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Small Business

7 Opportunities for Entrepreneurs Right Now

I think there is opportunity for entrepreneurs to genuinely help people and businesses impacted by the changed world.

With change comes opportunity. Look, I’m not making light of the tragic situation. Over 96,000 Americans are dead because of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Many more will die.

However, we still need to make a living. And now is a good time to consider the opportunities opening up due to the massive upheaval the world has just experienced.

Before I continue, in no way do I suggest taking advantage of shortages or vulnerable people. Quite the opposite – I think there is opportunity for entrepreneurs to genuinely help people and businesses impacted by the changed world.

Consider this a brainstorm session. I won’t get deep into the pros, cons, feasibility of each idea. But I hope to kick start some ideas that you can run with and make your own.

If you have any of your own stories, please share them. I’d love to learn more about what you’re doing.

Here are some quick ideas. I’m just dumping them on the page as I enjoy an adult beverage. No editing. No second-guessing. (So please excuse the mess…hopefully a string of words below sparks something in you.)

1) Masks

I’m not talking about hoarding or flipping medical n95 masks. Those need to go directly to medical staff.

Instead, I think there is a big opportunity to create and sell cloth-based masks for the general public. Suddenly, a new product category exists and is ripe for innovation.

What can be done to add value to the mask, which is generally viewed as a commodity? We’ve already seen the plain black masks, but where are the designs? Where is the branding? The differentiation? Hmmm…

2) Virtual events, entertainment, tourism

Large jam-packed events – like conferences and concerts – aren’t coming back anytime soon. Even smaller in-person events are likely to decline in frequency, as business travel wanes and people remain hesitant to meet in person any more than necessary.

There are many existing companies that got into the virtual events business almost overnight. These companies probably could use help.

There is also an opportunity to build and promote your own virtual events. Because overhead costs (e.g. space rental) have been slashed, virtual events require fewer attendees and can be profitable with smaller audience sizes and fewer sponsorships. This creates the opportunity for smaller highly targeted events. At the same time, the potential audience for a single event has suddenly gone global – anyone with a good internet connection is now a potential attendee.

Finally, the total cost to attend conferences (beyond event tickets) has dramatically fallen, opening up the option to audiences that were previously out of reach.

3) Servicing remote workers

A huge segment of the workforce is now working from home. Many of those people will never return to a normal office again.

After a while, sitting at the kitchen table in your pajamas gets real old. People need a proper physical space with proper ergonomic equipment. But what else will people need when working from home? What are the new problems these folks will need help with? Possibly, time management, segmenting work from home, new home distractions, social isolation, new methods for staying relevant, etc.

Businesses that manage a remote workforce will also need help working through the implications. What are the best practices? Will any intermediaries be needed? What tools are needed? What business challenges arise?

Essentially, new situations create new problems that require new solutions.

4) Retail

Retail?!? Yes…and that’s not the gin talking.

Some big retailers with a lot of cash and access to credit will stay afloat during the Covid-19 economic disaster. Unfortunately, many other retailers will die – either voluntarily or via bankruptcy. As this happens, the bigger, stronger retailers are salivating at the market share they will get to absorb.

The CEO of Macy’s recently said that $10 billion of retail sales will be up for grabs. Why should Amazon and Wal-Mart be the only beneficiaries?

Customers will be in transition. Brands will disappear. Regional competition will fall in areas. Surviving small retailers will need help. Commercial real estate rents might decline in areas. More retailers will need an online presence and delivery options.

You’d think there’d be a few opportunities for new ideas. Amirite?

5) Virtual everything

Every brick-and-mortar business has started providing online services in some way. While most people are familiar with online shopping, until now few would have ever considered online fitness classes, therapy sessions or doctor visits. Yet, that’s what we’ve all been doing for months now.

I think many will continue to use virtual services in the future for the convenience. Who wants to waste 2 hours going to the doctor’s office (and paying for parking) just to get a prescription refill?

So businesses that previously required an expensive physical presence can now be created in a basement. Suddenly, the barriers to starting many types of small businesses have fallen.

6) Online learning

This one’s simple. Do you have something to teach? Then build a brand and teach it using the multiple avenues available online. Videos, subscriptions, online teaching platforms, etc.

People have been warming up to online learning for a while, but I think the lock-downs have only accelerated this trend. The entire public school and college system has gone online, legitimizing what was once considered ‘alternative’.

While traditional brick-and-mortar institutions have the brand value, they also come with an enormous price tag. People have increasingly questioned the ROI of college education. Now, with the realization that most of the glitzy peripherals isn’t core to the college education, the door is open to new 100% virtual educational providers.

7) Homesteading

Previously, people that bought skids of T.P. and canned soup were called preppers. Today, we’re all preppers, aren’t we?

This all started with the Great Toilet Paper Panic back in March. Now we’re all baking sour dough and starting vegetable gardens. I think people have discovered the comfort in having a few life skills, and many will become lifelong closet homesteaders.

What can you offer those who want to make their own wine or repair a broken fence? How can you help them achieve their objectives? What would you need if you were starting a new hobby?

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OK guys. Brainstorm’s over. Take what you want and discard the rest. Ideas are connected, so think about the second and third order effects of some of the problems and opportunities described above.

Perhaps more importantly, start fast and start small. Learn whether you can make $1. Because if you can make $1 you might be able to make $10, $1000, $100,000 and so on. Better to fail fast and find out early.

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