Supporting small business

Supporting small business

Small business in the city

  • The small business sector employs more than 115,929 people
  • There are 19,698 small businesses in the local area
  • A small business employs less than 20 people

The core of our economy

Small business is a critical component of our local economies and a major contributor to the city's livability and vitality.

Growth from the small business sector will represent growth in job numbers and in the diversity of employment opportunities.

83.8% of all businesses in the City of Sydney local area are defined as small business, employing 115,929 people.

A small business is defined as having fewer than 20 employees and it may be in its formative stage or have operated for some time.

Small business within the city is estimated to contribute nearly a quarter of our economic output – more than $30 billion a year.

In addition to contributing directly to our economy, small business is crucial to support the efficient operation of many medium-sized and large businesses. Small businesses are represented across almost all priority industry or economic sectors.

A common challenge for small business, both new and well established, is access to resources and expertise to build their skills and capacity to operate.

A further issue is their difficulty navigating regulatory and compliance processes associated with all levels of government, commonly labelled red tape.

Figures on this page are based on the City of Sydney’s floor space and employment survey 2017 data and analysis.

Going forward

The City will continue to explore ways that it can influence the success of small business operators whether through capacity building initiatives, making it easier to do business or developing programs to help startups and small businesses deal more efficiently with government.


Manager, Economic Strategy
Economic Strategy Unit02 9265 9333


City Business Manager
City Business & Safety Unit02 9265 9333

The City working for small business

We currently offer a wide range of initiatives and programs aimed at building capacity and helping small business in the city:

Business seminars

Come along to our free inspirational business seminars and learn from successful business owners, industry experts and City staff on how to start, grow or improve your business.

Across the series, notable business owners share what they wish they'd known when they'd started, how they navigated common issues involved in setting up a business, and building a career from a personal passion.

Industry experts will also share insights about development applications, licensing and other types of applications, and City staff will let you know about the multiple support programs offered by the City.

You'll also have the opportunity to network with your peers.

Supporting our 'Finegrain'

'Finegrain' businesses are small scale, diverse and innovative businesses that are likely to be engaged in specialist retail, hospitality and entertainment or will otherwise encourage activation of under-used spaces in the City laneways and plazas with undersupplied or non-existent business activity in the city centre.

The City offers support to new small businesses to locate, and existing businesses to grow, in the laneways of central Sydney, as well as new, unique and innovative businesses to start-up or relocate to central Sydney.

Helping new businesses open

To help navigate the regulatory processes and procedures required to open a compliant business within the local area, we have developed a suite of easy-to-use guides.

The guides focus on small bars, office space, retail space (including pop-up retail space), cafes and restaurants.

Affordable space for new businesses

The City owns a number of properties across our local area, including retail and office space. We make best use of our properties for the development of small, creative businesses through our creative spaces program.

The Creative Spaces website is a free resource where you can find or list space to rent in order to create, develop and exhibit or perform work.

Providing platforms for new business types

We are continually looking for ways to introduce new, exciting businesses in our local area. As part of the City's food truck program, food trucks have been operating day and night offering diverse dining options.

In an effort to reactivate parts of the city centre and to build a diverse, eclectic and unique night-time culture, we have encouraged the development of new licensed premises through our focus on small bars.

Improving our shopfronts

The City encourages building owners or tenants to make improvements to their shopfront that without financial help may not be able to happen.

Last updated: Wednesday, 4 December 2019