“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
—English Proverb

It’s been said, there’s never a shortage of money… only a shortage of ideas. And perhaps nothing proves that more than watching business owners, solo entrepreneurs and everyday people make extraordinary changes during this time.

Pandemic afoot? No problem! Today, we share examples of people who found ways to keep serving, continue earning, and keep employees working in spite of uncertainty, mandated business closures and distancing guidelines.

While the stimulus/relief checks will help many people, we cannot and should not rely on the government to solve every problem. People are naturally resilient and creative—especially when circumstances require it! And as we pointed out in a recent article on making money from home, the current situation provides an opportunity to start a new stream of income or even make a career change.

Whether you are a small business owner, freelancer, or a former employee wondering what to do next, see what ideas and inspiration you can glean from the examples below!

Business events re-imagined.

Afrin and Iman Khan of Red Elephant, Inc. are business mentors and coaches known for their live events: creative networking events, speaker trainings, and transformational events for entrepreneurs. (They have also helped us produce our Prosperity Economic Movement’s Summit for Advisors since it began.)

In recent years, Red Elephant’s most popular event has been their three-day, live and in-person event, Stand Out and Thrive. It’s an event for entrepreneurs that creates a vibrant community, where people come as strangers and leave as friends mutual supporters. It’s also a major revenue driver for the company where Red Elephant’s signature year-long coaching program is sold.

This year, the live event had to be rescheduled with only a few weeks’ notice due to rapidly evolving guidelines. With no time to spare, Iman, Afrin, and their partner Max innovated to create a brand new VIRTUAL 3-day event. Aptly named “Flip the Script,” the new event was designed to help entrepreneurs in need of “pivoting” their own businesses! Additionally, before and after the new event, Afrin began live-streaming on Facebook each morning with special guests to be a support and a connector in the community.

As Iman describes it, the new events and structures were the result of simply asking themselves: “What do we need to do to CARE for people in this new environment?” They found relevant ways to care for others while offering value and meeting needs. They also articulated a helpful new paradigm, “The Evolution of a Crisis.” You can see the infographic that summarizes this on their blog.

With only a couple weeks lead time, the new “Flip the Script” virtual 3-day event evolved into a huge success! It connected 80 entrepreneurs in a 3-day online community which became the launchpad for another brand new program. On Monday April 20, Red Elephant kicks off “The Pivot,” a 16-week program to help entrepreneurs build influence and momentum serving clients in new ways during this time. As the result of their innovation, Red Elephant, Inc. has new fans, new revenue, new clients, and an opportunity to make a bigger difference.

From local to international yoga classes!

Ann Richardson Stevens and Erica Owners own the Studio Bamboo Institute of Yoga with two brick-and-mortar locations in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, VA. In early March, they noticed a decrease in class size and an increase in membership cancellations. Then the governor mandated the closure of all non-essential businesses.

On Monday, March 16, they closed their studios—both in high-rent districts—and furloughed more than 50 employees. What came next? Heartbreak and failure? That wasn’t an option! Ann and Erica were still committed to serving the community (plus they had rent to pay). They knew they had to take their classes and their community connection virtual… the next-best thing to “being there.”

Within 48 hours, they laid out a schedule for online classes and “marketed the hell out of it!” At the first class, eighty people—a number almost triple the students that they could put in their physical studio space—showed up to participate online!

Starting with just 5 morning classes the first week, they have grown their schedule to nearly 30 classes/week. While far less than what the two locations offered, as Ann explains, the virtual classes will eventually be offered in addition to—rather than instead of—in-person classes to serve the wider audience they are now attracting.

While Ann and Erica look forward to re-opening their studios, they have discovered some “silver linings” to the pivot. The virtual model will provide an additional revenue stream when the studio re-opens (likely scaled back from the current schedule). The virtual model allows people all over the world to attend, and it also allows for instructors in other locations to participate, as well. It has allowed them to bring back some of their instructors who moved out of the area and, most importantly, continue to serve a growing community!

From performances to private online music lessons.

Award-winning composer and musician Jeanette Alexander has pivoted her business more than once. When income from performances did not keep up with the rising cost of living in Southern California, she added private piano lessons to her repertoire in 2019. That turned out to be an instant hit! Jeanette loved teaching students of all ages and received rave reviews.

Unfortunately, social distancing rules soon made both concerts and typical private lessons impossible. Undeterred, Jeanette started offering piano lessons via Zoom. She started with her existing local clientele but has now expanded to teaching piano to people, well, anywhere!

Doing lessons via Zoomcan bea little more challenging, but Jeanette adapted her methods. “Both teacher and students need to be on the same page, literally, so I make sure we have the same music books, which helps,” says Jeanette. “Also, students can get more easily distracted so it’s important to have fun during the lesson. I keep the lessons fresh and upbeat at all times!”

Since a lockdown is the ideal time to brush up on skills or learn something new, contact Jeanette to inquire about piano lessons, from beginner to advanced, as well as instruction in music theory and songwriting skills. (The first lesson is a complimentary “meet and greet.”)

Accelerating the speed of progress.

Accelerating the speed of progress.

Most businesses have slowed down or halted during this season. But some have been propelled into speeding up intended changes. That was the case with Dr. Adam Mamelak, a dermatologist in Austin, TX.

Mamelak had long considered adding telemedicine to his practice which would allow him to see and diagnose patients using video. Now his office is fully onboard with the new technology, serving people who might otherwise put off booking an appointment under the current circumstances. “We have to have our avenues open to telemedicine,” said Mamelak.

A photographer who made herself “essential.”

A photographer who made herself “essential.”

There are many ways to solve an income interruption, including… a new job! Leslie Saber of Sabershots is a Seattle-area photographer who teaches photography at local colleges. However, this Spring season, there will be no gallery showings, photo shoots, classes or other gatherings.

When the news came of mandatory class cancellations, Leslie had already applied to become a seasonal employee of Washington State. In spite of dramatically reduced traffic, the ferry system IS still ferrying people and cars across Puget Sound. Leslie is now part of the team of essential employees that keeps this important transportation service going!

Leslie is enjoying the work and the camaraderie and teamwork of her new job. Rather than trying to recreate her usual work from her apartment, she has time to strategize next steps while receiving benefits and steady income. And as an added bonus, she can occasionally snap a scenic shot like the one above from her waterfront workplace!

Sewing with a purpose.

Sewing with a purpose.

Suay is a community-supported sewing shop Los Angeles that was on the verge of being closed by the government order. They employed a couple of dozen people to make linens and clothing from “upcycled” materials—not an essential business. But when co-owners Heather Pavlu, Lindsay Medoff and clothing designer Chloe Schempf heard the CDC’s advice for healthcare workers without proper protective gear to use cotton bandanas… everything changed.

They sprung into action to figure out how to manufacture the best masks they could for their local hospitals and beyond. The shop purchased a $1400 machine that could test fabrics for particle filtration levels and started testing every imaginable material, from fabrics to coffee filters! (As it turned out, they discovered two blue shop towel brands that did an excellent job of filtering particles.)

The Suay team resourced and tested mask patterns and spearheaded a mask-making movement around the world by sharing their research and instructions. Donating their energy, machines and organizational power, they launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay for labor and any supplies they could not have donated. The Heather and Lindsay have raised nearly $200,000 and the shop is manufacturing 10,000 masks each week! 

Working with the city of LA, masks are distributed to hospital and clinic employees and other workers who need them. It’s the ultimate win-win: Suay Sew Shop has been able to keep their workers employed while providing an essential service and product. And with their “open source” philosophy, they are enabling others to do the same. Find out more about the campaign on their website.

Building a viral fan base

Chris Mann is a singer who was on Season two of The Voice and went on to star in a North American tour of Phantom of the Opera. More recently, he has stayed closer to home in Wichita Kansas, recording music and performing occasional concerts. He’s worked hard to establish himself as a serious artist for 20 years, with spotty results.

In recent weeks, Chris watched all of his upcoming concerts get cancelled, one by one, and thought mistakenly the pandemic was going to kill what was left of his career. Then, after a frustrating shopping experience trying to gather hard-to-find supplies (like toilet paper) with too many other shoppers, Chris decompressed by writing silly lyrics to the tune of “My Sharona” (retitled “My Corona”). He recorded it on an app, filmed a video on his iphone and posted it online, thinking it would entertain a few people.

Four days later, the song had 20 million views. “Is this happening? This has never happened before,” Chris told Yahoo Music, who labeled him the “Weird Al of the Covid-19 era.”

Chris kept making videos… videos to make people laugh, cry, and be entertained as they stay home and cope with all of the changes. Millions of new fans have discovered Chris and his music. In return, Chris is donating proceeds from his viral videos to charity. And while his satire videos ARE pretty funny, our favorite is his grateful tribute to our frontline workers to the tune of an Alanis Morissette song (Kleenex recommended):

Unbelievable times; unprecedented opportunities.

This is an extraordinary time.

We have a wealth of technology at our fingertips.

We can connect to virtually anyone from anywhere.

Much of what used to happen in person can happen virtually—and globally.

And we are all in this together.

We have unprecedented challenges—and a wealth of possibility! Focus on what you can control. Ground yourself with gratitude. Collaborate with like-minded people. And when you seem to hit a dead-end… innovate a way out.

It is not only possible to create success in these challenging times… it is necessary!

What success stories do YOU know of? PIease share in the comments below!

And please share this article… let’s inspire more out-of-the-box thinking!

—By Kim Butler and Kate Phillips