person's hands working on laptop
Pandemics like COVID-19 force current and aspiring business owners to rethink their plans, from business model and type to methodology. — Getty Images/BongkarnThanyakij

Across various industries, companies have had to adapt their operations to comply with social distancing protocols and stay afloat during an economic downturn. These conditions have made it difficult for many existing businesses to survive and even more difficult for new ones to open.

Launching a startup is a complicated feat in the best of circumstances, and it's an especially complex process to tackle during COVID-19. Many people might think it impossible to pursue entrepreneurship in such uncertain times, but doing so might not be such a bad idea. In fact, a business has the potential to survive and even thrive during a global pandemic.

"While there are certainly some incredible challenges launching any business right now, the opportunity is also ripe to launch a new business," said Jeremy Shoykhet, who founded New York City-based delivery service SuperFast in May. "The disruption caused by COVID has triggered people to rethink their entire lives, providing a unique window of opportunity to offer new and exciting brands and services to consumers."

Here are some opportunities and tips for starting a business during a pandemic.

[Read: How to Start a Business After COVID-19]

Types of businesses that are thriving during COVID-19

Certain businesses are better suited to the current climate than others. Here are some types of businesses that are seeing a strong demand during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Cleaning services. Many people and businesses are turning to professional cleaning services that can safely and effectively sanitize homes, offices and restaurants.
  • Delivery services. With many staying home and avoiding nonessential outings, people are increasingly relying on delivery. Retail delivery, as well as food, grocery and meal prep delivery, are seeing a particularly strong demand.
  • Fitness equipment and online fitness classes. Most gyms and fitness studios have limited in-person capacities right now, so consumers are turning to fitness equipment companies and virtual classes to stay fit without leaving the house.
  • Landscaping/yard care companies. Rather than going out or on vacation, people are spending more time at home with family or hosting smaller outdoor get-togethers. As a result, landscaping and yard care companies are seeing even more business than usual.
  • Mask makers. With mask-wearing becoming a requirement in certain settings, several companies have cropped up or successfully pivoted their operations to create high-quality, aesthetically pleasing masks.
  • Telehealth services. People have been wary of visiting doctor's offices, where they could more easily contract coronavirus. As a result, telehealth services have become increasingly popular.

I recommend ensuring your business is COVID-proof, meaning it's something that someone would be able to enjoy in the COVID world we're currently in.

Alexandre Douzet, founder, Pumpkin Pet Insurance

Tips for starting a business during a pandemic

If you're considering entrepreneurship right now, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Think about what consumers need right now

Consumer habits have significantly shifted amid the pandemic, so consider how your offerings fit into your customers' current lifestyle. For example, pet adoptions soared by 700% since last year, as people sought pet companionship while they're spending more time at home. Alexandre Douzet saw an opportunity to help this influx of new pet owners with his business, Pumpkin Pet Insurance, which launched in April.

While the pandemic has allowed Douzet to fill a need in the market, he has still needed to focus on what's impacting consumers in their daily lives.

"A key challenge during COVID has been striking a balance between having empathy for the things that are happening in the world, while at the same time not taking the foot off the gas," said Douzet. "When you're launching a company you don't have the luxury of time for any outside distractions, but during that time, the whole outside world was a distraction."

[Read: Business Ideas That Will Emerge Out of the Pandemic]

Develop a good digital marketing strategy

A strong digital marketing strategy can help bolster your new business through uncertain times. Transparent communication and staying true to your brand online are two key ways to build customer loyalty in the pandemic and beyond.

"COVID has made marketing far more difficult, as many of the normal avenues you might market a consumer brand, namely events, are not feasible right now," Shoykhet told CO—. "We've been primarily turning to digital advertising and customer referrals as our main sources of traffic. We have also done a few socially distant outdoor events, such as renting an ice cream truck and giving out free ice cream."

Connect with consumers on social media

Social media is a great way to bring in new customers and share updates with current ones. Of course you want to promote your business and any (virtual) events you're having, but you shouldn't just sell, sell, sell. Use your social accounts to genuinely engage with your customers and get them excited about your brand.

"To date, lot of [our] marketing has been organic," said Samantha Lancia, who started her online loungewear boutique, Shop Simplicity LLC, after she lost her job due to COVID-19 in March. "I have very supportive friends and family who shared my material to help me grow my initial following. The next phase of marketing will include seeking ambassadors, collaborations with other brands and social media advertising."

Create a long-term, recession-proof business plan

The business landscape looks very different now than it did a few months ago, and it could very well change again. Developing a long-term, recession-proof business plan with good financial planning in place will help ensure your startup can weather any storm.

"I recommend ensuring your business is COVID-proof, meaning it's something that someone would be able to enjoy in the COVID world we're currently in," said Douzet. "If not, you run the risk of incurring costs that you can't turn on a profit on."

Be flexible and stay positive

Adaptability is the key to success for any entrepreneur and their business. Have a plan, but be flexible in the face of change.

Above all else, stay positive. While launching a startup right now has its unique challenges, it's far from impossible.

"If you have the drive, do not wait another second," Lancia said. "There are millions of resources at our fingertips, including YouTube, online seminars, articles and books. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help. You may be surprised at how many people reach out a helping hand when you just ask."

[Read: 8 Franchises That Are Thriving During the Pandemic]

For more resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners stories.

Watch Now: CO— Blueprint, 12/3

Check out the video from our CO— Blueprint event that took place Thursday, December 3, 2020, where the panel discussed everything you need to know about navigating cybersecurity in this new, remote environment.



Published August 25, 2020