Fact: Four or five years ago there was nowhere much to go in the Sydney CBD. Unlike our southern cousin, laneways and unusual spaces were unloved and underutilised.
Thanks to revitalisation efforts in part by the City of Sydney, as well as fearless small business owners willing to take a chance, the city’s laneways are becoming vibrant locations outside the hours of 9-5pm.
The Finegrain program is one matching grants program currently offered by the City of Sydney which has played a role in that revitalisation, and has already paid out some $275,000 in grants to more than 12 businesses since its inception.
The city wants to encourage businesses to open in unique spaces – whether it be in a laneway, a space that hasn’t been used for a small business purpose before (for example a basement, a warehouse or an office), or an expansion of a pre-existing business into an underutilised space.
“The grant will support new small businesses to locate, and existing small businesses to grow, in the laneways of central Sydney, as well as new, unique and innovative businesses to establish in or relocate to central Sydney. These businesses will contribute to achieving the broad aims of Sustainable Sydney 2030 to create a Green, Global and Connected city,” it is stated.
Richard Roberts, Business Advisor at the City of Sydney told Dynamic Business that the first round take-up of the program has attracted bars in particular, with a number of bars opening along Clarence Street for example.
“Revitalisation of the city has seen a number of bars popping up along Clarence Street and other places to go on the weekend, like Stitch, Grandma’s Bar and Baxter Inn, and now its been followed by cafes, galleries and boutiques as well,” Roberts said.
Roberts added the grants are for small businesses which fit into the niche creative market, employ less than 20 people, and have less than a $5 million turnover per year – which is obviously quite generous for most small businesses.
Businesses already in operation can also access the grant, and one example of this occurring in practice was when the city closed a laneway on Market Row because it wasn’t serving any particularly useful purpose, and traffic used it illegally.
“But there was a business already operating in the building backing onto the lane, and the owner applied to use the space for additional dining and chairs, which is exactly a great activation of the space. That’s a classic example of a private business responding to some public works we did,” Roberts said.
Up to $30,000 matched funding will be considered for this program. Applications are accepted on an ad-hoc basis. Roberts added it’s not easy money though, it’s public money and therefore rigorously audited.
For small business owners or entrepreneurs interested in learning more about matching grants with the City of Sydney, and have an idea for using an underutilised space in an innovative way, can click here for more information.