Starting a Business in the Middle of the Pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the definitive points of the twenty-first century. Considering both the scale of the pandemic as well as the disruption to virtually every aspect of life, its effects will be felt for years to come.

Today, there are now more than 30 million unemployed Americans. 47% of all households in the U.S. Yelp recorded 15,742 businesses closing down in June alone. Since February, the Dow Jones, S&P, and Nasdaq have gone down almost 30%—the fastest-developing bear market in history.

With prospects like these, who would want to go into business?

Crisis Begets Innovation

It bears remembering that some of the biggest and most successful companies today rose out of the ashes of previous crises. The Great Depression of the early ‘30s gave rise to GE and Disney. The recession of the late 2000s gave rise to the gig economy: Airbnb, Uber, Slack, and other digital services.

What made these companies successful is that they were quick to recognize the opportunities that arise from massive disruption. In 2008, for example, the souring of the real estate market meant people needed another way to make money off their property. Airbnb set up a platform that allowed them to do so, leading to the birth a company that today is worth an estimated $38 billion.

Business Opportunities in 2020: What do customers need?


Because the economy and business landscape are very different now, conventional business wisdom that applied before may not hold true anymore. Massive changes to consumer behavior mean we can’t make assumptions—fortunately, most consumer behavior patterns and trends can now be logged and monitored online.

By looking at what people are (and aren’t) searching for, we can see which industries have been hit the hardest, and which have been doing particularly well. Search Engine Journal has these findings of which online ads are getting the most interest:

Businesses in these industries have been getting a lot of traffic:

  • Beauty and Personal Care
  • Hobbies and Leisure
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Computers and Electronics

These confirm what many entrepreneurs are already instinctively investing in. To turn these into solid numbers that can become the basis of decision-making, let’s look at additional reports of which kinds of sites had the highest page views (and so the highest number of interested people) during the pandemic:

  • Home beauty products (36% increase in interest since last month). With salons closed, consumers are having to do their own hair and skincare. Beauty and wellness products are doing particularly well—hair clippers and other personal care device sales have gone up 200%.
  • Home improvement (140% increase in interest since last month). As Americans spend more of their free time at home, they’re starting more home improvement projects.
  • Games (145%). Video games and board games, despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, have enjoyed an increase in sales from people trying to get their entertainment at home. The Nintendo Switch system, for example, has seen so much demand that prices have gone astronomically high online. Sellers and distributors of these games are raking it in.
  • Fitness and Health (2,000,000% growth of interest) No, that’s not a typo. Two million percent. As coronavirus is a health crisis, this has put health and wellness at the forefront of everyone’s minds, from trying to get the best iron supplement to weight loss products for the suddenly-sedentary population that had all gyms shut down for months.

What’s next

These data points show that there is an opportunity out there for an entrepreneur who can best serve the needs of a very different market. The world, post-COVID, will be full of customers who have vastly different needs from the customer in 2019. Can yours be the next big disruptive business that will arise?

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