Hope Stories Bank of Hope Meg Schutte Jan 15, 2021

Is there ever a perfect time to start a business? Overthink the prospect and you can talk yourself out of anything. Throw in a global pandemic and common sense would tell you to wait it out. But surprisingly enough, with all the challenges small businesses have faced during the crisis, here’s an inspiring stat:

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                                                               Week 52, 2020 -
                   New Business Applications up 41.8% year over year -
59,490 Total
                                 U.S. Census Bureau, Business Formation Statistics
                             Source: https://www.census.gov/econ/bfs/index.html 
                

Even with many companies closing or temporarily shutting down, undeterred entrepreneurs found reasons and ways to open new doors. What does it take to succeed in this atypical climate and how do you keep it going once you do?

Seize Opportunity
Find a niche and fill it: the old adage has proved especially true during COVID-19. People still need things. People still want to go places. Life does go on, whether in quarantine, masked, at a safe distance, or otherwise. Because of the pandemic’s ever-changing challenges, there exists a myriad of innovative ways to meet consumer and business needs with new products and services. Some companies embraced this; others struggled to adapt; and others still hit it out of the park. Businesses that have enjoyed bottom line boosts during this time include grocery delivery, food apps, telehealth services, tutoring, hardware stores, video conferencing, streaming services, landscapers, contractors, interior designers, home fitness equipment, and office cleaning services... to name a few.

Get Serious About Your Idea
We’ve all played the “What if....” game, or shelved a great idea for “tomorrow” when we’d have more time, or had a late night chat with a friend - convinced we were on to the next big thing. Just because it’s a pandemic doesn’t mean your idea still can’t succeed. But first, you have to be clear on one thing: Is it any good? Does it have a “reason to be” under current circumstances? Will it still serve a purpose once the world returns to normal, or semi-normal? Can you adapt it if need be? So ask the hard questions, give the dream an honest assessment, and then go out and make it happen.

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Be Creative About Funding
One thing we’ve learned during the COVID crisis is that the fallout is constantly evolving, much is up for grabs, and in a lot of respects, anything goes. This applies to funding your new business, too. Beyond a solid business plan and winning elevator pitch, you’ll need cash. And lots of it. Raising capital in this unique environment is rife with hurdles, but still doable. Some investors might be wary of an untried venture, while others are looking to help small businesses get off the ground. There are a number of ways to secure funding to get started:

  • Find investors
    - Partner with family and friends
    - Crowdsource
    - Take out a personal loan
    - Apply for a SBA (Small Business Administration) loan
    - Explore federally-funded grants and programs designed for pandemic help

Embrace All Things Digital
With everyone working remotely at first (and many still), setting up shop today requires a lot less overhead than pre-crisis. As the world went remote, all things digital sky-rocketed. Everyone was online, all the time, for work, school, shopping, entertainment, and just to connect. Startups, knowing this from the get-go, can only benefit by connecting consumers with what they have to offer through engaging websites, email campaigns, personalized text messages, a strong social media presence, and mobile apps. As well, conveniently storing company data in the cloud is not only efficient, saving time and money, but it’s also a mind-easer when it comes to security, and allows documents, files, and information to be readily accessible to whoever needs it, whenever they need it.

Tap the Best Talent - They’re Out There!
Yes, many small businesses shut their doors this past year. And yes, many companies have had to let employees go or put them on furlough. The upside of such an unsettled marketplace is that many talented people became available for hire, giving startups their pick of an experienced pool of eager individuals to help them hit the road running. Here’s your chance to position yourself for success backed by the best team possible.

Think Big. Operate Small.
You have big plans for your business. And you should. But even with vaccines being distributed and the possibility of hitting the reset button somewhere on the horizon, there’s a lot we don’t know and can’t predict about the economy. It will be a learning curve for you, and for any investors that want to join in. But if you can make it work during a situation like this, just imagine how you’ll make out down the road. Make careful and considered decisions about office space (economize with remote teams or shared work spaces), overhead (rely on the Cloud), financial commitments (don’t overreach), and operating budgets (keep things lean).

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Boost Your Brainpower
One of the smartest things you can do to help guarantee your business will survive is to emulate others who have succeeded. Pull together an advisory board and learn everything you can from them. A circle of business professionals (or even friends) can answer questions, address concerns, and give you valuable guidance on how to grow your business today and revise your plans for tomorrow. You’ll also enjoy more peace of mind knowing that you have go-to experts to lean on. Plus, they can connect you with others who can help you realize your vision, not to mention make you more attractive to potential investors.

Pivot. Adapt. Change. Repeat.
Launching a business right now is not for everyone. If you believe in your can’t-miss idea, are open to change, and can roll with surprises, you’ll be ahead of the game. But results won’t happen overnight. Remember, you're in it for the long haul. Be clear about your intentions, what you want to achieve, and what success will look like to you. But be prepared to revamp things as you go along, as the pandemic’s end is still a moving target. Flexibility is key if you choose to open your doors now — with the thrill of running your own business more than welcome.

As an SBA preferred lender, Bank of Hope can help you find the right loan to launch your small business idea. 

Meg Schutte is a Bank of Hope Blog contributor.   

The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Bank of Hope.

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