Thursday, May 7, 2020

COVID-19 Crisis: a Catalyst for Entrepreneurship

If any of you have read your emails lately, you are probably aware that “We're All In This Together” during these “difficult” and “uncertain times.”

All joking aside, the global coronavirus pandemic and corresponding policy restrictions have caused the rethinking of countless business practices. For many, video meetings have become a primary form of communication and home workspaces have become workers’ exclusive offices; we are experiencing major shifts in how businesses operate.

Some businesses – especially restaurants, retailers and manufacturers of consumer goods – have experienced a sharp drop in demand or even a complete derailment. At the same time, many people are experiencing shortages, whether it is of products like personal protective equipment (PPE) or hand sanitizer or services like fitness classes. Businesses are responding to America’s challenges by engaging in new entrepreneurial activities. 

As a fellow entreVIEW author has recently pointed out, there are real opportunities presented by this crisis for entrepreneurial-minded businesses. Here are a few businesses in my backyard (Minnesota) that have been reinventing themselves in order to survive the global coronavirus pandemic, including some businesses that are showing citizenship and resourcefulness in developing creative responses to emerging challenges with scarce resources (in combination, citizenship and resourcefulness are drivers of socially aware entrepreneurship, which is something I love promoting and talking about): 

Norseman Distillery: In an effort to encourage social distancing, restaurants, breweries and distilleries are no longer allowed to accept dine-in patrons. With takeout and delivery acting as poor substitutes for establishments that typically focus on a dine-in experience, these establishments have either had to shutter or pivot to new offerings. As mentioned in that same article, many local breweries and distilleries are using their equipment and inventory to manufacture hand sanitizer. One example of doing just that is Norseman Distillery, which was “established in 2013 as the first legal micro distillery in Minneapolis since Prohibition.” In regular times, Norseman specializes in spirits and liquors. In these irregular times, Norseman has been donating all house-made hand sanitizers to emergency departments, nursing facilities, fire stations, homeless shelters and other first-responder organizations. As a bonus, Norseman has also released a “Staycation Cocktail Kit” with 100% of profits going to making Norseman’s sanitizer free to healthcare workers and first responders. 

On a related note, Crisp and Green is including in many of its curbside-pickup orders a free vial of hand sanitizer!

Alchemy 365: Like all other fitness boutiques and big-box gyms, Alchemy 365 shuttered its doors in accordance with state requirements. Alchemy was started in 2015 and has five studio locations in Minnesota. Typically, Alchemy’s offerings consist of in-studio classes throughout the day, with an online written outline of each day’s workout that would allow those outside the studio to workout individually without instructor coaching. With in-studio coaching no longer an option, Alchemy has pivoted to free live and on-demand instructor-led workouts, which are filmed in instructors’ homes and streamed on Instagram Live and uploaded to YouTube. Alchemy quickly providing access to digital content to its members was critical to encouraging its members to maintain their membership (and to maintain Alchemy’s cash flow), not to mention their fitness, despite not being able to attend in-studio workouts.

Love Your Melon: Love Your Melon was founded in an entrepreneurship class at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul with “the simple idea of putting a hat on every child battling cancer in America.” As of late, Love Your Melon has tapped its domestic-production network to be able to include in its products one-time wear and reusable face masks. The face masks are part of Love Your Melon’s Buy One, Give One program: for every face mask sold, Love Your Melon will donate an equivalent product to the medical community.

The wonderful thing about this list is that it is not even close to exhaustive. Entrepreneurs have stepped up in a big way to fill the needs of their communities. Even I, someone without the sparkling genius required of an entrepreneur, have recently dabbled in socially aware entrepreneurship by producing and donating masks for local hospital workers and veterans. I can’t speak as to the quality of the craftsmanship (disclaimer!) and I am definitely not fast enough to mass produce, but I can say the charitable and entrepreneurial act really made me feel like “we are all in this together.”

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