two people packing boxes
With new regulations and consumer demands forcing businesses to pivot their approaches, business owners are exploring new methods of sales, marketing and funding their operations. — Getty Images

2020 has been one of unprecedented change, and businesses of all sizes have had to quickly adapt. Despite the current challenges of the COVID-19 era, many small businesses are optimistic about their long-term future: A recent poll from MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 50% of small businesses expect to increase revenues in 2021.[1]

“Business owners have faced unimaginable challenges this year but the way they’ve pivoted and found new ways to operate has been nothing short of inspiring,” said Jennifer Roberts, CEO of Business Banking at Chase. “Small business owners are generally scrappy and optimistic by nature, and it’s our privilege to serve them and help them get through these uncertain times.”

As the country reopens and businesses work toward recovery, innovative entrepreneurs who are ready and able to connect with customers and respond to their needs will thrive in today's market. From identifying new business opportunities, to finding creative approaches to sales and marketing, to exploring new ways to fund your operations, now is the time for entrepreneurs to act. Don't put your dreams of business ownership on hold—you may find opportunity and be able to launch a flourishing business in these ever-changing times with these tips.

New small business opportunities in the post-COVID-19 world

The need for contactless, socially distanced and virtual services has encouraged businesses across industries to pivot their approach.

  • Restaurants/food service. In the food service industry, takeout, delivery and curbside pickup options are the name of the game. Aspiring restaurateurs can comply with social distancing guidelines by opening a food or coffee truck instead of traditional brick and mortar, perhaps with a few tables and chairs out front for customers who want an outdoor dining experience. True innovators can even use this as an opportunity to create a new relationship between customers and their food, like restaurants who are connecting diners to chefs via video conference calls.
  • Retail. The barrier to entering the e-commerce market has been relatively low, so new entrepreneurs can easily shift their brick-and-mortar retail dreams to an online sales model, provided they're offering products consumers need right now. For example, items like face masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies are in high demand right now, as are supplies for at-home hobbies like baking, sewing, knitting, model-building and board games. You can also try creating digital versions of traditional in-store experiences, like virtual bridal showrooms and shopping.
  • Classes/experiences. For businesses that have traditionally held in-person sessions—such as cooking schools, fitness classes and art studios—video conferencing services like Zoom have offered the opportunity to reach clients in their own homes. The market for immersive online experiences is huge right now, as evidenced by the large number of museum tours, concerts and other cultural activities that have shifted to the virtual realm during COVID-19.
  • Creative services. Entrepreneurs with creative talents like writing, graphic design, web design and video editing can offer their services virtually through freelance platforms like Fiverr and Upwork. Existing businesses that took a hit during COVID-19 currently need help with their marketing, and many are seeking cost-effective creative contractors to help them get back on their feet and reach their customers.

Business owners have faced unimaginable challenges this year but the way they’ve pivoted and found new ways to operate has been nothing short of inspiring.

Jennifer Roberts, CEO of Business Banking, Chase

Creative approaches to sales and marketing

Entrepreneurs who embrace new approaches to sales and marketing for their startup can successfully build a following and begin seeing revenue. Here are a few important first steps.

  • Create an engaging, informative website. No matter what type of business you're starting, you'll need a robust, easy-to-navigate business website so customers can easily learn about you, browse your offerings and contact you about your products or services. Display any special offers or promotions prominently on your home page, and consider building in a live chat feature to answer customer questions quickly and effectively.
  • Build up your social media presence. In addition to using social media platforms to inform customers about your current products and services, you should create and encourage follower engagement by sharing valuable information that relates to your field, in the form of text posts, photos, videos or shared content from other sources. By earning the trust and loyalty of your followers, you’ll earn the right to make a sale. Also, don’t forget to include a link to your website in the bio section of your social media pages.
  • Go live. Interact with your customers in real time with livestreaming features on sites like Facebook and Instagram. During these sessions, you can give advice, offer tutorials, answer questions and create a sense of community. You might also consider offering virtual events such as conferences, panel discussions and webinars to further engage your audience.
  • Reflect the current reality. For your marketing strategy, create collateral that reflects the "new normal." This may include photos of customers wearing face masks and respecting social distancing guidelines, or making contactless or digital payments in a retail location.

When it comes to attracting customers to your new business, your first step should be asking your target market what they want and what would encourage them to buy from you. Consider emailing a group of ideal customers personally or issuing a survey to see how you can best meet their current needs.

Another way to entice new customers is to offer exclusive discounts and deals, such as a discount off their first purchase, a buy-one-get-one-free offer or a priority reservation or appointment for the first 100 customers.

Funding opportunities

If your business was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic , you have a few funding options to start getting back on track. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) made several different loan programs available to businesses:

  • The Paycheck Protection Program has offered loans of up to $10 million and can be forgiven by the federal government if your business uses at least 60% of the funds on payroll within a certain time period.
  • The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer an advance of up to $10,000 that will not have to be repaid. Qualified small businesses and U.S. agricultural businesses that experienced temporary difficulties are eligible for the EIDL program.
  • SBA Express Bridge Loans are available to small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender and allow you to access up to $25,000 quickly.

“Many small business owners have received much-needed relief through the government’s Paycheck Protection Program,” said Roberts. “It got off to a rocky start because it was a brand-new program that came together in a matter of weeks. But we’re proud that JPMC provided more funds to small businesses through PPP than any other bank."[2]

If your business is brand new, you might be able to pitch investors and get some much-needed capital in exchange for equity in your business. Some startups are enjoying increased investment this year by catering to consumers who are stuck at home and in need of entertainment and health lifestyle services. For instance, social gaming platforms, at-home fitness services and healthy food brands are attracting investors.

Businesses, both new and existing, must be adaptable in this changing market. By focusing on your customers’ changing needs, reaching them on the platforms they are using, and looking for new ways to fund your business, you can not only survive, but thrive in this new era of entrepreneurship.

[1] Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll, conducted between May 21-27, 2020.

[2] According to the U.S. Small Business Administration as of July 24, 2020: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/SBA-Paycheck-Protection-Program-Loan-Report-Round2.pdf.

Looking for financial solutions to pivot your business? Visit Chase for Business to learn about the tools to help master digital banking for your business.

For Informational/Educational Purposes Only: The views expressed in this article may differ from other employees and departments of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Views and strategies described may not be appropriate for everyone, and are not intended as specific advice/recommendation for any individual. You should carefully consider your needs and objectives before making any decisions, and consult the appropriate professional(s). Outlooks and past performance are not guarantees of future results.

Fiverr is a registered trademark of Fiverr International LTD. 2020. Upwork is a registered trademark of Upwork Inc.

JPMC Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Equal Opportunity Lender, 2020 JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Published August 04, 2020