The year 2020 was challenging for just about everyone. From canceled travel plans to sudden stay-at-home orders and remote work, the world was changed. On top of this, many business owners and entrepreneurs had the rug pulled out from under them and lost the ability to make money.
To survive, entrepreneurs had to find new ways to safely sell their products and services to customers. Some businesses failed in the face of the challenge of COVID-19, while others got creative, innovated and found new ways to operate their business. These are the stories of those businesses that turned a crisis into an opportunity. Here's how they did it.
Change Your Product to Fit the Needs of the Market
Most of us know the effects suffered by businesses that rely on customers making purchases in-person or attending events. But, that wasn’t the only effect COVID-19 had on entrepreneurs. The global pandemic also disrupted supply chains and made it difficult for businesses to get certain materials.
EON Reality started off in the virtual reality and augmented reality market as a software producer. When it became obvious that there simply wasn’t enough hardware, such as headsets, to support the number of VR/AR software production companies, many filed for bankruptcy. Not EON Reality.
Instead, Dan Lejerskar, founder of EON Reality, pivoted his business. Instead of simply producing a VR/AR content authoring tool, the company shifted to SaaS. According to Richie laculle-Chen, Director of Grants and Engagement at EON Reality, Dan “led the development of a no-code VR/AR content development platform that could be immediately used on any smartphone, laptop and desktop. Fast-forward to 2021, we are now in more than 50 countries and working with institutions from all over the world...and have seen an 819 percent increase in our platform usage."
Instead of giving up, as many of their competitors did, EON Reality changed the product they offered to better fit the market. If no one is buying your current product, it’s your job to look for other opportunities or uses for that product. Get creative and look for problems that your product can solve. With a small change, you might have a whole new market to offer your product to.
See a Problem, Become the Solution
One of the ways that business owners kept their businesses running and kept paying their employees in 2020 was through government assistance programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Business owners could apply to get a forgivable loan through the PPP and use those funds to pay themselves and their employees.
Like most large financial transactions, the application process for a PPP loan was complicated and time-consuming. Business owners who were already short on time and money didn’t know if they were eligible, found the program confusing or didn’t have the information they needed to apply.
But along came Jonathan Brooks, president and COO of Business Warrior. After spending over 60 hours trying to get a PPP loan for Business Warrior, Jonathan saw a problem that needed solving and he thought he might have the solution.
In partnership with Bluearcorn and Elev8, Business Warrior launched a program to simplify the application and approval process to get PPP funds. As a result, “Over 5,000 small businesses have been funded worth over $35,162,233 in 100 percent forgivable loans through their program,” says Brooks.
As an entrepreneur, one of the best things you can do to help your business survive, no matter what else is going on in the wider world, is to look for problems. When you find a problem, examine how you can shift your business to solve that problem. Solve a problem and you won’t have to worry about finding customers — they’ll come to you.
Find a Different Market with the Same Needs
Most entrepreneurs know that a successful business targets a specific audience or customer. But, what happens when all of your customers disappear and business dries up? Then it’s time to think about what other customers your product or service may appeal to and target. That’s exactly what Eropa Stein, founder of Hyre, did in 2020.
“I started Hyre because I saw firsthand how difficult it was for managers in hospitality to find last-minute replacements for shift workers,” says Stein. “When lockdown began, our entire client base of hotels, catering companies and event venues had to deal with layoffs and budget cuts. In 48 hours flat, our sales dropped to $0!”
Stein and her team at Hyre looked around to see if their skills were a fit for a different market. They saw huge potential and need for staff management in healthcare. “Managing people properly during the pandemic is key to managing the spread of COVID-19. Our team worked hard to adapt our platform to the healthcare industry, and now we work with some of the biggest names in long-term care homes,” says Stein.
The pandemic caused Hyre to lose everything — all of their revenue and all of their customers. With a quick pivot, they found a new market and new customers who needed the product they had to offer.
Do What You’re Good At, With a Twist
Generally, when an entrepreneur starts a business, it’s something they’re passionate about or especially talented at doing. When outside forces, such as COVID-19, come into play, some businesses can no longer offer the services that they were good at. So, they have to find the twist.
Angela Minardi, Chief Experience Officer at Fit City Adventures, shares how they turned a corporate team building and events business into a virtual events business. “When COVID hit, all events were canceled and our revenue in March 2020 was $500. We quickly turned that around and started shipping kits to homes, bringing on corporate business across the country for virtual events and adding virtual programming to our menu. By December, we hosted over 100 holiday parties with $250K in revenue that month.”
With a “just say yes” attitude, Fit City Adventures found a way to continue doing what they’re good at, with a new spin. A strong business can find a way to continue offering their product or services to their customer, no matter what external forces are at play.
The COVID-19 pandemic created a crisis situation for a lot of businesses. With quick thinking and the ability to pivot, some businesses found a way to turn the crisis into an opportunity. Use these success stories as a way to motivate and inspire yourself as you get your small business running and thriving.
Page is a freelance content marketing writer with experience writing about small business, the future of the workplace and health. She also operates a weekly email newsletter where she shares advice on living an authentic, intentional life. When not writing, you can find Page traveling, fostering older cats and working as a sexual assault advocate.