One of the most consistent pieces of advice I have given entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic is that now may be the perfect time to start a business. However unprecedented this time has been in history; it has given many individuals the rare opportunity to fully pursue activities and hobbies that they love. In the “before” times, would-be entrepreneurs might have been too focused on all the negative “what ifs?” associated with making the leap forward. Now, it seems to be universally recognized that time spent in lockdown during the 2020 pandemic is the same time that pulls us out of potential stagnation and empowers us to reach our dreams.
That being said, the other consistent bit of advice I give entrepreneurs veers on the housekeeping side of business. If you do decide to pursue entrepreneurship, I always advise going into it as prepared as possible. A few basic pieces of business prep include, but aren’t limited to, the following areas.
- Incorporate the business or form an LLC to provide your personal and professional assets with limited liability protection.
- File for a tax ID if you plan to hire employees so the IRS is able to identify the business and track its activity.
- Register any original trademarks and/or copyrights so they are not plagiarized or infringed upon by competing companies.
[Related: How Do I Figure Out Estimated Tax Payments?]
These housekeeping items might sound fairly standard — and not exactly exciting. However, doing each one sets your business up to experience unique opportunities once the business is up and running.
What else should be added to this checklist to ensure your small business is a success? Let’s take a look at what a few female entrepreneurs that were able to make 2020 their year advise doing to ensure small business success.
Pick a profitable niche.
At the start of 2020, Jenny Eastwood launched her small business. Eastwood is a copywriter for Copy Squad, where she provides copywriting services for online coaches and consultants.
COVID-19 hit shortly after the launch of her business, and Eastwood was initially terrified she had made a huge mistake leaving her job. However, business has been booming. Business owners that were not properly optimized for digital services have been rushing to make immediate changes with their online presence — and Eastwood has been inundated with clients.
One of the most common entrepreneur myths is that having too much business is a good thing. The reality is that entrepreneurship is a competitive landscape. It’s incredibly difficult to be all things to every client. Entrepreneurs that are able to fill a specific niche have a better chance of standing out in their market. They have an offering that the competition doesn’t and will become more memorable with clients because of it.
This is the exact strategy Eastwood used with her small business. She rebranded her company and niche to focus on working with online coaches, due to the exponential growth of individuals pivoting to become online coaches. She advises anyone else making similar moves to choose a niche — preferably, a profitable one where you’re able to use your expertise to shine.
“There are many industries that are booming right now as a result of COVID-19,” Eastwood points out. “If you can niche down enough to become the complete authority in one of them, you’ll have no shortage of clients.”
Be flexible enough to pivot.
2020 has been the year of the business pivot. Clothing companies started sewing masks for essential workers. Breweries began distilling hand sanitizer instead of beer. Pivoting business models not only allows companies to stay in business, but gives them enough flexibility that ultimately creates unique opportunities for business growth.
For nearly three years, Brianna Parks has been a wedding photographer at Brianna Parks Photography. COVID-19 saw a significant decrease in her business, as couples slated for 2020 weddings changed their dates to 2021.
Parks saw this shift as the perfect moment to pivot her business and marketing strategy. Now, she only shoots elopements.
Switching to elopements, while not a massive career pivot, has come with its share of changes. Parks now works a different schedule with tons of different clients. She also loves the creative freedom that comes with elopement photography — the kind of freedom that she felt was missing in traditional wedding photography.
Parks still thinks anyone who starts a business needs a plan. However, she says it’s still a good idea to be open to serendipity.
“Have a plan laid out, but don’t plan every detail because you’ll never start your business otherwise,” Parks says. “Be flexible when trials come along.”
Don’t wait — execute immediately.
Dr. Pooneh Ramezani has been a medical doctor for 20 years. Ramezani is the co-founder of Dr. Brite, alongside her sister Dr. Paris Sabo. Dr. Brite is a Certified B Corporation that provides affordable, safe, and effective personal care products for individuals and families.
Early on in the pandemic, Ramezani and Sabo saw an immediate need for sanitation. They quickly decided to pivot 180 degrees and produce a line of premium essential sanitation products to the mass market.
It was a challenge to make this type of execution. For starters, Dr. Brite specialized in oral care products. The pivot’s focus was to create a line of essential cleaning products. Another issue was the hard work in sourcing resources for the supply chain, including packaging material for products. The company had to pay a premium in order to get everything necessary in facilities to fulfill orders.
Despite these setbacks, Ramezani is thrilled they went for it.
“We saw the need and instead of procrastinating, we viewed it as a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Ramezani says. “We executed on it right away. It was difficult, and at times impossible, but we did it.”
The quick execution allowed Dr. Brite to grow its business and customer base to astronomical levels in a short period. Since then, the company has been able to nourish its customer relationship and prioritize taking care of each new customer it acquires.
“Take every opportunity that comes your way and executive it immediately,” Ramezani says. “Don’t wait, don’t procrastinate.”
Final words from a CEO
Imagine what the world would look like if businesses had chosen to wait at the start of the pandemic. What if companies waited to make PPE for essential workers that needed it? Further, what if people that want to be entrepreneurs keep procrastinating on that leap of faith forward?
Who wants to look back at this time as one where they chose to wait instead of making moves? As author Lemony Snicket once said, “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.”
Nobody has time for that. Let’s get to work.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.