STUDENTJOB BLOG

The past 18 months have presented unimaginable challenges for businesses across the world. Just about every industry has had to readjust and rethink strategies, whether it be remote working, a change in consumer behaviour, or even a rise in demand due to our new way of life.

What may come as a surprise is the boom in the start-up market despite these challenges. In fact, in 2020, new business formations increased by 13%, reaching a new recorded high of over 772,000.

Lessons From 5 Successful Start-Ups That Launched During the Pandemic

This boom coincides with the government’s furlough scheme, which saw an estimated 11.6 million jobs furloughed between April 2020 and August 2021. With the scheme having only recently ended, those who were furloughed all those months ago have had a lot of time to think about their careers, and even more to fill with other passions and activities.

Many of these individuals have also felt financial pressure as a result of their partial wages, creating an even greater need to seek alternative sources of income. As a result, the number of start-ups has grown significantly. Among these new ventures, certain industries have been more popular than others. Unsurprisingly, online businesses, such as retailers, and mail-order services, have by far been the most popular among lockdown entrepreneurs, with 35,608 start-ups established in 2020 compared to 13,615 in 2019.

Takeaway food shops were another popular venture, with a 33% increase in new businesses within the sector in 2020, compared to the previous year. The tech sector as a whole has long presented fruitful opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs, but in 2021, its reign as a successful start-up sector was solidified. Collectively, start-up businesses within tech raised an impressive £10.3 billion, almost doubling the previous record.

Clearly, these new businesses have responded to the changes in the market, be it an increase for online services amid lockdown restrictions, or social distanced food delivery to stop the spread of the virus, which explains some of their success.

Establishing a valuable business requires much more than this. No doubt have times been challenging, and those who have found their feet despite the difficulties, are paving the way for the next generation of start-up success. Just like Airbnb, FarFetch and Uber emerged from the ashes of the last financial crisis, there is an opportunity for the next set of stars to arise from the current downturn. Looking at this new generation of start-ups, here are some key takeaways:

Think of the greater good

Despite periods of isolation and social distancing, the pandemic has proven the importance of community, with many feeling inspired to lend a helping hand in any way they can, whether it be assisting a vulnerable neighbour with their essential shopping, or offering your service to the nation’s many key workers. Or, like med-tech start-up MediMusic did, starting a business that innovates the treatment of physical and psychological health issues to reduce the burden on the NHS during the incredibly difficult time.

The alternative treatment dispenses music as medicine and uses AI learning to create personalised playlists which reduce stress, anxiety and pain. While the science behind the offering is a story within itself, the big lesson here is the importance of businesses working for a greater good, as these are the ones a pandemic-affected public are most likely to rally behind.

Stay true to your roots

Pandemic-produced Lockdown Liquor and Co, proved just how important staying true to your roots is as a growing start-up. The brand’s name is a clear nod to its restriction-based beginnings, but the company’s values show that this is more than just a superficial connection.

The company began as a kind gesture to friends, family and neighbours, but has become an established service selling directly to consumers all over the world, as well as stocking hospitality and retail venues. While the company’s high-quality products are a significant reason for its success, its charitable ethos cannot be dismissed.

In its early days, the small-scale operation saw the founders gifting premium cocktail mixes to friends, family and neighbours to enjoy over Zoom calls. When receivers began to offer to pay for more drinks, donations were given to the NHS instead. As the business has grown, these charitable donations have continued and will remain a vital part of the company’s ethos going forward.

Mental health matters

The spotlight on mental health has been brighter than ever during the pandemic. Rules and restrictions such as lockdown, isolation and social distancing have placed unimaginable burdens on emotional wellbeing, resulting in more and more people beginning to pay greater attention to their own mental health, as well as those around them.

Start-up businesses that have placed mental well-being at the forefront of their offering, whether it be via their own products or services, or by helping other businesses do the same, have proven that they really recognise the shift in not only consumer behaviour, but society as a whole.

For example, Balance, a new fintech business, has closed the gap between mental health and money, by providing employers with a way to help their employees take control of their earnings, and reduce any financial stress they may be feeling. At a time when workforces were sent to work from home, leaving some feeling unsupported, and furlough and redundancies common concerns, the offering could not have come at a better time. The business has proven the importance of mental health at work, beyond yoga classes and team socials, suggesting a more authentic and practical approach is required in the post-pandemic world.

Flexibility is essential

When lockdown restrictions were introduced back in March 2020, many businesses were left struggling to adapt to the new work from home norm. In many cases, it took a while for the required infrastructure and processes to be put in place, leaving businesses susceptible to downtime during an already-difficult period.

This demonstrated the importance of flexibility and adaptability. Launched during the peak of the pandemic, Autify Digital, a web development and digital marketing agency, ensured these approaches were built into the fundamentals of the business. All business, recruitment and on-boarding were conducted virtually, and when things began to open up, the flexibility of a shared serviced office space enabled the small start-up company to keep overheads low and invest in improving its offerings instead.

This flexibility and adaptability have meant that the team has been able to react to changes in restrictions with little notice and no interruption to acquiring web design clients, as well as feel confident and unphased by whatever the uncertain future may hold. This is one of the few advantages of businesses that have launched under the unique circumstances of the pandemic.

Don’t underestimate the power of social media

One of the difficulties of launching a new business is having little budget for marketing. Never has this been more apparent than during the pandemic, when many start-ups have been created as side hobbies, or in order to generate another stream of income in a financially challenging time.

As balloon display and decor company, Fizzpop Events found, the power of social media should not be underestimated. What began as a creative outlet and learning experience, fast became a valuable business opportunity, thanks to social media reach and engagement. The business founders simply began by posting pictures of their balloon displays on Instagram, and after learning more about how the social platform works, including its algorithm and creating “Instagramable” content, it wasn’t long before their business started to attract attention.

The platform is now a key source for new business and enquiries, enabling people from all over the world to find and interact with the offering, proving just how valuable of a tool social media is for marketing, and best of all, it doesn’t have to cost you much.

As we have seen in the past, some of the most successful businesses are born in a crisis, and the current market is showing signs that the same is possible once again. Any start-up will face difficulty during this time, but learning from the successes and failures of those that have come before them, and keeping a keen eye on current trends and shifts is key. A courageous and adaptable approach will make all the difference for a successful pandemic start-up.

 

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