Will COVID-19 inspire a new wave of British entrepreneurs?

Atul Bhakta, CEO, One World Express
by Peter Wilson September 28, 2020
IFA Magazine

 

The new normal: it is a term everyone will have heard on an almost daily basis over recent months.

With consumer behaviour changing to the degree it has since lockdown, companies have been forced to radically pivot their strategies to more effectively service the needs of customers bound to their home; self-isolating or otherwise.

Importantly, though, established businesses are not the only ones capitalising on the new emerging opportunities. We have also seen a boom in the number of people who are taking the plunge and setting up their own venture.

Research from Startups.co.uk has shown that five new businesses were founded every single day in the UK during April 2020, a 60% year-on-year increase.

There are two main driving forces behind this trend. Firstly, the “new normal” has presented numerous opportunities for agile, innovative thinkers to identify unfulfilled market demand, as much of society transfers from the physical world to the virtual one. Secondly, rising unemployment and the shift to homeworking has provided the impetus many entrepreneurial-minded people needed to finally venture out on their own.

But what kind of new opportunities are opening up? And what is the most important advice for new founders to keep in mind when making the plunge during a global pandemic?

Hidden opportunities

During the height of lockdown, two types of businesses flourished; those that delivered their product door-to-door and those that could provide their services virtually.

One example of a home delivery service that thrived is Ashdown Organics; founded by an ex-mountain tour guide after a brief stint as an Asda delivery driver, Oliver Loveday identified the real struggle of many who were finding it difficult to secure food deliveries and quickly established a farm shop delivery logistics networks to provide to the needs of said struggling Britons. The company now makes dozens of deliveries a week across East Sussex, providing a necessary service to the most vulnerable people in our society.

This type of entrepreneurial thinking, where a need that’s arisen due to the pandemic can be met through innovative and strategic thinking, is what is driving many of these “new normal” companies. Identifying the need is not the whole story, however, so what should founders consider when acting on their desire to create something new?

Entrepreneurial thinking

Even the sharpest business mind in the world will often stumble upon a new revolutionary idea, only for a glaring fault to be identified by a second set of eyes. As such, founders must be able to demonstrate a market fit for their new product or service before endeavouring to set up their venture. 

It could still be a fantastic idea, but with an unaffordable price tag or particularly niche market, it will still be doomed to fail. Seeking out as much honest feedback as possible, perhaps through thorough market research, is crucial in evaluating their viability of your product before moving ahead with an idea.

Once the demand has been identified, founders should focus on meeting that particular need and nothing else; at least to begin with. Encumbering users or customers with unnecessary logins, ads, data submissions or stipulations will only serve to distract them from the core positives of what they are trying to achieve. Once the minimal viable product (MVP) has been perfected, then entrepreneurs can begin to expand their vision for the company.

If delivering a physical product, an efficient delivery network will be key to providing a satisfying customer experience. Establishing trusted delivery partners early on will allow a founder to focus on improving the product itself, and easily scale upwards if the partner’s operational capacity allows.

Ultimately, if entrepreneurs continue to properly serve the evolving needs of the public during the “new normal”, while keeping traditional business advice in mind, there is every reason to believe we will witness a new boom of British entrepreneurship in the coming months. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an immensely stressful time for everyone; but if innovative entrepreneurs are able to better serve the emerging needs of consumers and businesses during these trying times, it can hopefully be made a lot easier for us all.

Atul Bhakta is the CEO of One World Express, a position he has held for over 20 years. He also holds senior titles for other retail companies, underlining his vast experience and expertise in the world of eCommerce, trade and business management.

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