The COVID-19 crisis has presented incredible challenges—both for small business owners and workers alike. Many small businesses in the United States have been forced to close their doors—and many workers have found themselves unexpectedly out of a job.
But what about emerging businesses or aspiring entrepreneurs? In the midst of coronavirus-related challenges, is now a realistic or reasonable time to start a business?
And the answer? It could be.
The fact that our economy is currently experiencing pandemic-related economic disruptions doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not a good time to start a new business; tech powerhouses like Slack, Uber, Venmo, and Airbnb were started during the Great Recession.
But the question is how, exactly, do you do it?
Let’s take a look at the steps to take if you want to start a business in the midst of COVID-19:
Narrow down your business idea
Before you can start a business—pandemic or no pandemic—you need to drill down on what kind of business you’re going to start.
Or, in other words, you need to lock in your business idea.
If you’re not sure what type of business would be the right fit, start by examining your strengths and areas of expertise. For example, if you spent 10 years managing digital ad campaigns for tech companies in Silicon Valley, a digital advertising agency could be a good option. If you’ve held leadership positions at a variety of companies, you might consider starting a leadership coaching or consulting firm. If your organizational skills rival Marie Kondo’s a professional organizing company could be a great business opportunity to explore.
The point is, everyone has unique skills and experience they bring to the table—and those skills and experience are a great foundation for a new business.
Do your research
Once you know what kind of business and business model you want to pursue, the next step of the process is to do your research.
Now, it’s always important to do your research before moving forward with a new business idea—but it’s especially important when you’re starting a business in the middle of a pandemic. You want to make sure you’re crystal clear on the market, your competition and customers, the revenue potential, and any challenges you could be facing as a result of COVID-19.
During your research phase, you’ll want to answer a few key questions, including:
- How is the business model performing in the pandemic? For example, some business types, like e-commerce, are thriving—while others, like commercial real estate, are struggling. Before you move forward with a specific business type or model, it’s important to do your research on how that business type or model is faring in the face of COVID.
- Who are my competitors and how are their businesses performing? It’s important to identify who your main competitors will be in the market—and it’s equally important to determine how their businesses are performing during the pandemic.
- Who are my customers, what are their problems, and how will my business provide solutions? If your business is going to be successful, it needs to fulfill a need in the market—so before you launch your business, it’s important to determine a) what that need is, and b) how your business is going to fill it.
- What’s the market potential? You want to make sure your business idea is viable and has the potential to drive revenue—and you want to do that research before you invest your time, energy, and resources into launching it.
Create a business plan (including COVID-19 contingencies)
Once you’ve done your research and decided your business is one you want to move forward with, the next step in the process is creating a business plan.
Your business plan should cover all the basics, like your budget, your business operations plan, and your marketing strategy. But in the midst of COVID, it should also include clear plans for how you’re going to navigate the pandemic—and protect the well-being of your business and your customers.
For example, if you’re planning on opening a business that operates in person, your business plan should include detailed information on how you plan to adhere to the CDC recommended reopening guidelines (including social distancing and proper sanitation) as well as how you plan to manage the situation if there’s another lockdown or stay at home orders (for example, transitioning your full-time team to remote work and shifting from in-person to online customer interactions).
The more detailed your plan, the better prepared you’ll be to launch, run, and manage your business during COVID and beyond—and the more likely you are to be successful as a result.
Determine your funding sources
If you need working capital or start-up funds to get your business off the ground, you’ll also need to determine where you’re going to get your funding.
There are a number of different ways to finance a new business venture, including:
- Asking friends and family members to invest
- Raising funds through investors
- Applying for a small business loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
- Comparing a variety of financing options on Biz2Credit
Keep in mind that, because of COVID-19, it may be more challenging for new businesses to secure business loans, lines of credit, or business credit cards. Make sure to explore a variety of financing options to figure out which is the most advantageous and accessible for you and your business.
Legally establish your business
Once you’re ready to actually start doing business, you’ll need to take the steps necessary to legally establish your business.
What those steps are will depend on the kind of business you’re establishing (for example, establishing a single-member LLC requires different steps than legally forming a nonprofit organization). If you’re not sure what you have to do to legally establish your business, speak to an attorney or accountant to ensure you’re taking the proper steps to set up your business.
Launch, manage, and grow your business
The last step in the process of starting a business during COVID-19? Actually starting the business—meaning launching, managing, and growing your new company.
This step will vary based on your business and customers, but this is the stage where you’re getting your name out there (for example, by launching a website and drumming up PR), connecting with your customers (through marketing strategies like content marketing, digital advertising, and SEO), selling your products or services, and continually adjusting your strategy to improve your results.
Basically, this is the stage where you take your business from an idea into a real, functioning company—and continue to grow and evolve that company until it’s the business you envisioned.
Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from turning your business dreams into a reality
There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has completely shaken up the business world. But the hope is that the challenges facing businesses today will be relatively short-term—and by launching your business now, you’ll be setting yourself up to thrive post-COVID. So, if you have a business plan you want to pursue, do your research and set yourself up for success—but don’t let COVID stop you.