As Covid-19 has causing people to generally shift to home working has provided greater autonomy for would-be entrepreneurs in the UK
Atul Bhakta, CEO of e-commerce services provider One World Express, looks at whether Covid-19 will inspire a new wave of entrepreneurs in the UK.
We are constantly told, in a slightly blasé and all-encompassing fashion, we are entering a “new normal”.
However, it’s important to drill down into what long-standing economic shifts have been precipitated by the pandemic.
As companies rapidly pivot their products or services to better meet the demands of consumers and businesses during lockdown, entirely new markets are quickly emerging.
A case can be made, then, that one of the positive effects of the pandemic is the birth of these new areas of opportunity for entrepreneurs.
There are various factors at play. For one, soaring unemployment and the general shift to homeworking provided greater autonomy for would-be entrepreneurs in the UK, giving the push needed to prompt many individuals with ideas for a new startup to take this bold step.
Further to that, with so much economic activity that was previously conducted in-person now moving online, the coming months could be an opportune time for self-starters to venture out on their own – should they have a suitable idea that could thrive within the increasingly digital landscape.
So, where are the new opportunities opening up? And what advice should entrepreneurs keep in mind when starting their own businesses?
How entrepreneurs in the UK have reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic
With Covid-19 shutting a quarter of UK businesses back in April, it became clear that the only ways to deliver products or services was either through physical door-to-door deliveries or providing the experience virtually.
Grocery delivery companies especially faced unprecedented levels of demand for their services, leading to some customers having to wait weeks for their food to arrive.
For those who were home-bound, unable to make it to the supermarkets in-person, this became a major issue.
Thankfully, UK entrepreneurs quickly identified this need and began providing viable alternatives.
Ashdown Organics is a great example. When the pandemic hit, their founder’s job as a mountain tour guide quickly became defunct and, after briefly working as an Asda delivery driver, he realised the pressing needs of those who were struggling to get their food delivered.
As such, he founded Ashdown Organics to deliver goods from farm shops, bakeries and florists; and now delivers more than 70 food boxes a week across East Sussex.
The ability of entrepreneurs to identify the changing needs of customers and quickly begin catering to them was the key to success for many small businesses during the height of lockdown.
Indeed, Ashdown Organics is just one of thousands of new businesses founded for the lockdown age, with research from Startups.co.uk revealing that five new businesses were founded every day in April 2020 – representing a 60% jump on April 2019.
For innovative thinkers, then, the pandemic has facilitated new entrepreneurial avenues to better meet the needs of the public during the “new normal”.
But what should these founders bear in mind when acting on their urge to create something new?
How to be an entrepreneur in a Covid-19 world
Firstly, you must establish a market fit. Many new businesses fail because, despite the founders being utterly convinced that they have an amazing new idea, the demand is simply not there for it.
It might be too niche, or it might not be a pertinent enough issue that people are willing to pay for a solution to it.
Conduct thorough research and receive as much honest feedback as possible before deciding to move ahead with an idea.
Thereafter, keeping things simple is paramount to identifying what is important and how best to deliver it.
If you have created an app or online platform, ensure the user’s journey to your main service is as unencumbered with unnecessary logins or ads as it can realistically be.
Do not worry about adding every possible feature – start with the minimal viable product (MVP) to attract a loyal customer base then build the product out from there.
If you are delivering a product door-to-door, postpone any planned expansion until you have streamlined your delivery systems as much as you can.
Once you have nailed your core service offering, you can begin building on your strong foundations to better serve and expand your customer base.
Further, as Ashdown Organic’s journey shows, having a story to tell surrounding your company’s founding will go far in making your brand feel personable and honest.
Everyone’s experience during the Covid-19 pandemic is different; so if you can tell a memorable story regarding how your own experience led to your company’s founding while keeping your communications honest and affable, you can build a strong foundation of trust with your customers to expand on in the future.
Finally, and most importantly, adding the maximum amount of value possible is key.
Consumers expect more from businesses than ever before, and with the uncertainty Covid-19 presents meaning many are more reluctant to try new things than they were previously – you must ensure that whatever you are offering will undoubtedly improve the lives of your customers.
If entrepreneurs continue to serve the needs of consumers and business in the “new normal” while keeping the above points in mind, I believe that we will witness a new wave of exciting entrepreneurship in the UK.
The Covid-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on us all, but if innovative thinkers are able to spot what consumers need in these trying times, it can hopefully be made a lot easier for us all.