Real Leaders

16 Great Business Ideas For Fighting The COVID-19 Pandemic

Millions of business owners are scrambling to reinvent their businesses. Many have already found innovative ways to roll with the punches — from rethinking supply chains, redeploying staff, offering crucial advice, and even recreating your favorite bar online. We asked 16 smart CEOs and business owners how they’ve adapted to our new virus-ridden reality.

1. These Outdoor Cushion Makers Aren’t Sitting Down

Known for their durable outdoor furniture made from recycled plastic, Polywood is pivoting to respond to a call to action from Indiana hospitals that have reached out and asked for one million cloth surgical masks. The company is enlisting their sewing team that normally assembles outdoor furniture cushions to help create the masks and their textile partner Revolution Fabrics is currently testing different fabric blends for breathability. Polywood will do their own in-house research, in conjunction with local health leaders to quickly scale and produce masks that can also be bleached and reused to meet escalating demand.

2. Smart Security Kiosks Stop the Spread of New Threats

While large numbers of US citizens are expected to work from home due to the continuous spread of COVID-19, utility workers, first responders and medical staff are still expected to fulfill their duties. Security provider, Force 5 has taken a unique approach at keeping staff healthy during this pandemic and developed kiosks at security points that ask workers health-screening questions before entering critical areas, or interacting with critical personnel. Questions such as: “do you have clearance?” and “have you traveled?” are asked to protect workers. They are also developing a thermometer to check staff temperatures and integrates with their kiosk’s — to automatically reject high risk individuals entering a facility.

3. Ancient Games Become New Mental Health Tools

Online chess and backgammon website, Chess Gammon, based in the United Kingdom, has seen a spike in demand for these traditional games. With billions of people housebound, the company has been helping people at home stay mentally active and reduce the risk from going outside. Who would have thought that such ancient games would have suddenly become so popular again.

4. The Hacked Booking App That Now Rallies Volunteers

Zelos, is an app for volunteer management based in Estonia. Originally developed for events and festivals, when the virus struck their Northern European country they connected their app to collaboration app Trello within 48 hours and created a helpline for senior citizens. The elderly call the helpline and an operator uses Trello, to push information to volunteers’ smartphones. Within 24 hours, they had signed up more than 1,000 volunteers and within two days were helping seniors to get groceries (and avoid the 3-day wait times). The founders don’t have the resources to scale this idea beyond Estonia, and are looking for those interested in implementing this idea in their communities. The API is free, and people would only need to cover minor software costs.

5. Unemployed Tailors Have Become Lifesavers

Boston-based custom clothier 9Tailors provides top quality, custom suiting and has been greatly impacted by the region-wide lockdown. “In a time when you aren’t able to do what you normally do, you must look for what you can do,” says founder Samantha Shih. The company found itself with tailors with sewing machines who were out of work, and local hospitals with a lack of medical supplies. It was a perfect match. Using their excess fabric, comprised of 100% wool, they employed the unemployed tailors and seamstresses, who also urgently needed an income, to produce reusable face masks for healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.

6. Beyond Hand-Washing: Full Body Sterilizers

Boster Biological Technology, based in Pleasanton, CA, has been producing high-quality antibodies and testing kits to the scientific community since 1993, but with the arrival of COVID-19, they sprung into action to develop new products that help patients and medical workers. The company is working on a whole body sterilizer that will be sprayed over your entire body. They are also developing thermal scanners to be installed around the US that will check body temperatures of visitors to airports and buildings — the first screening step in identifying coronavirus patients.

7. Pandemic Masks That Kids Really Want to Wear

Children’s toy company, Bunnies By The Bay, is manufacturing masks for kids and medical workers with heartwarming images of bunnies and whimsical designs. They are also donating products and resources to hospitals and orphanage groups — an ongoing mission of theirs. With the rise of COVID-19 they are a next step to help spread comfort and love to children, while helping to save lives.

8. Lonely? Visit Russia’s Stay the Fck Home Bar

Open 24/7, the Stay the Fck Home bar was launched by Russian creative agency the Shishki Collective to encourage more people to stay at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 30,000 users visited the website in the 24 hours since its launch and during the first opening week more than 120,000 people visited the online-bar. The virtual video-conferencing bar is without borders, where people from all over the world can meet, have a drink, and try not to lose their collective minds by supporting each other. Already,  #Stayrhefuckhome has grown beyond the original idea to include 15 themed bars — including wine bars and Italian bars.  “We are going to collaborate with world-renowned DJs, organize events and keep having fun despite this worldwide quarantine,” – says Mike Shishkin, CEO of  Shishki Collective. Some people are popping in for only a few minutes, but some people are spending an entire night together. For example, one attendee from Kiev took his mates on a “bar crawl,” driving around the city and showing everyone the beautiful landmarks of Kiev through his phone camera. 
“We were driven by idea of openness and  mutual support around the world,” says Shishkin. “We want people not to close up and become anxious and suspicious because of the virus. Rather, we want them to lead with openness and mutual support, and give people a chance to expand their social circles around the globe.”

9. Truck-sharing Company Helps Students Relocate Fast

Truck-sharing service Truxx announced they are offering discounted service for university and college students faced with early move-outs as campuses continue to close in response to COVID-19. The aim of the offer, dubbed CollegeRoxx, is to help students make their unexpected moves just a little easier. The company also stepped up to help in Nashville after a tornado. Many companies have used their service to help with sudden logistics challenges that they face with the current pandemic. Cofounder Jamie Hess, reckons they are perfectly positioned to help those planning to convert buildings to hospitals or overhaul production lines that require new supply chains. Their truck-sharing model offers an agile, cost effective service that can help.

10. Tell Your Boss What You Really Think. From a Safe Distance

Online suggestion box, DirectSuggest, has a virtual suggestion box application that is being used throughout the world to assist organizations to manage, adapt, and mitigate issues around the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of employees are staying engaged with their companies and making innovative suggestions on what they think is necessary to prevent the virus from harming their daily operations. DirectSuggest are currently offering a free 90-day promotional offer to assist in spreading the level of impact they can make in businesses around the world.

11. These Lawyers Have Turned Into Publishers For Good

Connecticut law firm Pullman & Comley has essentially turned itself into a COVID-19 publication, putting out blog posts multiple times a day on different legal topics. As the crisis began to unfold, this 101-year-old firm with 90+ attorneys was inundated with questions from companies, municipalities, educational institutions and nonprofits and attorneys began writing almost immediately as a service to the communities they serve. Many of the topics they have addressed are ones that many may not even have considered yet: Working from home and sick leave policies — what is required of employers and what is within their rights? Childcare and children-at-work policies — how can employers support parents of kids whose schools or daycares have been closed? What types of business closures could be covered by insurance? How has telehealth coverage been expanded and who can now see a doctor remotely? Quarantine and isolation policies — who can be quarantined and under what conditions? How do school closures affect obligations of school districts with respect to students with disabilities?

12. Disinfect Your Office With Small UFO

Sending humans into buildings infected by the COVID-19 virus to disinfect them is a health risk, especially in small rooms and in confined spaces. Most drones can’t fly stably indoors and into confined spaces, but Digital Aerolus has developed the Aertos 120 UVC drone by combining the disinfection power of UVC lights with unique industrial drones. The drones are designed to fly indoors and in confined spaces and provide UVC cleaning, significantly reducing health risks. Potential areas include doctor’s offices, hospital rooms, waiting areas, grocery and retail stores, businesses and areas where first responder and healthcare workers rest between shifts. UVC light sanitation technology is currently used in the healthcare industry but many of the UVC lights are large, cost-prohibitive or impractical to deploy. By combining industrial drones with small but powerful UVC lights, it has allowed many more organizations to use this life-saving technology.

13. Find a Machine Globally to Fulfill Your Local Needs

Neil Ferrier, the head of luxury lifestyle brand, Discommon in Greenville, South Carolina, recently pivoted all his efforts toward aiding medical workers in the state. He rallied his overseas production contacts to produce 7.5 million disposable masks and is delivering these masks to the hospital system in South Carolina. Frustrated with the delays in shipping, as 230 countries try to get their products out of China, he utilized his resources to locate critical mask-making machines in Hong Kong and was instrumental in working with multiple parties to facilitate a National Guard Lockheed C-5 to pick up the machines and deliver them to Carolina. Locals are now able to produce masks at fabric mills in the area.

14. Is Your Product Already Fighting The Virus?

Copper H2O produces water bottles made of copper, which recent studies have shown is naturally anti-viral and can help stop the transmission of the coronavirus (but not a 100% solution). Many companies have already used their copper bottles for staff as a way of helping to minimize the spread of the virus and also to avoid disposable, single-use water bottles. Recent scientific studies on copper as an anti-viral have shown the benefits of this metal.

15. Give Your Empty Land Away (For a While)

CEO of Car Passionate, Michael Lowe, wasn’t sure how his car parts company could contribute to the COVID-19 outbreak, but then he realized that even small gestures and ideas can help. “As my staff and I are working away from our premises as much as possible, we aren’t using the entirety of our land, so what I decided to do is allow all key, front-line workers to park freely wherever and whenever they liked.” Their team have offered their services to the vulnerable by adapting many of their vehicles into delivery vehicles and turned industrial pressure washers, used for cleaning industrial grime, toward keeping vulnerable areas clean. Their positive role modeling has made other small businesses in the area want to join forces with them and help deliver essentials to the vulnerable.

16. How to Fight an Invisible Enemy With 3D Printers

Minuteman Press franchisees like Michael Levy in Levittown, Long Island are taking action in the fight against COVID-19 by using 3D printing to produce critical items like face-shields and hand sanitizer labels. Levy never imagined that his 3D printing machine would one day be used to help fight a disease, but that’s exactly what’s happening today. While the face shields Michael and his staff are printing and assembling are not designed by medical teams, they are being requested by medical professionals and requests are mounting as quickly as he fulfills them. “I’m getting calls from anesthesiologists, dental hygienists and other providers. All are saying they want them now and don’t have them readily available, so we print them all day to accommodate this need.

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