It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been devastating. From health concerns to the economic downturn, we experienced it all. Luckily, as vaccines continue to roll out and the world starts to normalize again, a plethora of business ideas for post-pandemic opportunities sit on the horizon.
A lot has changed since the onset of the pandemic.
First, we saw digital interaction companies like Zoom, Microsoft and Slack take off as we found ways to stay connected through our screens. Then, we saw companies that relied on physical interaction and travel take massive financial hits.
As we look to the future, we must leverage all the changes over the past two years to build sustainable businesses for the long term.
This post will cover the five business ideas that are perfect for the new post-pandemic world. These ideas will range from concepts that you can run from your iPhone to in-person experiences including:
Start a dropshipping business.
Offer virtual assistant services.
Become an Airbnb host.
Open a food truck.
By the end of this post, you’ll be familiar with these five ideas that you can pursue and leverage to build a profitable business.
1. Start a dropshipping business
More and more people are turning to digital commerce to buy the things they need. People no longer want to go to their local store, wait in line and travel back home. Instead, with a click of a button, they expect to get the products they want in a timely manner.
A great way to capitalize on this new shopping trend is through dropshipping. Dropshipping is a timeless business model that can work under any economic situation.
The great thing about this business model is that it’s a very low-cost business to start. Dropshipping is when the retailer (you) does not keep any inventory on hand. Instead, you work as a middleman, transferring the customer’s order to the manufacturer.
By not holding any inventory, there are virtually no startup costs.
You may have to pay a monthly subscription for many ecommerce platforms. However, your hosting costs shouldn’t exceed more than $30 a month when you’re just getting started. You will likely have to pay for additional tools like a landing page builder or an email service provider, but these services should only cost around $10 to $20 a month.
Interestingly though, it is possible to start a dropshipping business for free. Many successful dropshippers use platforms like eBay and Etsy to list their products. The benefit of using a platform like eBay, outside of the zero-dollar startup cost, is that they already have users on their platform looking to purchase items. Whereas, if you build a brand new store, you start with zero traffic. You will have to run online ads to your website or create content via social media or a blog to attract visitors.
Although the traditional online store strategy is more expensive and takes more time to generate sales, you will benefit from designing your own website and creating your own custom pages. You also will have the ability to collect the email list of your buyers and market to them in the future.
2. Offer virtual assistant services
If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that we can continue working even if we’re not sharing the same office space.
With the proliferation of technology that allows us to have virtual communication, it has never been easier for businesses to outsource tasks.
As a virtual assistant, the services you could offer are limitless. I would recommend teaching yourself a high-income skill. When most people think of high-income skills, they think of jobs like being a lawyer or a doctor — skills that need years and years of education before making a living in that field.
However, there are many skills you can learn on the internet with no need for formal education. For example, skills like copywriting, search engine optimization, coding, web designing or social media marketing can all be learned through YouTube or how-to articles.
Once you have a solid foundation of the skill you just learned, you can sign up on a freelance platform like Upwork or Fiverr and create a seller’s profile to start getting projects.
Also, don’t be afraid to leverage social media platforms, like LinkedIn or Twitter, to message business owners about your services.
3. Become an Airbnb host
As the pandemic comes to a close, people are starting to “revenge travel” to make up for all the time they spent in their house since the start of COVID-19.
If you have a spare bedroom in your house, you may want to look into monetizing that space by becoming an Airbnb host.
The process of becoming a host is effortless and can be done within a couple of minutes.
Like eBay dropshipping, becoming an Airbnb host is great because it is entirely free to list your home on Airbnb. In addition, the platform already has more than 150 million users who book vacations or experiences.
If you do happen to have the extra space and becoming an Airbnb host is a reality for you, you can check out the free rental property calculator on their website to see how much money you could make based on your location and property size.
4. Manage influencers
Influencer marketing has grown from a market size of just $1.7 billion in 2016 to an expected $13.8 billion by the end of 2021. With platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok all growing in popularity, it is no surprise that brands are looking for ways to get their products in the hands of influencers who have an engaged following.
Still, many influencers don’t know the monetization potential behind their accounts. Most individuals with a large following have amassed their following because they love what they do, not because they want to sell something to an audience.
A great strategy is to pick a platform and reach out to influencers within a specific niche.
The more specific you get, as in makeup influencers on TikTok, the easier it will be to represent them as a manager.
Reach out to these influencers and ask them how much they would charge to promote a product in their video. Many influencers won’t know the value of their audience and will give a number below market value.
Once you understand how much they would charge for a promotion, message companies in that niche and ask if they would be interested in promoting their product with that influencer. When they ask for pricing, give a number 10x higher than what the influencer told you.
Make sure to be upfront with the influencer that you will be making from these placements. However, they will usually be fine as long as they get the amount they ask for.
5. Open a food truck
Although a food truck doesn’t sound like a sexy idea, it’s one of the most practical ways to get into the food business without taking on the risk of starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
The food truck industry has been growing in consumer demand as the need for high-quality, affordable food has increased over the years.
With a food truck, you can meet your customers where they are instead of having them come to you.
Additionally, by not being stuck at a physical location, you can try placing your food truck in different areas at different times of the day to see what strategy generates the most sales for your business.
Editor’s note: If you need point-of-sale payment options for your food truck, check out the offerings powered by GoDaddy Payments. With low transaction fees, you’ll keep more of your hard-earned cash.
Which business idea for post-pandemic needs appeals to you?
There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic is full of unprecedented problems. However, now that we can see an end to it, it’s time for business owners to start looking toward the future. There is no shortage of business ideas for post-pandemic needs worth pursuing in this new environment.
With this new economic landscape, you can do anything from creating in-person experiences to leveraging digital commerce. As long as you deploy patience and consistency, the sky’s the limit.
Chelsea Guffy recently began a side hustle as a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations.
“I thought to myself, ‘Okay, this could be something really cool,’ Guffy said when a friend she helped advise on a Disney vacation suggested she do it as a job.
This is Chelsea Guffy’s story, as told to writer Jamie Killin.
Get a daily selection of our top stories based on your reading preferences.
This is an as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Chelsea Guffy, who recently began a side hustle as a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Last year, I noticed on social media that one of my sorority sisters had started working as a travel agent on a lot of Disney vacations and working for a travel agency called ET Family Travel.
I had a Disney vacation coming up that November, and I had already booked the whole thing but I had asked her if she could get me dining reservations, because those are the hardest thing to get at Disney World, and she agreed. She helped me get all the dining reservations that I wanted.
Then she said to me, “Chelsea, you know Disney in and out. You should come on as an agent.” So, I thought about it, and come the new year I thought to myself, “Okay, this could be something really cool.” I joined the team and I fell in love with it.
Travel is just in my blood, and I love booking vacations for my family, so it was a no-brainer.
I grew up in Florida about two hours away from Disney World and grew up going.
The first time I went, I was probably three weeks old. I’ve always had a love for travel – I studied abroad in college, and when I was growing up my family would take trips at least once a year to different places all over the country.
Travel is just in my blood, and I love booking vacations for my family, so it was a no-brainer that I’d like doing it for other people.
The agency I work for focuses on Disney and family-friendly trips, so most agents focus on theme park vacations. However, we do all kinds of travel. I mainly focused on Disney at first, but then I got requests from my friends, so I decided to branch out.
I did a United Kingdom trip for a friend of mine in June, and now I’m doing another UK trip as well as a New York trip. I’ve also helped with California trips and even staycations.
My clientele is primarily my friends and people in my network, but now I’ve had two clients who I did not know previously – one reached out to me through my social media, and another was a referral through the agency.
I’m able to help my clients save a lot of time. I have a lot of knowledge; while they might need months to plan a trip, I can do it for them in three weeks. Sometimes I also find lower prices for them.
I also make sure to tell my clients that this is my second job and that I have a full-time job. I try to give as much time to my clients as I can – but I make sure to set expectations.
I do also get benefits like free Disney tickets and discounts at hotels.
As a side hustle, it’s nice to have the extra cash. I am an independent contractor who makes money based on commissions from the theme parks and hotels. There can also be perks from vendors we work with, which is a benefit for a travel enthusiast like myself.
The amount of time I spend on the job varies, but I average 12 to 15 hours a week in addition to my full-time job. I start as soon as my son goes to bed, so 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. are my prime. It works because I’m a person that likes to be busy – we’re always go, go, go.
Sign up for notifications from Insider! Stay up to date with what you want to know.
Startup business grants can help small businesses grow without debt. But if you want free money to start a company, your time may be better spent elsewhere. Competition for small-business grants is fierce, and many awards require time in business — often at least six months.
Some grants are open to newer businesses or true startups. And even if you don’t qualify now, it can pay to know where to look for future funding. Here are the best grants for small-business startups, plus alternative sources of startup funding to consider.
How Much Do You Need?
with Fundera by NerdWallet
Government startup business grants and resources
Some government programs offer direct funding to startups looking for business grants, but those that don’t may point you in the right direction or help with applications:
Grants.gov. Government agencies routinely post new grant opportunities on this centralized database. If you see an opportunity relevant to your business idea, you can check if startups are eligible. Many of these grants deal with scientific or pharmaceutical research, though, so they may not be relevant to Main Street businesses.
Local governments. Lots of federal grants award funding to other governments, like states or cities, or to nonprofit economic development organizations. Those entities then offer grants to local businesses. Plugging into your local startup ecosystem can help you stay on top of these opportunities.
Small Business Development Centers. These resource centers funded by the Small Business Administration offer business coaching, education, technical support and networking opportunities. They may also be able to help you apply for small-business grants, develop a business plan and level up your business in other ways.
Minority Business Development Agency Centers. The MBDA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, operates small-business support centers similar to SBDCs. The MBDA doesn’t give grants to businesses directly, but these centers can connect you with grant organizations, help you prepare applications and secure other types of business financing.
Local startup business grants
Some local business incubators or accelerators offer business grants or pitch competitions with cash prizes. To find these institutions near you, do an online search for “Your City business incubator.”
Even if you don’t see a grant program, sign up for their email newsletter or follow them on social media. Like SBDCs and MBDAs, business incubators often provide business coaching, courses and lectures that can help you develop your business idea.
Startup business grants from companies and nonprofits
Lots of corporations and large nonprofits, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, organize grant competitions. Some national opportunities include:
iFundWomen. iFundWomen partners with other corporations to administer business grants. You can fill out a universal application to receive automatic notifications when you’re eligible to apply for a grant.
Amber Grant for Women. WomensNet gives two $10,000 Amber Grants each month and two $25,000 grants annually. Filling out one application makes you eligible for all Amber Grants. To qualify, businesses must be at lesat 50% women-owned and based in the U.S. or Canada.
National Association for the Self-Employed. Join NASE, and you can apply for quarterly Growth Grant opportunities. There are no time-in-business requirements for these grants of up to $4,000, but you’ll need to provide details about how you plan to use the grant and how it will help your business grow.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. This annual competition awards grants to small-business owners in a variety of industries. You can sign up to receive an email when each application period opens. To be eligible, you’ll need to have been selling your product or service for at least six months. Be mindful, though, that each grant cycle receives thousands of applications.
Fast Break for Small Business. This grant program is funded by LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League and administered by Accion Opportunity Fund. You can win a $10,000 business grant plus free LegalZoom services. Applications open during the NBA season, which runs from fall to early summer each year.
Alternative funding sources for startups
New businesses likely won’t be able to rely on startup business grants for working capital. The following financing sources may help accelerate your growth or get your startup off the ground:
SBA microloans offer up to $50,000 to help your business launch or expand. The average microloan is around $13,000, according to the SBA.
The SBA issues microloans through intermediary lenders, usually nonprofit financial institutions and economic development organizations, all of which have different requirements. You can use the SBA’s website to find a lender in your state.
Friends and family
Asking friends and family to invest in your business may seem daunting, but it’s very common. Make sure you define whether each person’s money is a loan and, if so, when and how you’ll pay it back. Put an agreement in writing if possible.
Business credit cards
Business credit cards can help you manage startup expenses while your cash flow is still unsteady. You can qualify for a business credit card with your personal credit score and some general information about your business, like your business name and industry.
You’ll probably need to sign a personal guarantee, though, which is a promise that you’ll pay back the debt if your business can’t.
If your business has a dedicated customer base, they can help fund you via crowdfunding. Usually businesses offer something in exchange, like debt notes, equity shares or access to an exclusive event.
There are lots of different crowdfunding platforms that offer different terms, so look around to find the model that works best for you.
Startups looking to make it easier for people to rent apartments on a flexible, shorter-term basis are gaining momentum thanks in part to the rise of remote work. Last week, Dealbook reported that a flexible living startup, Flow, founded by WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, has locked down $350 million from Andreessen Horowitz. Earlier today, TechCrunch reported that an online rental marketplace, Zumper, just raised $30 million in a Series D1 round of funding led by Kleiner Perkins to help it better serve people looking for short-term rental options.
Now, Landing, a startup that is making it possible for its customers to rent a fully furnished apartment on its platform for as short a period as one month, says it, too, has secured fresh funding: $75 million in equity funding and another $50 million in debt.
Delta-v Capital led the equity piece, joined by new and earlier investors, including Greycroft and Foundry. Landing has now raised $237 million in venture funding and $230 million in debt since its launch in 2019.
We told you a bit last week about Landing’s founder Bill Smith, a serial entrepreneur who we dubbed the “anti-Adam Neumann,” given that he’s decidedly understated, he’s conservative when it comes to raising venture funding, and his two past companies have only made investors money. Neumann, in comparison, is a forceful personality, and not everyone came out ahead, famously, on WeWork’s path to becoming a publicly traded company last year.
Smith’s company works like so: Using gobs of data on pricing and demand around the country, it zeroes in on multifamily buildings around the U.S. Through performance marketing and referrals, it then finds tenants for these apartments, itself signing one-year leases, then quickly moving in everything from furniture to utensils for the tenant. Landing has all of these furnishings made in Vietnam and shipped to warehouses in Austin, Phoenix and Alabama, where it is based.
Tenants, who sign on as Landing “members” for a $199 yearly fee, commit to renting from Landing for a minimum of six months, though they’re allowed to move freely to other Landing-operated apartments during that period, provided they give the company two weeks’ notice. Smith says that currently, on average, they stay in one spot six months.
Right now, Landing — which is not profitable — makes money by marking up what it pays in rent by upwards of 40%. Eventually, Smith told us last week, Landing intends to sell its software directly to the multifamily property owners. “Over time, we’ll partner with owners to bring this product to their building, and it really won’t be a ‘Landing’ lease product,” he said. “They’ll just join the Landing platform. They’ll operate using our technology and our standards. And, and it won’t be this model of, you know, Landing leases it and is committed to that lease.”
It sounds very much like what Flow is building, based on a “inside” story about Flow in the real estate outlet The Real Deal this week. According to the outlet’s sources, Flow is effectively a service that landlords employ to make their properties more attractive to people who want to bounce around yet also experience a branded, consistent experience.
As with Landing, shorter lease terms and furnished apartments will likely allow Flow to command higher rents, notes The Real Deal.
Unlike Landing, Flow will itself own at least some of the multifamily units into which its members move. Indeed, with his ample WeWork proceeds, Neumann has already snapped up more than 3,000 apartment units in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta and Nashville, per Dealbook. It could give the outfit an additional advantage. As The Real Deal notes, Flow’s buildings will “also be able to tap into cheaper financing . . . because banks can lend to the properties at the same leverage point offered to apartment projects, or up to 80 percent. Those are more favorable terms than the roughly 55 percent typically offered to hotel developments, essentially creating a high-yield business with lower costs.”
Flow, Landing and Zumper aren’t alone in spying opportunity in flexible living. Last fall, Zeus Living, which is focused on giving people “flexible living” options, raised $55 million in a round led by SIG. Blueground, a pre-furnished apartment rental startup focused on short-term and long-term rental, meanwhile raised $180 million in equity and debt funding last September. Another tech-enabled platform, Placemakr, separately raised $90 million from investors back in March.
Another flexible-living company is Sentral, whose 3,000-plus properties are owned by Iconiq Capital, the San Francisco-based investment firm whose investors include Mark Zuckerberg and Reid Hoffman; Iconiq is also a major investor in Sentral, the WSJ reported last year.
Expect more players backed by more capital, despite the uneven performance of some companies in the space, including Sonder, a short-term rental startup that went public last year via a SPAC merger and that last month cut one-fifth of its staff as part of a restructuring designed to shave $85 million in annual expenses. (On the customer-review platform Trustpilot, Sonder receives 1.3 out of five stars, with complaints about everything from a lack of hot water in its branded units to blood-stained linens.)
While the short-term rental business is complicated given its many moving parts, more individuals are adopting a nomadic existence owing to the pandemic’s ripple effects, and VCs like nothing more than an industry in flux.
“Our view,” Placemakr’s CEO tells The Real Deal, is that the “more the merrier. The institutionalization of an asset class doesn’t happen by a single group.”