The small businesses that survived coronavirus pandemic 2020

8 mins read


Andy Yates is a successful serial entrepreneur and angel investor who helps and supports a portfolio of growth companies. 

He is a regular contributor to This is Money and teamed up with us to run the Great British Entrepreneur Challenge.

Here, he tells the stories of the small businesses that he is involved with that transformed what they do in order to survive a year like no other.  

Oomph Wellness provides exercise and activity services to older adults to improve their quality of life - it was growing fast and then the pandemic hit care homes

Oomph Wellness provides exercise and activity services to older adults to improve their quality of life – it was growing fast and then the pandemic hit care homes

The world of start-ups has always been full of ups and downs, unpredictable highs and lows, constant change. 

Throw in the most extraordinary year we have ever experienced, and entrepreneurs have been facing some of the biggest challenges of their lives.

As an entrepreneur that co-founded and exited my own business, I now help a portfolio of start-ups and growth businesses and I have seen first hand how the global pandemic has turned their worlds upside down. 

So how have they managed to navigate the tumultuous seas created by storm Covid-19? 

The reality is so many businesses have had to rip up the rulebook and completely change their businesses or go bust.

Andy Yates is an entrepreneur who founded and exited his own business

Andy Yates is an entrepreneur who founded and exited his own business 

Take team-building company Wildgoose Events, which had to change its business overnight to avoid disaster when face-to-face events fell off a cliff. 

Or Oomph Wellness, which provides exercise and activity services to older adults to improve their quality of life. 

It was growing fast only to see its core care home market, and promised new investment, collapse.

Wildgoose has just had its best-ever end to the year with virtual Christmas parties and online events – from escape rooms to murder mysteries – going down a storm. 

Meanwhile, Oomph has launched a popular and comprehensive online content platform to engage both care home staff and residents. 

These sort of victories snatched from the jaws of defeat show how true entrepreneurs can overcome even the largest of odds to survive.

Grounded businesses are coming out of hibernation 

Others have had to hibernate but are reawakening now a vaccine has provided light and hope. 

Accelerate My Mortgage, which helps homeowners save money on their mortgage, hit a brick wall when the housing market ground to a halt during lockdown and had to batten down the hatches and keep costs to a bare minimum. 

But now business is bouncing back strongly as households look for mortgage savings and quick and easy switches and rewards.

Small business success: Events company Wildgoose, founded by Jonny Edser, pivoted from real-world team-building events to virtual ones. Its Christmas parties have proved popular

Small business success: Events company Wildgoose, founded by Jonny Edser, pivoted from real-world team-building events to virtual ones. Its Christmas parties have proved popular

Meanwhile fellow Welsh business Sports Holdings, which provides digital platforms and tools to help sports organisations generate new income streams, suffered along with clubs during lockdown. 

 Now its partnerships and business have started to kick off as sports have returned and clubs need new revenues more than ever before. 

The reality for a lot of companies and start-ups is that growth in their core business has, understandably, been hard to come by. 

But this has led to creative entrepreneurs seeking out creative solutions – which are likely to bear some very promising fruit in 2021 and beyond. 

Some small businesses that shut their doors due to Covid-19 are now starting to reopen

Some small businesses that shut their doors due to Covid-19 are now starting to reopen

Perkbox had been growing very rapidly, providing attractive employee perks and benefits for hundreds of thousands of UK employees. 

The pandemic slowed growth – but gave the business a chance to refocus on important new products and look to international markets like Australia for new growth – opening up some great new potential.

Tough times can lead to big opportunities 

Some start-ups have also had to cope with seismic shifts that are likely to change the way things are done for ever. 

Take New Wave Learning, which has responded to a transformation in the learning and development industry by building new blended programmes that combine online learning with human support. 

More than that, it has developed programmes to tackle burning issues made worse by Covid, including mental wellness and diversity, and innovated with a delivery model that reduces cost to tens of pounds per person instead of hundreds or thousands. 

This means the many, not just the few, can benefit – even in the most cost conscious of Covid-hit corporates.  

In fact, historically, recessions have proved fruitful times to grow start-ups and spot opportunities. 

Bristol-based Data Cubed has run a successful data consultancy for years – based on helping companies use their data better and run businesses more productively. 

New Wave Learning pivoted by building new blended programmes that combine online learning with human support

New Wave Learning pivoted by building new blended programmes that combine online learning with human support

When the Covid crisis hit, the business saw revenues fluctuate as clients faced uncertain futures and budgets. 

This spurred on the team to look at building new subscription data products that could help SMEs whatever the economic weather. The result? An exciting new strategy born from difficult times.

Of course some of the businesses I helped sadly reached the end of their journey in 2020, as the economic woes brought on by Covid proved too hard to overcome. And for others it will take time to heal and recover.

For all the survivors, their resilience, pioneering spirit, flexibility, creativity and sheer determination will hold them in great stead for brighter times. 

I believe entrepreneurs and businesses that have come through this crisis can be stronger than ever before, which continues to give me hope and passion for the future. 

Small Business Essentials

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