Help for small business 



Is there financial assistance to help small business owners?

If you or your partner /spouse are on a benefit, you have a good business idea and you need help with start-up costs, Work and Income, may be able to help. This can include a subsidy to help with the costs of training or wages. You’ll need to contact Work and Income on 0800 559 009 to find out more.

Some industry associations have development grants so this is an option depending on what business you’re in.

    The NZ Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) can help pay for management training through it's Regional Business Partners programme, while Government funding for research and development is available through Callaghan Innovation (a Crown entity).

    Other types of Government funding, mostly for primary industries, are listed on the Economic Development Agencies of New Zealand (EDANZ) website.

    You can also try your local chamber of commerce or development agency. They can help you get in touch with people who can help, either financially or as mentors. You’ll find a list of economic development agencies (including chambers of commerce) on the Economic Development Agencies of New Zealand (EDANZ) website.

    Something to be aware of is that grant money may come with conditions, for example in return for the financial help you may have to give up your intellectual property or a stake in the ownership of your business. You’ll almost certainly be required to report back to the funder and show them what you’ve spent their money on. You should also be wary of scams disguised as business funding providers.

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    Who can give me information and advice about growing my business?

    You will find lots of general information about some of the common small business milestones, and how to deal with them, on the business.govt.nz website – for example moving your business to new premises, getting your first big sale/client/contract, finding investors and exporting.

    You can register for the Regional Business Partner Network to receive information, advice and connections from business advisers. This programme is supported by Callaghan Innovation and NZTE.

    For a subscription fee you can receive mentoring through Business Mentors New Zealand. This is a non-profit organisation and the mentors are volunteers who have experienced the highs and lows of running a business. They have a mentoring programme for new businesses and another for existing businesses wanting to grow and develop.  

    There are also private business consultants who offer their services for a fee.

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    What do I need to know about hiring people to work in my business?

    Once you have decided that your business is at the stage where you need to hire staff, you’ll have to decide exactly what kinds of work you want your employees to do, what hours you’ll want them to work and how much you are prepared to pay them to work.

    There’s more to the cost of having paid staff than just their salary or wages – you also need to pay ACC levies and may also have to make KiwiSaver employer contributions, liability insurance and more. You can use this online tool to get an idea of what the costs might be. Remember to factor in the cost of any training that your new employees may need.

    You’ll also need to consider what employment type is most appropriate for your business, for example do you want permanent staff, casual staff or someone on a fixed term only? 

    You will also have Health and safety obligations toward your employees (as well as to yourself, your clients and anyone who visits the workplace).

    You are obliged to record the terms of employment with your employees in an employment agreement. There is a handy employment agreement builder tool on the business.govt.nz website, which explains the various clauses and identifies those which are mandatory.

    As an employer you are also responsible for ensuring that your employees are paid correctly and on time, their hours of work and leave are correctly recorded and that the correct deductions (e.g. for PAYE and KiwiSaver) are made.

    More information is on the business.govt.nz website, our Employment pages and the Employment New Zealand website.

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    Who can tell me about exporting my product?

    You can talk to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) if you are planning to expand into overseas markets. There is information on their website to guide you, whether you are just thinking about exporting or are ready to start preparing for it.

    What NZTE can do to help you will depend on the nature of your business. It may include providing advice; putting you in contact with similar businesses; or putting you in touch with potential overseas clients. More information is on their website.

    Depending on what kind of product you want to export, you may also need to contact the Ministry for Primary Industries and Customs. More information about exporting (and importing) is on the business.govt.nz website.

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    Someone else is using my business name for their business. What can I do?

    The name of your business is one of the things that differentiate your business from that of your competitors. If you don’t take steps to protect it from being used by someone else it could damage your business’ reputation and profit.

    Generally a dispute over the use of a business name would be settled through taking legal action, so your first step would be to get legal advice about the matter.

    If you have protected your business’s name by registering it as a trade mark, you can ask your lawyer to send the other party a “cease and desist” letter, and if this does not work you can take them to court to enforce your exclusive rights to the use of the business name.

    If your business name was not registered as a trade mark, you could consider taking the matter to court on the grounds that another business using the same (or very similar) name would be misleading under the Fair Trading Act 1986. However your success will rely on your being able to show the court that your business is already well established in the area where the other party is operating, and that consumers could be mislead into believing the other party’s business is associated with yours.

    Note that if your business is a company, registering the company name with the Companies Office prevents another company from being registered with the same name, but doesn’t prevent another business from trading under that name.

    Also, if you do not own the rights to domain names that go with your business name (for example if you have a coffee shop is called Yellow Ducks, matching domain names might include “yellowducks.co.nz” and “yellowducks.com”) then you can’t stop someone else from using those domain names.

    More about protecting your intellectual property is on the business.govt.nz website.

    Anyone can check whether a particular business name is already in use, by using the  ONECheck tool on the business.govt.nz website. It will tell you whether the name is registered with the Companies Office, whether the “.com” and “.co.nz” domains have been taken and whether it is trade mark protected.

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    My small business is losing money and I'm worried it will go under. What help can I get?

    It is a good idea to speak to your lender if you have business debts that are getting out of control, or Inland Revenue (0800 227 774) if you are concerned about your ability to pay your business tax. If you have reported a loss to the Inland Revenue then you might not have to pay the tax.

    You can also seek advice on why your business is not succeeding and how you can improve things. The business.govt.nz website has suggestions for what you can do if your business is making a loss.

    You could also consider paying to be matched up with a small-business mentor, who can help you work out how to save your business.

    If your business debts are insurmountable you may have to consider liquidation, a summary instalment order or bankruptcy. If you are considering this, you will have to work closely with the Insolvency and Trustee service. To find out more about personal insolvency and bankruptcy, see our page on bankruptcy.