Monday, March 20, 2023

Starting a Small Business During A Pandemic

By Anoop Ark, 02 Dec, 2020
  • Starting a Small Business During A Pandemic

An Opportunity to Rethink, Reimagine and Reinvent


Starting a small business is hard work, even in the most normal of circumstances. While the pandemic and resulting recession have created many new problems affecting life, society, and the world as we know it, it has also created a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs to innovate. What do companies like WhatsApp, Instagram, Uber, and Airbnb have in common? All four multi-billion-dollar businesses were born out of the 2008 financial crisis, showing us that success in the face of adversity is a real possibility.




According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, entrepreneurship in the U.S. is on the rise, with applications for new businesses increasing at the fastest rate since 2007. For the week ending October 3, new business applications were up 40% higher than they were in the same week last year. Despite the economic downturn across the world, the entrepreneurial bug appears to be an unforeseen yet infectious result of the pandemic. How do Canadian entrepreneurs feel about the fate of their small businesses? Cautiously optimistic, as reported in Scotiabank’s recent New Path to Impact report, which found that 40% of entrepreneurs are feeling very or extremely optimistic about the future of their business. Additionally, nearly seven in ten businesses say they are now better prepared to survive a second wave of the pandemic, with their focus shifting to alternate channels to boost sales and revenues. 

For small businesses, having an online presence is more important today than ever before. Although online shopping is not a new concept, many organizations were found without an e-commerce presence at the beginning of the pandemic and were subsequently forced to shut down. 

In an exclusive interview with U of T News, Satish Kanwar, VP & GM of Product, Channels at Shopify, recognized early on at the outset of COVID-19 that the push for e-commerce presence would become a new normal: “That’s led us to rethink our entire product roadmap to support the rush of traditional businesses turning to e-commerce as a business model for the first time, as well as to enable these merchants to support these new behaviours at scale such as local pickup and delivery, contactless payments, online tipping and more.”

Businesses in industries that typically require face-to-face interactions with customers, such as those in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, are reimagining and innovating the way they do business as a result of e-commerce investment. For entrepreneurs who aren’t tech-savvy or don’t know where to begin, a number of services such as GoDaddy, Shopify, and Squarespace exist to help customize and build all the necessary components of an online storefront. 

The Digital 2020 October Statshot, produced in partnership with We Are Social and Hootsuite reported that October 2020 saw a rise of over 12% in social media usage from October 2019. At a total of 4.14 billion worldwide social media users and counting, more than half of the world’s population is now on social media. With less physical touchpoints as a consequence of lockdowns and social distancing directives, active social media usage has become crucial for small businesses to remain accessible and build relationships with their customers.

Proactive communication and accessibility on social media are key to the success of a business. Most, if not all social media platforms, offer an instant messaging function that enables two-way dialogue between a business and its customers at any time of the day.

Leveraging this allows customers to ask questions and make special arrangements at their convenience while giving entrepreneurs the ability to communicate things such as sales promotions, order updates, shipping notifications, and delivery timelines. 

With growing concerns over health and safety, customers are looking for greater assurance that businesses are taking the necessary precautions to keep their customers safe. Entrepreneurs would be wise to communicate the changes their business has undergone to mitigate the risks associated with the pandemic. Content showcasing cleaning protocols and transformations to storefronts and offices creates a personal touch and helps to establish trust with customers.

As this pandemic continues to reshape almost every facet of our lives, opportunities to market new products and services are increasing every day. Whether you’re a small business owner looking to expand to a new market or someone who has been bit by the entrepreneurial bug for the first time, now may be a great time to start brainstorming new business ideas. 

7 Pandemic-Friendly Startup Opportunities:

Cleaning Services

Office buildings, restaurants, and shopping centres heavily rely on cleaning and sanitation services to protect employees and patrons. As public spaces remain open and COVID-19 cases continue to rise, so does the need for cleaning and janitorial services.

Stylish Protection

With face coverings becoming mandatory in a majority of public spaces, face masks have become this year’s biggest fashion statement. The growing demand for fashionable face masks with customizations and embellishments may be a great opportunity for designers.



Home Improvement

People are spending more time at home than ever before. If you’re handy or have a flair for interior design, helping people with their home renovations and improvements may be just the business for you. 



Delivery & Courier Services

With increasing outbreaks, people are feeling less and less safe venturing into the outside world to buy their everyday needs. Services offering the delivery of a range of niche items could be a direct response to a strong need in the market. 



Handmade Products

Consumers are increasingly looking for one-of-a-kind goods as opposed to those that are mass-produced. This provides the perfect opportunity for artists and craftsmen to turn their skills and passions into a booming new business.



Educational Games and Toys

As homeschooling becomes a new normal, parents are looking for educational ways to promote learning and stimulate creativity in their children. A passion for education and a sense of imagination is some of what it takes to be successful in this industry.

Virtual Wellness Programs

In this time of isolation and great uncertainty, self-care is a must. With possible gym and fitness studio closures, the demand for virtual fitness and wellness programs is rapidly growing.


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