love the city, and got to know its small businesses by roaming the laneways to offer support throughout the pandemic.

Now she keeps her imagination and networks firing as one of six business concierges.

Drawing on the power of Invest Melbourne, our Business Concierge Service offers a one-stop shop for business support.

Case managers help businesses navigate government processes and find the right services. They also share trends, identify site locations and investment opportunities.

“We work with cafes and retailers, but also pop-ups and activations,” Lisa said.

“We support startups, social enterprises – many are migrant women and that is very humbling.”

Migrant women and micro-businesses

Lisa is the go-to concierge for businesses with migrant backgrounds. Being fluent in Spanish and Portuguese helps, and conversational Italian is a bonus.

The Migrant Women in Business network sends micro-businesses her way, and Lisa helps them flourish.

Migrant Women in Business co-founder and executive director Luz Restrepo said good listening help Lisa to get the most out fledgling entrepreneurs.

“As a migrant woman, Lisa knows that migrant women business owners generate tremendous social, cultural and economic value for Australia,” Luz said.

“She listens, and empathises with business people, allowing them to learn and grow, and connects them with the right people and organisations.”

Empowering migrant women is close to Lisa’s heart, and her admiration for the work done by Migrant Women in Business is palpable.

“I have the chance to make a meaningful impact by supporting fellow migrants as they navigate the hurdles of starting a new life.”

Lisa Guest

She calls opportunities like these “pinch-me moments”.

“I’m not just in Melbourne, I’m the thick of it. One day I’m on the phone with a business, hearing a big idea and it could be the next big thing,” Lisa said.

“The next day I’m volunteering on the busking panel to decide who can perform in the Bourke Street Mall, hearing a keyboard player whose music just flows and transports you.”

A self-confessed extrovert, Lisa applies a magical life philosophy of “Yes! Why not?” to her everyday work.

“We need to see joy every day instead of waiting for the big hoohar. Together, the little bits of joy join up to become the bigger joy.”

The Business Concierge Service will ramp up its work to support new and existing city businesses over the coming year, with a $500,000 investment in the draft Budget 2023–24.

Got a big idea for a business? Unclear about a permit? Contact the Business Concierge Service. Our case managers are here to support businesses as they start, grow and even go global.

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