The year 2020 hasn’t exactly gone how we expected, to put it lightly. The global economy was massively disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Entire sectors of the economy full of companies with well-made business plans are struggling. Air travel went into a tailspin and restaurants are having trouble putting food on the table. That leaves many people – through no fault of their own – stunned, shocked, and looking for new business opportunities.
If you are hurting from this awful economy, this article is for you. This is for college graduates going into a bad market, restauranteurs, hoteliers, retail staff, pilots, and, really, anyone whose way of life has been disrupted.
You’ve heard the corporate commercials that start with “in these troubling times.” That’s because these are truly troubling times and we’re all rapidly recalibrating our lives. It’s disorienting and painful. It feels like complete chaos.
Yet from that chaos, you can rebuild, you can adjust, and you can move forward. It’s time to take a clear-eyed look at how people’s needs have changed over the last couple of months. By seeing what people need, you can find a way to serve society and pay your bills.
But first, a few assumptions: we are going to recommend a few ideas that are specific to the coronavirus pandemic going on right now. However, many people’s habits will change, so coronavirus-related purchases will stick around for a lot longer than you might expect. Many more people will be washing their hands and I think fewer people will be going out.
In the coming years, there’s a pretty good chance people will be leaving urban centers as well. The point is: try to predict the trends and position yourself to meet new needs before those needs arise.
1. Personal protective equipment
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus is by using personal protective equipment, or PPE. That includes masks, gloves, medical gowns, shoe covers, face shields, and other similar gear. Masks, of course, are what people need the most right now since the CDC recommends using them when going in public.
The problem is, there isn’t enough PPE to go around – not for healthcare workers and certainly not for private citizens. That means a lot of crafty people are filling the gap by creating homemade masks and selling them on stores like Etsy. This both fills an extremely urgent and important market need, but it provides opportunities for people who are out of work to make some cash by doing something good for the world.
Don’t think the PPE demand will disappear entirely when the coronavirus pandemic slows down. Yes, demand will fall, but it will be well above the pre-coronavirus baseline because a lot of people will want to have a few masks on hand. This virus is going to turn a lot of people into preppers.
2. Fancy soap
Handcrafted soap was already a lucrative market for some people prior to the coronavirus. Now, the coronavirus has created two major needs. The first is obvious – soap cleans hands and prevents coronavirus from spreading. The second need is less obvious but still important. People still enjoy luxuries, even during an economic downturn. Some small luxuries, such as lipstick, do surprisingly well during recessions. For this reason, handcrafted soap is likely to enjoy a booming market for a long time.
3. Hand lotion
I don’t know about you, but the first few weeks after the coronavirus started spreading, I had the driest hands I’d ever had in my life. I’m not alone in this either. Just check out the graph from Google Trends in the US over the last 12 months. There is an underserved market here!
4. Home arts & crafts
People at home are looking for something to do. After all, being confined to your home because of a public health crisis is awfully boring. Many people are indulging in inexpensive hobbies, particularly crafty ones. Anything you can do help people pursue their at-home hobbies is filling a deep psychological need for unique entertainment.
5. Homeschooling supplies
A lot of parents don’t have access to childcare right now, even though they normally would. Many schools are closed, leaving parents looking for ways to homeschool their children. Any high-quality, low-cost learning tools you can provide will be greatly appreciated by some newly busy parents.
6. Board and card games
Board games were already a hot item to sell. All you have to do to confirm that statement is look at the home page of Kickstarter, which almost certainly has a board game on the home page, no matter when you’re reading this post.
With everybody stuck at home alone, with their partner, or with their family, board games provide a needed respite from day-to-day tedium. Combine that with the fact that they are cheap, high-quality entertainment, and you have a recession-proof product as well.
7. Pre-made meal kits
Businesses like Blue Apron have been providing pre-made meal kits for a while. The business model was perhaps a bit ahead of its time since many people were not cooking at home, thus letting the meals spoil before they could be prepared and eaten.
Enter 2020, and now city slickers are stuck at home and many don’t know how to cook. Pre-made meal kits can help fulfill a desire for unique food while being an excellent educational resource for people whose cooking abilities are otherwise limited to boiling water and scrambling eggs. (Don’t take this as a mockery – if I lived in New York City, I wouldn’t know how to cook either because I’d go to restaurants all the time!)
8. Cybersecurity services
Coronavirus scams. They exist, unfortunately. There are a lot of mean-spirited opportunists out there just looking for clever ways to steal passwords and credit card numbers.
That means a lot of companies are going to be beefing up their cybersecurity protocols. If you are tech-savvy, you may be able to work – freelance or salaried – for a larger firm that needs some help adapting to this strange new world.
9. Digital marketing services
A lot of companies are having to adapt their entire businesses to survive. That means many companies which relied on traditional forms of advertising such as billboards, are having to research digital marketing for the first time. That includes online advertising, content writing, and more.
Digital marketing was already a rapidly growing industry. With coronavirus wreaking havoc, digital marketing is even more important than it was even six months ago.
10. Technology consulting
A lot of companies have had to set up employees for remote work and start purchasing software like Zoom to continue business operations. It’s painful to change technological processes on a dime like that, so a lot of technology consultants are having a field day. This crisis is so big that companies will likely be heavily investing in technology for decades to come, meaning that technology consulting of any kind is likely to grow from this pandemic.
11. Gym equipment
“I want rock-hard abs. I do not want to catch a deadly virus at the gym, though.” A lot of people are thinking these thoughts right now, so home gym equipment is going to be in-demand for a while. Many will not be returning to a traditional gym for a long time after this, too.
12. Date night boxes
Romance is still alive, even if going outdoors is verboten. However, there are only so many times that you can have dinner-and-a-movie without getting sick of it. Coming up with a subscription box of fun activities for couples to do together will fill a pretty big social need right now.
13. Grocery delivery & warehouse work
If you need a simple, entry-level job or a little bit of cash to spare, grocery delivery services and warehouses are both hiring. You don’t need much special training – just a willingness to work hard. While you can’t do the job from home, there are actions you can take – and that many companies will take on your behalf – to keep you safe during this pandemic.
14. Livestream entertainment
Live events in big venues probably won’t return in 2020, and maybe not in 2021. Fortunately, though, services like Twitch, YouTube, and Instagram make it possible to host live events to a large audience. If you’re having trouble visualizing what that looks like, Google your favorite celebrity and see if they’re hosting an online event soon.
15. Prepping supplies
This might come across as a bit bleak, but “doomsday prepping” has seen something of a Renaissance lately. It’s a surprisingly big business, and there is a lot of room for new businesses to make items that preppers will want to buy. Much like other trends we’ve mentioned in this post, prepping is likely to be much more popular even after the pandemic subsides.
16. Cleaning services
It’s possible that people are more obsessed right now with cleanliness and hygiene than ever before in human history. A lot of cleaning and disinfecting businesses are experiencing a boom. You may be able to start one of these businesses or, at a minimum, join as an employee.
17. Drive-in movie theaters
If you have a big venue with a big parking lot, but no one is showing up, consider buying a projector and a screen. Drive-in theaters have been making a surprising comeback in this time of social distancing.
18. Upscale groceries
A lot of people are eating at home more, meaning restaurant sales are dropping, but grocery sales are increasing. For people who still have a healthy income, it makes sense to replace meals at fancy restaurants with gourmet goods for the home. Upscale groceries have become more popular lately for this reason.
19. Canned and jarred goods
With so many people having witnessed shortages of food at their local grocery stores, many people are going to be keeping pantries of canned and jarred goods in the future. That means canned and jarred goods will likely continue to sell well for the foreseeable future.
20. Landscaping and yard care
With more people hanging out at home, a lot of yardwork, landscaping, and general home renovation is being done. I’ve noticed this during some solo walks around my quiet neighborhood, but government data also backs up my observation in an empirical way.
21. Coffee & tea subscriptions
People aren’t going to coffee shops or tea stores for their caffeine fix right now. That means it’s the perfect time to start a subscription service for coffee or tea so people can continue to get their beloved beverages.
22. Telehealth and teletherapy
I’ll end on a positive note. Telehealth and teletherapy have had a tough time catching on because of insurance issues. However, the pandemic forced insurers to cede some ground, meaning that more people have access to telehealth and teletherapy services than ever before. This is not only a wonderful way for people to seek a medical professional’s advice in a convenient way, but it also creates new job opportunities.
Times are tough right now because of the pandemic and the rapid economic changes that are happening at the same time. The chaos is creating new opportunities, as painful as the process may seem. We hope that by listing out new possibilities, you can see some hope in a difficult time and find a new vocation, and with any luck, a new passion.