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Business & Entrepreneurship in the Face of COVID-19

With the advent of technology comes the opportunity for innovation. Since the beginning of humankind, people became entrepreneurs - someone who created a product, service or initiative to respond to the needs or wants of their community. And in the current pandemic, becoming innovative with your business is needed more than ever.

This year’s SHAD program’s Alpha Centauri Campus hosted two amazing keynote speakers - Kenton Low and Michelle Romanow - who offered valuable advice regarding their experiences in business and entrepreneurship. For those unfamiliar with the program, SHAD a “STEAM and entrepreneurship program for students in grades 10 and 11. During the month-long program, students live on campus and participate in a real-world design challenge that prepares them to take on social and economic challenges.”

Kenton Low (Addquire) and Michele Romanow (Forbes)

Tips for starting a business

Building startups has become much more frequent, with the concept of innovation being a foundation for many, if not all, businesses. Kenton Low, a senior executive with a successful track record of leadership in companies ranging from entrepreneurial ventures to the most admired companies in the world. Currently, he is the Chief Marketing Officer for Vancity Savings & Credit Union. He gave a talk to all the SHADs on the topic of business, throughout which he referenced three main pointers about building a business:

  • Establishing a clear purpose. This means that your business needs a reason behind its existence, whether it be a need or want for people. Having a focus for your business allows for a driving force towards success. It aligns the efforts of all the individuals involved in this business and provides a foundation for behaviour within it.

  • Asking the right question. When starting any type of business, it’s crucial to understand the difference between what people need and what people want. A need is a functional benefit, while a want is an emotional benefit. By doing so, you are able to identify who you are serving (your target market) and what they truly need or want.

  • Focusing on the experience. Finally, all industries, from fashion and cosmetics to groceries and essentials are becoming more and more competitive as time goes on. Due to this, in order for a business to thrive, they must differentiate themselves through the experience they offer to their customers. This will help customers become loyal to a brand, as well as recommend it to others.

He concluded the keynote by giving some insights for being successful in our economic pursuits. He told students to be remarkable and get noticed for the right reasons, to strive for excellence, and to think BIG and ask “what if” in order to maximize thought processes and ideas.

“It’s not about the titles or money, it’s about making a difference is someone’s life.” - Kenton Low

Lessons about entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is a career that will punch you in the face, as said by Michele Romanow, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur who started five companies before her 33rd birthday, and the youngest ever entrepreneur to join CBC’s hit show Dragons’ Den. In her speech about entrepreneurship and resilience, she talked about her experience and the lessons she learned from her various business ventures - from selling caviar to creating an e-commerce platform. Some key lessons she talked about included:

  • Business is messy. Entrepreneurship is a career that will include failure; however, it is failure that allows you to learn from your mistakes and grow from them. Without being comfortable with failure, you won’t be able to take risks - an important skill in any entrepreneurial venture.

  • Less planning, more execution. While businesses do involve planning about the logistics about how it will be run, the actual real-life execution of proof to you whether your business is able to survive or not, and if there is a need or want for your product/service from consumers.

  • Innovation comes from iteration. There are only a small handful of entrepreneurs whose first startup becomes an instant success. Most entrepreneurs need to create multiple smaller ventures leading up to a bigger, more established and successful one. But that’s what innovation is all about - being resilient, finding what works, and putting that into action.

Ms. Romanow ended her talk by giving some life advice to the SHADs: to use their resources wisely, whether it be papers or people, to step out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves, and also to ensure any organization or business they create is guided by a personal interest or story. When asked about being a woman in the business field, Ms.Romanow gave a clever and inspiring answer, emphasizing that it’s important to look at the positives of a situation and use your strengths to prove your worth to yourself and others.

“I didn't have a bad set of cards, but a different set of cards” - Michele Romanow

Shift in Services

So how have businesses modified their services in order to accommodate the ongoing circumstances? Obviously, in a time where convenience and accessibility are highly valued and where people are closely connected with the digital world, it's important for any type of product or service to have some kind of online component to virtually assist their customers.

For stores that sell products, this would come in the form of e-commerce. For services, this might be virtual sessions to engage customers. For any type of business, it means an increase in promotional activity to secure their brand presence on platforms that are most used by their target market.

Additionally, stores across the country have gotten permission from their respective Governments to re-open their physical stores to the public. In this case, it is important to properly train all employees, put in place physical distancing measures and hygiene procedures, and frequently remind customers of these regulations, so that they are able to follow them and feel safe when visiting any commercial establishment.

Starting a business or any type of organization can be a daunting venture for anyone. Nevertheless, it’s important to use your resources, be ready to take risks, and always use your passion as your path to success. And special thanks to SHAD Canada, for allowing the SHADs to be able to listen to such marvellous speakers who are able to spark our thinking and creativity!

Article Contributors: Asima Hudani, Valerie Shirobokov

Featured image courtesy of Burst via Pexels