At a time when many businesses are facing major financial struggles – with large numbers having to borrow capital, furlough or lay off staff and so on – you might think that starting a business during the coronavirus pandemic would stand very little chance of success.
But while COVID-19 has spelled the end for a lot of companies, it has also created opportunities for new ventures to emerge. For many people – particularly those who have lost jobs or been forced to shutter existing businesses – the coronavirus crisis has given them the motivation they need to make a fresh start with a brand-new business.
Throughout 2020 and early 2021, there were noticeable trends in the types of businesses that surfaced during the pandemic. As the country went into lockdown, and working from home – and staying indoors – became the norm for swathes of the population, businesses emerged that had been purposely set up, or adapted, to cater to people in these new circumstances.
Businesses that are thriving during COVID-19
While the months of enforced closures have brought about significant struggle for businesses in certain sectors (hospitality, retail and leisure, for example), other businesses have been able to take advantage of increased demand for their products and services.
So, if starting a new business during coronavirus is something to which you’re giving serious consideration, it’s worth being aware of which businesses are doing particularly well in the current climate.
Now that many people are forced to remain at home and only go out for ‘essential’ journeys, demand for home delivery services has grown significantly. This not only applies to deliveries from retail outlets, but from food establishments, grocery businesses and even restaurants that have pivoted to ‘finish at home’ meal services while they’re unable to operate as normal.
With the highly transmissible coronavirus showing few signs of abating, the need for exemplary hygiene has never been so strong. Consequently, many businesses and homeowners are making use of professional cleaning services that specialise in properly sanitising offices, restaurants, workplaces and residences.
Fitness equipment and online fitness classes
During periods of lockdown, gyms and fitness studios had to close to restrict the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, the public were asked to stay at home and only leave the house for short amounts of exercise.
With working-out opportunities limited, lots of people have invested in fitness equipment – exercise bikes, weights and so on – that they can use indoors. Meanwhile, businesses that typically operate exercise classes face-to-face (personal trainers, for instance) have switched to an online-only service, running sessions over video platforms such as YouTube.
The COVID-19 lockdowns have not only compelled employers to close their workplaces to staff, but made educational establishments shut their doors as well. While teachers and lecturers have moved their classes online, parents have had to tackle the new and sudden challenge of home-schooling their children.
This has escalated demand for those tutors who provide one-on-one tuition to children away from school. Like schoolteachers and lecturers, they too have adapted to the changing circumstances by offering classes online, using services such as Teams, Zoom and Google Classroom.
Throughout lockdown, the government guidelines have allowed people to walk dogs on behalf of others who are either unable to do it themselves or because they’re self-isolating. Professional dog walking businesses seem to have grown in number and popularity as a result.
What it takes to start a business during coronavirus
Though the current climate might seem very unfavourable for setting up a new business, the steps you would take to start your venture during COVID-19 are the same as any other time.
Testing your business idea
When you have an idea for a new business, you should test it to make sure it’s viable (capable of being successful). This means carrying out market research to identify who your customers would be and that there would be demand for what you’d be selling.
It also involves analysing your competitors. The fact that you’d have competitors is a benefit, as it means people are already spending money on the product or service you’re aiming to sell. It could also suggest there’s enough demand for your business’ offering over a long-term period.
Given the present circumstances, it’s likely you’re considering running your business from home. While this can be a great way to structure the business around your lifestyle and family commitments, there are benefits and drawbacks to this approach that you should think about before pressing ahead.
Writing a business plan
Once you have a clear idea of what you want your new business to be, you’ll need to write a business plan. This document sets out what your business aims to do, and how you’ll achieve those aims over time.
The plan is designed to help you – and other people, such as finance lenders and investors – understand how you plan to make money so you can keep your business running into the future. It will likely include information about your targets, marketing and sales plans, and financial forecasts.
Working out your start-up costs
No business is likely to succeed without having the proper finance in place. Once you’ve created a solid business plan, your next step should be to work out what it’s going to cost to launch your company.
Your start-up costs are the expenses you run up in getting your new business to the point where it’s ready to sell. Having a realistic idea of these costs not only gives you better control over your cashflow, but is a vital part of your financial planning.
When it comes to financial support for start-ups, the coronavirus pandemic has brought about a number of new government loan schemes and other borrowing opportunities, alongside existing programmes such as Start Up Loans. Typically, these come with low interest rates and additional benefits intended to encourage businesses to take advantage of them.
Marketing your new business
When you were conducting your market research earlier in the process, you’ll have determined who your customers will be, and the types of consumers that make up the ideal target audience for your product or service.
These are the people to whom you now need to promote your business.
With only essential bricks-and-mortar stores (such as supermarkets) open during lockdown, most of us have no option but to shop online. Consequently, having a website and/or strong online presence is essential for any business starting up amid the pandemic.
For practical tips, advice and guidance on ways to market your business, including how to write a marketing plan, download our Marketing Toolkit.