As of May 28, 2021, the Paycheck Protection Program has run out of funding. You can learn more about the PPP with our COVID-19 resource hub.
The American and global small business landscape was turned on its head last year in March of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced small business owners to close up shop. Shutdowns and social distancing forced businesses to deal with a sudden drop in revenue, possible layoffs or furloughs, and considerations of closing for good. While government programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster assistance loans helped businesses weather the crisis, creative adaptation was still necessary.
Through all this turmoil, some business types have thrived and grown through the worst of 2020 and into 2021. Businesses that uniquely adapted to serving customers remotely, those that allow for socially distanced interaction, and digital-first operations are great examples of the types of small businesses that are doing well.
We’ve put together a summary of some of the best and most practical of these crisis resilient business ideas that are doing well during COVID-19 that you could start to reap the rewards of the changing economy.
Cleaning and Sanitation Services
With heightened vigilance over sanitation procedures, fears about returning to the workplace, and increased regulations from organizations like OSHA, businesses offering cleaning and sanitation services have seen tremendous growth. Large restaurants, corporate offices, medical facilities, and a host of other venues have a much higher demand for quality and timely cleaning and sanitation.
Some cleaning businesses have grown so quickly that they’ve had to hire at unprecedented rates. UniStar Cleaning Services reported that they had to hire hundreds of cleaning specialists as their phones were “ringing off the hook” from new and existing customers requiring extra cleaning. Corporate Cleaning Inc reported to the US Chamber of Commerce that they’ve never seen the type of demand they’re now seeing for their brand of corporate facility sanitation.
Even though lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders have eased, and in-person medical appointments are becoming more common, the pandemic proved that telemedicine provides cost savings and convenience for certain types of care. The explosion of telehealth provision has been coupled with a radical shift in the cultural acceptance of telehealth, and some estimates report an increase of over 50% in the United States. Patients, in some cases, now prefer to be able to consult with their providers from the comfort of their own homes without the need to commute.
This is especially true for behavioral health providers like therapists and psychiatrists. Digital apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp have seen massive growth and are expected to continue that growth post-pandemic. Not only that, but digital behavioral health providers have seen unprecedented interest from investors as well, signaling sustained success.
With the proper tools in place, medical providers can either supplement their income or transform their business by shifting towards a telehealth-first business model.
Home Healthcare Services
While telehealth is on the rise, many healthcare services are impossible to provide over a Zoom call. Home healthcare agencies provide elderly, disabled, or otherwise unable to travel patients with in-home professional medical care like physical therapy or certified nursing care and basic services like cleaning, hygiene, and meal preparation. Home healthcare agencies were on the rise before the pandemic as the US population continued to age. Still, during the pandemic, they grew even faster as hospitals were less able to provide less urgent care due to the influx of COVID patients. One company, Senior Helpers, reported that they had to increase their staff by 50% to keep up with increased demands.
Registered nurses (RNs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and even non-skilled providers can develop a flexible, lucrative professional life helping the most vulnerable people in our local communities. As this type of service becomes more normalized and patients demand more convenient non-emergency medical care, this industry will only continue to grow.
Suppose you have the necessary skills and licensure. In that case, this can be an excellent opportunity to start a crisis resilient small business in the form of a home healthcare agency start-up.
Small-to-Medium IT Consulting Services
Coupled with an inevitable shift towards digital-first business is the need to implement and incorporate more information technology systems into their day-to-day operations. Digital strategy has become a full-time job for a lot of people. Large corporations turn to multi-billion-dollar consulting firms and the largest tech companies to implement these shifts. But small-to-medium-sized businesses often don’t have access to these types of services and require more affordable and personal provisioning of digital transformation projects.
These businesses are also usually behind the curve on digital adoption. One restaurateur we spoke to said, “We hadn’t updated our order management system in over a decade and needed to so that we could leverage delivery takeout apps like DoorDash and UberEats during the lockdown.” Many small to medium-sized businesses either don’t have the necessary digital tools at their disposal or don’t understand how to fully leverage the ones they already have.
One business owner we spoke to said, “We had been using Office 365 for years, but never fully understood the capabilities it offers for remote work, digital collaboration, and process automation. With the help of an IT consultant, we were able to get our entire team more up to speed and digitize a lot of our processes without adding a single extra tool. I feel like I’m getting SO much more value compared to what I’ve been paying.”
Suppose you have expertise around small business customer relationship managers (CRM), the full suite of Microsoft Office products, cloud data tools, or other IT products. In that case, you could make a good living helping local businesses maximize the value of their current digital products or implementing new, necessary infrastructure to help them through their digital transformation.
The best thing about this type of work is that it’s very versatile. You could help brick-and-mortar retailers, e-commerce stores with large subscriber bases, fitness centers, and everything in between. It requires the necessary technical expertise and a willingness to understand a customer’s issues and requirements fully.