COVID-19 has shifted the world significantly within a few months, with entrepreneurs having to navigate an entirely different environment.
Depending on the sector and industry, different action plans are necessary. For example, working in the online retail, technology and delivery industries where businesses are booming is a completely different picture from hospitality, travel and entertainment.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as start-ups are the most affected by the pandemic, as more than 70 percent of start-ups globally have had to terminate contracts of full-time employees.
The adverse impact of the pandemic was seen through widespread unemployment, lack of productivity and the downturn of economies.
Despite many existing entrepreneurs and start-ups struggling during the pandemic, there was an increase in entrepreneurial activity.
A number of employees who were laid off took to opening their own businesses as a way of earning income to keep themselves afloat.
In 2020, close to 280,000 new businesses were registered in Malaysia between March and September, with new ventures in food and beverage, online retail and fitness industries.
During times of crisis, government support towards industries has always been essential.
The Malaysian government has taken to supporting local entrepreneurs by launching several financial relief programmes such as the Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP 3.0), Targeted Loan Repayment Assistance (TRA), SME Digitisation Grant and others.
Besides relying on financial support, SMEs and start-ups need to innovate in order to grow and sustain their business.
Some entrepreneurs have been opportunistic during the pandemic, repurposing and redirecting their existing knowledge and skills to new needs that have emerged.
Many took to producing and selling face masks and shields to their local communities.
Social enterprise Biji-biji Initiative which champions sustainable living, mobilised their network of makers to take part in a movement called Social Textiles, which aimed to deliver 50,000 scrub sets to medical staff.
This initiative also benefited the B40 group by paying tailors from these communities with each scrub set they made.
Catering business PichaEats also had to repurpose by switching their target from catering customers from businesses to private households.
Entrepreneurs have had to diversify their business models in order to identify new needs and gaps to fill.
While most start-ups may see repurposing as a short-term opportunity or solution, it remains a fundamental survival strategy and growth opportunity for economies.
The pandemic has influenced the entrepreneurial environment greatly, with many employees who were laid off during these hard times are driven to start a business as a means of survival.
It will be a rocky path ahead for entrepreneurs as they navigate new circumstances in order to move in the right direction, but COVID-19 has shown the resilience and innovation that they possess to overcome challenges.