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Start » startup, 13 post-pandemic businesses you can start now.
The current pandemic has opened up the door for new and expanded business opportunities as consumers adapt to post-COVID life.
The impact of COVID-19, particularly on the business world, couldn’t have been predicted but has been an incredible learning experience—especially for aspiring entrepreneurs. Social distancing and remote work have forced traditional in-person businesses like restaurants, brick-and-mortar retail and event services to get creative with solutions and stay viable while also opening a world of opportunities for business owners to meet consumers’ new and evolving needs.
Entrepreneurs are innovative, creative and risk-taking by definition so establishing a business in or immediately after a pandemic doesn’t frighten many away. However, there are several niche markets or missing spaces in the digital marketplace that entrepreneurs can fill—thereby taking advantage of pent-up market demand and putting their best foot forward in the business world. Here are 13 ideal businesses to consider pursuing, whether you’re making your entrepreneurial debut or adapting the products and services you already offer to a changing marketplace.
E-commerce has always occupied an important space in the marketplace and the pandemic showed us both the resilience of businesses selling online and the demand of community members looking to support local and small businesses. Online stores are the best avenue for aspiring retailers of homemade products like hand-knitted gloves, infused olive oil and more. Crafters and artisans have a unique opportunity to build a following on social media like Instagram and TikTok and turn their passion and skills into a thriving business on sites like Etsy. Hobbies like woodworking, jewelry design or knitting can translate well into an online storefront, as can basic digital designers who create templates for Cricut users. As Etsy CEO Josh Silverman told Marketplace Tech, “anyone with creativity and 20 cents can open a shop on Etsy.”
[Read more: How to Sell on Etsy: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started ]
Pet products and services
A positive from the COVID-19 lockdowns was the significant spike in pet adoptions. As people sought companionship from dogs, cats, birds and more while social distancing, shelters across the country saw a 700% increase in adoptions and fostering in 2020 compared to 2019.
To care for their new furry friends, many consumers are turning to online retailers and service providers. Pet products like homemade treats and toys are in high demand right now, as are online pet training classes. Channel your love of animals into a pet-focused business that makes consumers’ and pets’ lives better.
Home beauty kits
When hair and nail salons were shut down, people adapted by creating their own beauty routines in quarantine. Though lockdowns are lifted, consumers may still be more apt to try out new beauty products as they pamper themselves in the comfort of their own homes.
DIY home beauty products and kits are a great way to capitalize on consumers who prefer to pamper themselves at home over a salon. Industry experts say products that are focused on holistic wellness and self-care—such as facial products, essential oils and aromatherapy—are expected to see consistent demand in the foreseeable future, even after the pandemic ends. You can curate and source local products for a personalized box subscription experience, or create your own line of organic or natural skin and hair care items.
Commercial cleaning service
In 2020, cleaning and antibacterial supplies flew off the shelves and many commercial cleaning services found themselves in higher demand than ever before.
Office buildings, restaurants and other public businesses still count on these service providers to continuously disinfect their spaces and keep employees and patrons safe. As more businesses reopen to the public—including schools and universities—owners and building managers will continue to seek these cleaning services to stop the spread of germs and viruses and ensure their employees feel safe and protected.
Delivery and errand services
On-demand delivery services have become a highly sought-after market, with online food delivery services alone expected to grow by more than $104 billion by 2023.
Getting involved in this fast-growing industry could be as simple as becoming an Uber Eats driver or an Instacart shopper. You could also create your own independent courier service where you deliver groceries and other essential items, or run errands such as picking up medications.
Educational toys and games
Students and parents alike continue to find alternate ways to promote analytical thinking and creative stimulation, even after schools have opened to in-person classes or hybrid learning. Creative entrepreneurs with a passion for learning have a wonderful opportunity to step in and fill the gap in the market with educational toys and games.
Since children are spending more time in front of a screen than ever before, parents are expressing a strong preference for more educational options when it comes to their children’s entertainment. Creating and selling physical toys or digital games and apps that allow children to learn while having fun will be the key to success in this market.
Companies may not have time to plan and coordinate their own unique virtual activities, so you can offer to plan it for them.
Virtual workout classes and personal training
The pandemic showed many how important it is to maintain their physical health and immune systems. In 2020, consumers were left to find creative solutions to get their exercise, and virtual workout classes and digital personal training sessions entered the market with a splash.
Entrepreneurs with a passion for fitness and a background in physical education, kinesiology, nutrition or exercise science can translate their skills into virtual classes and one-on-one sessions with the work(out)-from-home crowd. An overwhelming majority of consumers have been accessing prerecorded fitness videos (73%) and livestreamed classes (85%) during the pandemic so there’s plenty of demand for this content. Offer a variety of skill levels to reach every audience—from the fitness buffs to those just beginning their fitness journeys.
As people spend more time in their homes, they’re finding a greater interest in maintaining and upgrading their properties. Interior and exterior home improvement projects increased during COVID-19, with 57% of consumers emphasizing such projects during the first three months of the pandemic.
While basic redecorating projects are achievable for most consumers, larger repairs and projects may be beyond the skill set of the average homeowner. If you’re handy and have a working knowledge of construction, you can help consumers remodel and renovate their spaces to create an ideal haven. Most interested target markets could be overwhelmed parents, new homeowners or remote workers who now need a functional, dedicated home office space.
[Read more: How a 136-Year-Old Home Improvement Chain Survived and Thrived During COVID-19 ]
Virtual activities for remote teams
The list of companies implementing permanent remote work policies in the wake of COVID-19 continues to grow. Many technology companies have started promoting their software for keeping distributed teams connected and productive. However, company culture is just as important and, since in-person team bonding activities are largely off the table (or make some employees feel uncomfortable), leaders are thinking beyond the “Zoom happy hour” to find new, exciting ways to build camaraderie.
Companies may not have time to plan and coordinate their own unique virtual activities, so you can offer to plan it for them. Whether you host and moderate an online session or create and ship virtual “activity kits” for teams to do together in real time over video, there are plenty of opportunities to offer assistance with team building in the remote work era.
Virtual resume editing and consulting
With thousands of layoffs and furloughs, a large percentage of the American population found themselves without jobs when the pandemic hit. For entrepreneurs with a vested interest in professional coaching and consulting, starting a virtual resume editing and consulting business enables those with the knowledge of professional etiquette and a passion for helping others to monetize their skills and purpose. Advances in the digital space also make sharing and editing pieces easy. Between Zoom and collaborative digital tools like Google Docs, very little startup funding is needed.
This business can offer flexibility, easy scalability and a nearly never-ending audience to market to. You can offer both virtual and in-person consulting appointments, choose the work you’d like to take on and find confidence that someone will always be looking for a job and need resume help.
Computer- or device-cleaning business
COVID-19 brought cleanliness to the forefront of everyone’s minds, in addition to a significant increased reliance on technology to stay connected. By combining the two demands—technology and sanitizing high-traffic items—entrepreneurs can dominate a niche market with fast turnaround and excellent customer service.
Entrepreneurs interested in the technology industry don’t have to travel to Silicon Valley to be a part of the magic. Instead, they can work from their home or a brick-and-mortar shop while making the most important asset to many—a laptop or phone—work like new.
Transcription services—listening to voice recordings and documenting them into written word—have been and continue to be a unique business suited for filling the needs of many industries. Most notably used in the medical field, transcription services are an interesting remote business. The best transcription services have high-quality transcriptions edited by native English speakers for accuracy, spelling, grammar and data.
Who or what industries make use of transcription services? Law firms, healthcare providers, market researchers, podcasters and more use transcription services to save time and get their jobs done.
Write a book or downloadable guide
While writing one book doesn’t seem like a business in itself, it can pay dividends if done well. The market for nonfiction books is expected to grow by 10.5%, demonstrating the demand for new nonfiction books. Take a lesson you’ve learned in your life, the failures and successes you’ve collected in your career or a list of mottos you live your life by and turn them into a narrative—or a downloadable guide. You can publish independently, work with a publishing house or sell copies of your “how-to” online through social media or a website.
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The Pandemic Business Boom
COVID-19 killed countless businesses. Surprisingly, it also launched a whole bunch of new ones.
Last March, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the serial entrepreneur Mike Landau found himself spending nearly every minute of every day inside his Long Island home with his wife and five daughters. He had new responsibilities, he told me: worrying about everyone’s health, supervising Zoom school, cleaning up Barbies, trying to keep their home from looking like a “defunct Amazon warehouse.” But he also had some business ideas, and time to incubate them.
The pandemic led to a massive spike in e-commerce, with millions of Americans opting to work, eat, exercise, and entertain themselves at home, and wanting the gear to do so. Firms like UPS and XPO experienced package volumes normally seen during the holiday-season rush, and those have still not fallen to their pre-pandemic levels . With all those boxes to manage, last-mile and long-haul delivery services needed secure places to park their vehicles. Landau sketched out an idea to locate empty or distressed lots in metro areas, set up safe perimeters, and lease parking spaces. The company ParkMyFleet came together at his kitchen table and launched in a matter of months . Landau hired an all-remote team and added city-to-city vehicle transport, as well as on-site repair and car-washing services.
David Frum: Time for Covidnomics
As awful as the pandemic was, the uncertainty changed the business climate for the better in some ways, he told me. “It accelerated everything.” Around the country, roughly 500,000 entrepreneurs were finding much the same. The coronavirus decimated an unprecedented number of small businesses—200,000 more closed than would be expected during a normal year —but also enabled the launch of an unprecedented number of new ones. And that unexpected business boom holds lessons for how to make the economy more conducive to new ideas, new companies, and new entrepreneurs in the future.
As a general rule, business formation is cyclical: People are more apt to start companies when net worths are rising, confidence is soaring, and lenders are itching to lend. People are less apt to start companies when family finances are stressed, the business outlook is cratering, and credit conditions are tightening. It was no surprise, then, that the pandemic recession led to a huge drop in new business starts last spring.
What was a surprise was that business formation surged strongly in the second half of 2020, when much of the country was still shut down, and the surge just kept going. Entrepreneurs launched 500,000 more new businesses considered likely to hire employees from mid-2020 to mid-2021 than from mid-2018 to mid-2019, and today Americans are starting companies at the fastest-ever recorded pace.
“Last year, we were doing this mutual head-scratching, like, What is happening? Is this going to last? ” John Lettieri, a co-founder of the Economic Innovation Group, a start-up research and advocacy group, told me. “Then it was, This seems different! And things kept on taking off.”
Indeed, at first many experts wondered whether the business boom was illusory. Perhaps it was a statistical fluctuation: entrepreneurs delaying their launches en masse, creating a drop and a bounce-back without changing the underlying long-term trend. Or perhaps it was driven by less-than-scrupulous entrepreneurs and off-the-books sole proprietors (caterers, housekeepers, aestheticians, and the like) establishing firms to angle for government small-business-relief money.
But the persistence of the trend has belied those explanations. The government’s Small Business Administration loan programs had strictures to prevent firms without payroll records or ongoing operating expenses from cashing in. When the application windows closed, there was no drop in new-business formation, either. Nor have economists seen any kind of reversion to the pre-pandemic mean. “At this point, this is reflecting very real activity,” Lettieri told me.
What is driving that very real activity? The SBA loan programs seem to have little to do with it. But all the other government money sloshing around does. Unlike after the Great Recession, Washington flooded families with stimulus when the coronavirus hit, roughly $5 trillion of it. Even after the jobless rate soared as high as 14.8 percent, “ stimmies ” and the superdole kept household spending remarkably stable . Moreover, high-income families working in white-collar fields experienced little to no financial fallout from the coronavirus recession, and many saw their net worth climb as housing prices increased and the stock market rallied: The recovery was “K-shaped,” as forecasters like to put it. The unemployment rate for college-educated Americans rose just two percentage points between spring and fall last year.
Much of America’s vast consumer class remained ready and able to spend through the downturn. Many entrepreneurs saw no reason not to launch and to cater to them. One of them was Marc Bridge of Seattle, who started At Present, an online jewelry retailer, last August. The decision to proceed was fraught. “In most recessionary periods, the first thing to go are discretionary purchases like jewelry,” he told me. “I thought, Hmm, okay, well, this is a really interesting time to start a new jewelry business .” But anecdotes from work-from-home friends and hard data about consumer finances persuaded him and his co-founder to forge ahead.
Annie Lowrey: The small business die-off is here
“People had nothing else to do. They’re sitting at home, on the couch all day, watching Outer Banks , bored out of their minds, some of them not terribly affected” by the recession, he told me. “We were selling things that people wanted, little doses of joy in a period so painfully free of that, and jewelry was surprisingly consistent with people’s lifestyles. You might be wearing sweatpants, but if you’re on Zoom every day, it’s nice to put on a pair of earrings.”
In other ways, the unique characteristics of the pandemic recession made starting a business an attractive proposition. The shift to working from home made setting up shop faster and cut certain costs. “I’ve sworn off [office] leases, which also means swearing off escalations,” Landau of ParkMyFleet told me. “I was literally able to recruit C-level executives from around the world, super-talented people, and we got started without having to relocate a single person. They’re hiring. They are executing. They are cranking.”
The pandemic also made connecting with suppliers, investors, and sales contacts simpler, other new-business owners told me. “It was way easier to get people to agree to talk to you,” said Priyanka Jain, who just launched Evvy , which sells at-home vaginal-microbiome testing kits. “It was so hard for people to say no to a 15-minute Zoom call, and I felt like I could send more cold emails. Geography just stopped mattering. I talked to 200 people in the process of formulating my idea, and I never would have been able to do that if we were taking walks or doing in-person meetings in San Francisco or New York.”
On top of that, the pandemic recession fomented creative destruction, accelerating the shift to work-from-home, remote, distributed, and direct-to-consumer business models that economists have been anticipating since the dawn of the computer age. The coronavirus destroyed brick-and-mortar restaurants but boosted spending on delivery; it killed gyms and yoga studios but increased interest in personal fitness equipment; it decimated formal office-wear sales but boosted revenue for skin care and loungewear; it halted business travel but led to the uptake of virtual-conferencing and collaborative-work technologies.
For the Texas-based entrepreneurs Christie Zwahlen and David Taffet, the pandemic both gave and took away. The two had co-founded a direct-to-consumer company that was getting ready to ship a freezer-cum-trash-can called Petal . (Cold trash doesn’t stink up a small apartment.) But the pandemic increased demand and kinked the supply chain for freezer parts. That made it impossible for the company to manufacture its trash can for a reasonable cost. The company is—forgive me—on ice for the moment. “I was devastated,” Zwahlen told me. “But we couldn’t make it work.” Still, the pair launched an all-virtual business consultancy during the pandemic; its first client was the refrigeration company they had contracted with to produce the trash can.
Finally, a number of entrepreneurs mentioned that the pandemic had changed their risk-reward calculus in some ineffable, unquantifiable way, inculcating in them a kind of just-do-it, if-not-then-when attitude. “There comes this sudden moment of, I might as well give it a go! ” Taffet told me. “It’s a pandemic. The world is changing. There’s something hopeful about it, in a weird way.”
I cannot substantiate the importance of that impulse, and future policy makers might not be able to recapture it. But they very much might be able to re-create the material conditions that let the COVID-19 business boom happen. Flooding the economy with money, such that millions of Americans do not suffer the financial losses commonly associated with recessions, might help keep existing businesses afloat while allowing new ones to launch. Entrepreneurship need not be a victim of future downturns.