Nov 18, 2020
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About this Deal
While some businesses have struggled to maintain their customer base throughout the pandemic, others identified a need and target audience because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Siblings Yasmina and Nour Bizri were students at College of Charleston in South Carolina, and their brother Afif Bizri had just graduated when the pandemic led to the cancelation of their summer internships. Finding themselves with a lot more time on their hands, the siblings along with their mother Tina Khouja decided to develop masks for the family to wear. The idea came after Nour experienced an allergic reaction to a mask she had bought.
Initially they donated the extra masks they created. "Then people were like, 'Hey, we want to pay you to make us masks for our whole family,' " Yasmina Bizri said. "That's how the business really started."
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Using Instagram and Facebook Marketplace to publicize their designs, interest spiked in the company they named MINO Charleston, and the family began growing their customer base. Shortly after, they landed an order for 500 masks by the United States Postal Service, followed by orders from companies in New York, Ohio and as far as London. They've since expanded their product line to include lanyards and other clothing items so their business will have staying power even when the pandemic subsides and masks are no longer in high demand.
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Delving into different markets
While the pandemic prompted the Bizri family to go into business, it provided other companies with revenue streams they had never dreamed of.
In January 2020, when Robbie Friedman and Allison Zofan were preparing to launch their business ootbox, they intended to lease their portable, temporary workspace pods to corporations running short on three- to four-person conference rooms. By the time the Columbus, Ohio-based company launched in June, companies had sent their workers home and Friedman and Zofan had to come up with a different plan.
ootbox, temporary workspace pods.
One new market for the work pods was households where working parents conducted Zoom meetings and children logged onto laptops for virtual learning. "Suddenly every single person understood that it doesn't matter the size of your home, sometimes you need a place outside your house," said Zofan.
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But they also found a unique customer in the health care industry as doctors started using the ootboxes to conduct telehealth visits in private, away from the rest of their family. The ootboxes also proved popular with some hospitals, who used them to conduct COVID-19 testing and other lab services outside the building.
While the business model was borne out of the crisis, it has long-term appeal, Zofan said. "We've talked to leadership at hospitals and they've told us they feel like it's going to be a long-term shift to provide some services outside," she said.
Reinventing to stay alive
Some businesses saw their revenue streams dry up and had to invent new ones that catered to the new normal. That's what happened to Juneau Food Tours in Juneau, Alaska, a company that made its mark providing culinary experiences for tourists. Had it not been for the pandemic "this year I would have seen nearly a 200% growth in sales over last year," said owner Midgi Moore. "To say the pandemic was devastating is an understatement."
Juneau Food Tours' Taste Alaska! fall box.
But Moore wasn't ready to throw in the towel. If the coronavirus was keeping tourists from traveling to Alaska, she would bring Alaska to them. She launched Taste Alaska!, a subscription box service that delivers treats and other goodies unique to the state.
"The impact on my business has been significant," Moore says. "While I am not going to see the gross income I expected from operating tours, I have generated a new revenue stream that will become a long-term business venture for me." After the pandemic ends, Moore expects to continue selling subscriptions to "anyone who loves Alaska, who loves food and who loves adventure."
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While entrepreneurship by its nature is unpredictable, 2020 has shown that business can turn on a dime, and while a crisis can make some products and services obsolete it can birth the need for new offerings overnight.
"This pandemic has changed every part of daily life," said Zofan. For businesses who are looking for a way to pivot, "think about all the different angles of where your product can work."