In the midst of the toilet paper panic, you might be wondering if there’s a way to profit from this madness of the crowd.
Of course, there is. But there’s a better (and perhaps more ethical) way of doing it rather than stockpiling hand sanitizer in your spare room. There are real needs that large markets of people will soon discover. If you can be the first to provide that need, the world will beat a path to your door.
Can you think of the new wants that will result from more people working at home, student classrooms relocating from physical plant to the web and leisure activities moving from arenas and theaters to gaming systems and online movie archives?
Perhaps to grease your creative gears, it will help to explore the quick history of invention through the lens of economic eras. As populations expanded and grew, the need for greater food production increased. To meet this need, creative tinkerers invented tools and machinery to enable greater agricultural efficiencies.
Soon, demand for these tools and machines created a need for greater industrial production. Imaginative logistical thinkers designed new and better manufacturing methods to meet this demand.
Voilà! Bye-bye agricultural age, hello industrial age.
After about a century, it became clear the manufacturing advantage would fall to those who could process data quicker. A need for a machine capable of handling this massive number crunching emerged; thus, the computer was created.
Soon, the industrial economy gave way to our current age: the information economy.
It is this new business of bits and bytes which saw an increased need for faster and more expansive delivery of data. This need allowed a generation-old invention—the internet—to find a niche that exploded the information economy.
As you can see, a specific need triggered each transition from one form of economic activity to another. The results of the conoravirus, and the social distancing policies put in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19, will likely produce a vast array of previously unknown necessities. Maybe some future economic historian will call this period the beginning of the “CoronaEcomony.”
Here is where your entrepreneurial acumen can serve all mankind. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.
Does this interest you? Do you suspect you’ll have idle time as a result of going out less? Would you be interested in seeking a way to earn money by delivering newly invented products and services that will benefit your friends, neighbors and perhaps the nation (if not the world)?
Consider how the three behavioral changes defined above may reveal new wants just waiting to be filled.
#1: Telecommuting becomes the new norm.
Many suggest remote working will be just temporary. Thought leaders, however, realize the need to work at home will reveal the existence of inefficiencies that exist in the current way of doing things.
Here’s a simple example: the face-to-face directors meeting. This has been a norm since the beginning of the industrial revolution when the entity known as the “corporation” became the standard. Directors would gather together for lunch, dinner or some other activity and hold a meeting.
In the past this was a physical meeting. More often than not today, if you want the best directors, you better be able to allow them to videoconference.
Why? Simply stated, the cost in both time and money required of travel does not offset the value-added of meeting face-to-face.
Now translate this metaphor to the office environment. If your job has you working on a computer in a cubicle each day, why can’t that cubicle be in your home? It’ll reduce your cost of traveling to work, of buying lunch every day and the maintenance (and acquisition) of your wardrobe.
At what point do those costs outweigh the benefits of working in close proximity to one another?
Do you see why telecommuting can become the new norm?
What new wants will bubble up as a result of more people working at home? Perhaps a better understanding of how to make their Wi-Fi more efficient. Maybe they’ll want to learn how to cook meals quicker or more elaborately.
A few years ago, Sonja Nenonene shifted from working for an accounting firm to set up her own tax business at home. She expected to need to buy her own office supplies. “What I didn’t expect,” says Nenonene, “was the need for administrative services. I don’t have a big copier at my house, so I had to find an external provider for this. Normally, I would hand this off to someone else to do the printing and mailing.”
Will telecommuting produce an increased demand for virtual assistants, online tech support and web-based training?
To be honest, you shouldn’t expect to find the answer to “undiscovered wants” in a Forbes.com article. (Otherwise they wouldn’t be “undiscovered,” would they?)
#2: Distance learning becomes the new norm.
Online learning was a growing and evolving industry until regulations made it more difficult for the for-profit educational organizations advancing the idea. While the growth has slowed, it never stopped.
Now it may accelerate as not-for-profit institutions are compelled to deliver their product via the internet. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it usually proves difficult to force the genie back into its captivity. These institutions may realize the benefit of accommodating more students by offering online programs.
This has the potential to broaden the availability of the program to students who are less able to afford higher education because online classes will be offered at a lower cost. In addition, by living at home, students would not burden themselves with the cost of room and board and they’ll be able to continue working at home.
Who knows, with the right part-time job, students won’t have to worry about college loans and may even show net earnings as a result.
The trickier aspect is at the secondary school level. While everyone might not be able to be homeschooled, what if school districts offered students the option to go to school at home?
For smaller school districts, this might make more classes available to students. In the past, if not enough students enrolled in a particular course, that course would not be offered. By making the course available online to multiple districts, the chances are greater that the class will meet the minimum enrollment requirements.
Where is the entrepreneurial opportunity for you?
If you have a niche hobby that represents a small slice of a broader curriculum, you might be able to provide online sessions, workshops and even interactive learning experiences. For example, astronomy is but a tiny subset of Earth Science, and few high school teachers have a formal education in the subject. If you do, and you can get your hands on the curriculum requirements of your state, you can create a package teachers can use (assuming their districts will allow them to buy it).
#3: New types of sports, entertainment and leisure activities.
Despite the safety of social distancing, humans, being human, will always have a need for human interaction. Think of how you socialize (outside of work). You watch sports, go to movies and go out with friends.
Social distancing has cancelled and postponed sports and made attending social events a risky proposition.
It is in this category that we find the highest potential as well as the most relevant existing examples.
Here’s an idea you can’t do but might offer you a template. The NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament has been postponed. What if the relevant colleges and broadcast networks got together with Take-Two Interactive and created a customized version of their basketball video game. They could then air simulated games as if it were the actual tournament.
You could do the same thing with an online game that allows you to play and record. People are already doing this, but it doesn’t yet have the broad appeal that the NBA and NHL have. If you can package even a neighborhood league, you can begin to attract your own audience.
Have you always wanted to own your own sports team? Now’s your chance.
The same thing applies to your long-standing desire to produce TV shows and movies. With live TV shows going dark and movie theaters empty, get your director’s chair ready!
It’s easier now than it has ever been to start your own YouTube channel or podcast. Do you see a market that you enjoy and no one is yet serving? This represents a prime-time opportunity for the budding entrepreneur.
Yes, you aren’t alone if you see the current reaction to the coronavirus as socially disruptive. It is.
Don’t look at this period as a “glass half-empty” time. Put your thinking cap on and see it as a “glass half-full” occasion.
Remember, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
Seize this day. Become a Coronapreneur.