The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in ways we have never imagined. COVID-19 brought the global economy literally to its knees, with entire sectors of the economy grinding to a halt. The general public has been asked to practice social distancing, while many areas have asked their residents to stay at home and only leave their homes to obtain food, medical supplies or medical care, or for exercise.
In the United States, non-essential businesses are closed in many states and restaurant dining rooms have been asked to close. The near-lockdown of major cities around the world in an attempt to “flatten the curve” and control the spread of the disease is unheard of, and the speed by which the economy screeched to a halt is mind-blowing. As a result, many people have been laid off from their jobs, and a sizable number of small businesses may not survive this pandemic.
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The coronavirus pandemic has presented a number of significant vulnerabilities in our system, which in turn offers tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs creative enough to offer solutions to the most pressing problems of today. This is especially true for social entrepreneurs who are willing to take on the risk and effort to help the world survive this pandemic through their initiatives.
The New York Times published an article showing how Americans have changed their spending during this pandemic, and the industries are have seen a spike in demand, and those that are are experiencing declines in sales.
Here are some areas that offer opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to make a change, provide for consumer needs, and ease the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic:
- Medical masks = there remains a tremendous need for medical masks. While the production of N95 masks may be better suited for big businesses and current medical suppliers, small businesses can produce and sell masks for non-medical personnel. The White House is expected to recommend Americans wear cloth masks to prevent coronavirus spread. This is a huge opportunity for small businesses to create and design washable cloth masks.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) = there is still a critical supply shortage of PPE for medical staff during this coronavirus pandemic. Adequate production and distribution of both types of equipment are crucial to caring for patients during the pandemic.
- Import masks from China = For entrepreneurs with existing contacts in China, importing masks to supply the demand in the United States is a highly viable idea. With the virus on the decline in China, it is highly probable that Chinese factories made a ton of masks in the last 2 months and now they are oversupplied.
- Public- Health approaches = Apps for best practices in an interconnected and highly mobile world. Rapid response to control epidemics in any part of the globe.
Disinfecting and cleaning products
- Hand sanitizers – One of the ways to help protect against coronavirus is by cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects like tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, faucets, sinks and many more. Some wineries, distilleries, and breweries are repurposing their vineyards to instead produce hand sanitizers as their way of helping supply a critical need in this crisis.
- Innovations designed to kill bacteria – Inventors who have created ways to kill bacteria may finally find the demand for their products, such as this UV Light Doorhandles
- Cleaning businesses = The cleaning business is experiencing a surge during this coronavirus pandemic. There’s an onslaught of requests for “deep cleaning,” which is a thorough cleaning and disinfecting, particularly for commercial establishments, stores, schools, offices and even for homes. Even businesses involved in other types of cleaning — e.g. cleaning crime scenes, biohazards, water or fire damage — have now instituted an “all hands on deck” to meet this surge in demand.
Businesses that compete with Chinese Suppliers
- Hemp and cannabis = The coronavirus outbreak has underscored the trade tensions between the United States and China, and one of the industries that are affected is the cannabis supply chain. Vaping businesses, as well as other cannabis companies, rely on China for products such as packaging supplies to LED lighting. Most of the hardware in these industries come from China, such as vaporizers, vape cartridges, and batteries. With the supply chain disruption, the influx of cheap Chinese CBD becomes limited creating opportunities for American businesses to get into the market.
- Meal deliveries – With the general public directed to stay at home, going to the grocery and get meals is still one of the essential errands allowed at this time. But many are preferring to stay indoors and not go out at all, whether due to age, illness, or nervousness about contracting the virus. Businesses offering meal kits and meal delivery services have experienced a surge in demand these past weeks and are struggling to keep up with demand.
- Online grocery = According to new data from Adobe Analytics, online grocery sales increased by 100% since the start of March.
- Errand and grocery shopping = Personal concierge businesses could shift gears and offer this type of service for those who do not wish to leave their houses.
- Grab and Go food deliveries = The dining-in business has evaporated in the last few weeks with the government shut down order. Some restaurants and local farms have now turned into food pickup to survive, and some organic farms are finding a huge uptick in demand that they could barely keep up.
- Pet supplies = Consumers are stocking up on pet food and supplies for long periods of time at home.
- Mental health = websites and social networks catering to help ease anxiety are experiencing record numbers in terms of traffic and engagement. A lot of people are suffering right now and are looking for websites and networks that can help them.
Overall Shift to Doing Things Remotely and Working from Home
- Digital tools and applications that will solve the problem of connecting with people if not in the same room
- Video meeting software that lets workers video chat, message, and share documents such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have proven extremely popular.
- Tools and applications to keep working from home employees productive including time tracking apps
- Working with teams remotely or groups such as product management apps, apps that facilitate team feedback as well as file management apps that allow a way to store data so that others can see, edit and create it as well.
- Stress relief and relaxation apps and tools that help with mindfulness and promote mental health are very much needed and in use right now. This includes apps that force you to take a break and those that guide you to some exercises that you can do
- Security – When the workforce is working remotely, there is a need to secure all devices, apps, and data.
- Schools moving online = Schools have had to move online within a very short time frame, often without extra resources and very little training. With the fast-moving spread of the pandemic, schools found themselves shifting from an education system based on face to face interaction to online/remote education in a matter of days. Schools had to mobilize a community of partners and volunteers to assist in loading classes to online platforms, conduct online teacher training, gather online resources, among other things.
- Homeschooling apps and guides = Parents are struggling to give their kids the education they need at home. Many who don’t have any experience teaching their kids at home have to scramble to get homeschooling tips and advice from the pros.
- Teaching kids with special needs and disabilities = With schools closed, kids with disabilities are more vulnerable than ever.
Move towards Online
- Brick-and-mortar to online = As non-essential businesses have been asked to close and face-to-face interactions severely limited, some businesses decided to shift gears and move part of their businesses online. Some yoga studios decided to do online yoga classes for their students, while some music teachers started giving music lessons via Facetime or Zoom. There’s a huge demand to get these brick-and-mortar businesses online.
- eCommerce sites = with most people staying at home and trying to keep sane amidst the coronavirus pandemic, many eCommerce sites are experiencing record numbers of sales. In fact, data from Adobe Analytics show that US eCommerce sales rise 25% since the beginning of March, especially for apparel, electronics, home, grocery, appliance, personal care, office supplies, books, jewelry, furniture, and toys, among others. With more consumers at home spending more time online than anywhere else, shoppers turn to online stores to get the supplies and products they need and not just groceries and other essentials. For many, online shopping is the only way to get the goods that they need. Also, keep in mind shopping brings temporary happiness/pleasure and shoppers getting frustrated locked in their homes all day are more likely to make an impulsive purchase online.
The present coronavirus pandemic offers a golden opportunity to entrepreneurs, even as they struggle with the present problems. Every problem that we are encountering, now, has the potential to create a new world order. After all, it is entrepreneurs who change the world!
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