How Entrepreneurs Are Pivoting to Fight Coronavirus

Person applying hand sanitizer

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives—from how we connect with others to how we shop to how we spend our free time. 

Social enterprises are busier than ever. Many are playing a critical role in helping governments and communities stretched too thin by the crisis. In the mainstream business sector, companies have needed to pivot their focus, workflow, or even their entire business models to continue to serve their customers and maintain their revenue streams.

As challenging as the pandemic has been, it has ushered in a new era of problem-solving and re-kindled the entrepreneurial spirit for first-time and long-time business owners alike. In some cases, pivoting has led to the field of social impact.

Becoming a social entrepreneur for the greater good

When coronavirus first hit the U.S. and governments began issuing stay-at-home orders, Wolf Spirit Distillery in Eugene, Oregon shifted its focus. Instead of producing vodka, as usual, the company began making hand sanitizer. It’s easy to forget about the versatility of alcohol—and that the process of making germ-killing gels is similar to crafting your favorite beverage. 

Via its brand reps, Wolf Spirit distributed the sanitizer for free to front-line workers at grocery stores. The distillery has gone on to donate bulk shipments to California hospitals in Bakersfield and Sacramento.

Businesses have always played a vital role in the communities they serve. In times of crisis, their responsibilities become magnified. When major retailers had no toilet paper and latex gloves in stock, coffee-shops-turned-local-markets helped fill this gap in some neighborhoods across the U.S. Like individual citizens, companies have reputations at stake. And the stances and actions they take now will affect how others see them once the pandemic is over. 

Here are different ways that social entrepreneurs are helping during the COVID-19 crisis. If you want, you can join their efforts as well.

Fundraising and advocacy

The coronavirus pandemic has been a major drain on financial resources. Millions of people across the U.S. need financial assistance as they lose jobs, and they can’t cover bills or necessities. 

As a small business owner, you are in a position to drive money to particular causes and organizations. You can choose either direct giving or advocate for your customers and audience to make donations.

Some charities you currently support may have pivoted as well to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Take Everest Effect, for example. Initially, the organization aimed to focus on natural disasters. Instead, it launched four months ahead of schedule, in late March, to respond to the coronavirus public health crisis.

“Right now, we're facing a situation where millions of Americans are facing unemployment, food insecurity, illness, mental health issues, and more,” says Naysa Mishler, an Azlo customer and the CEO and founder of Everest Effect. “BIPOC, especially, are vulnerable to these issues. In the past few months, our platform has provided critical supplies like diapers, soap, and food to thousands of individuals and families across the U.S. 

“Our premise is simple: Recipients create ‘shopping baskets’ of immediate-need essentials, which donors purchase. Everest Effect’s first partner, Walmart, fulfills, and delivers these baskets. Our mandate expanded with the closing of schools, as students’ social networks, daily routines, physical learning environment and sense of independence were taken away. When the system we live in is unable to serve all of us, it is crucial for the future health of our communities that we come together to provide immediate help and relief. We all must leverage our strengths to uplift those who need it most—whether those in need are individuals, families, businesses, or communities.”

As a business owner, you have ways of making sure that the fundraising initiatives you develop have the desired effect, as well. Givewith is a social impact tech company that optimizes a company’s philanthropic spending to improve business performance and profitability while generating critically needed funding for nonprofits.

Tracking the virus

Recently, the Social Health Registry, a woman-owned self-reporting platform for STIs, pivoted to include COVID-19 test reporting in its services. Po-Shen Loh claims his project, NOVID, is the only completely anonymous contact-tracing app on the market because it doesn’t collect any personal data, including name or email. Instead, it relies on ultrasonic sound transmissions and uses them to detect proximity to other users who have tested positive for the virus. 

If you run a tech business, this may be another way for you to pivot. 

Utilizing services like those mentioned above could help to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and be another way for you to pivot. 

Making things that matter

Since the start of the pandemic, protective gear and products to help maintain hygiene have become necessary for all. Yet, we’ve seen shortages of face masks, gloves, and medical gowns due to the growing need for these supplies. We’ve also seen an increased demand for ventilators and other medical equipment needed to treat and help patients recover from the virus.

For years, the La Grange Highlands, Illinois-based company My Green Mattress has specialized in making organic certified, all-natural, and non-toxic mattresses. Once COVID-19 came to the U.S., My Green Mattress switched over from its usual production of mattresses to organic face masks. It partnered with the Illinois Department of Health to provide much-needed supplies to homeless shelters, doctors’ offices, and other businesses. 

Hundreds of other companies have pivoted to manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizing gels, and ventilators to support the growing need for these supplies. If you have a manufacturing business, this would be a way of helping to fight the coronavirus. 

Fighting isolation

Loneliness has become routine because of the social distancing guidelines in place since March. 

Due to office and business closures, many companies have pivoted to virtual meetings with customers. Instead of conferences and live events, they’re holding online webinars, Q&As, and panel discussions. This is true even of businesses that didn’t emphasize face-to-face interactions before the pandemic.

If you are feeling particularly alone right now, consider how you might use this opportunity to strengthen your connection to customers or other entrepreneurs in your industry or community. In addition to webinars and other online discussions, it could be beneficial to organize a digital mixer or networking event. Through these virtual events, you can provide a way for you and others to bond with new people at a time when going out is either impossible or ill-advised. 

As a business owner, you are a valuable member of your community. As you are forced to pivot to keep revenue coming in and stay afloat during the time of COVID, consider how the changes you make now could benefit the world around you.

This could unlock a whole new entrepreneurial chapter for you. Or drastically improve your social and business standing when things go back to normal. 

Dustin Clendenen
Dustin Clendenen is a Los Angeles-based writer focused on personal finance, social impact and technology. His work has appeared in Yahoo! Finance, Business Insider, and Upworthy. Learn more at www.DustinClendenen.com.

Hi there! This post exists to offer you (hopefully) useful information and insights, but it cannot take the place of personalized professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert if you have questions about your business. Also, Azlo doesn’t endorse any third-party sites that are linked here.

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