Starting a business in a crisis environment

Whether you’re about to graduate and have begun working on a strong business idea, or are using your skills for part-time work during your studies, starting your own business as an entrepreneur is an increasingly viable choice. Even in the midst of a pandemic there is opportunity.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, one entrepreneur leaned on an old saying to paraphrase a new way of doing business: 'Necessity is the mother of invention,’ said Matthew Jones, proprietor of Bread Ahead Bakery.

The crowds, commuters and tourists have gone, and the Bakery had to find new ways to supply city dwellers with their bread, so they started an Instagram bakery. 'We open our Instagram live at 2pm daily and I bake bread live to an audience,' explains Jones. In the space of just five days, they amassed 25,000 followers and boosted online sales and collections. While invention may mean survival, the bakery has still shed 75% of its workforce during the crisis. Jones wants to rehire most of his staff when he can, but he is just one of thousands of UK entrepreneurs who have had to reposition thanks to coronavirus.

For students and graduates in university, entrepreneurship may seem more daunting than ever, yet ideas are hard to kill and if you have a strong one, now may be as good a time as ever to bring it to market.

Innovation is what people crave

Whether it's Zoom, a food delivery app, the latest entertainment streaming platform or a way to keep fit in your own home, people crave innovation at a time such as this. Consumers are face many dilemmas and are seeking solutions. Students and graduates using their skills to make some part-time money or volunteer can discover if what they can offer can be done on a more expansive basis as a business.

Value for money is vital

People have lost their jobs, salaries have been cut and almost everyone is suffering to some extent. If you can offer a product or service that’s a cheap alternative, with no harm to yourself, then you could attract an engaged and loyal customer base. Work on promoting what you can do for the best price you can do it for. Established businesses can become surprisingly vulnerable during a crisis such as this, so you may find that your small size, agility and flexibility make you ideal to provide a service that larger firms cannot. Keep your overheads to a minimum and focus on growing clients and customers.

Talent is available

As the pandemic causes the market to contract sharply, a talent pool of highly skilled workers becomes available for those who have the means to hire them. It may only be a short-term arrangement – maybe a highly experienced developer to help you with a coding issue on a platform or a personal trainer to show you how to educate people in a particular discipline. Whatever it is, talented and effective individuals are sure to be easier to find.

Credit will be cheaper

Your aim should be to keep costs and borrowings to a bare minimum, although there is a likelihood as you seek to expand that you will need some financial support. Smart investors use periods of downturn to sniff out the most resilient business propositions. Angel investors may be willing to fund your idea if the prospects are promising and you have done the development legwork and are now ready to scale an idea. Just make sure you have a plan in place as to what you want to achieve.

Use hard times to build discipline and good habits

It won’t be easy being an entrepreneur in the teeth of an impending recession, but there is also a decent chance that the economy will bounce back relatively quickly, so use this time to instil discipline in yourself and develop good habits.

Maintaining strict cost controls can ensure that you’ll be able to emerge from this with higher profit margins and more latitude to raise prices. Building and growing a business when consumer confidence is on the floor means you’ll be far better positioned to expand when the economic climate improves.

How to start your business when you graduate

How do you know if entrepreneurship might be right for you and how do you go about it? Even if you’re wary of setting up your own venture straight away, it’s worth asking yourself the questions. Many companies also look for entrepreneurial skills and flair when recruiting. Read the entrepreneurship article on TARGETjobs.