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Business Opportunities Coming Out of the Pandemic

By: Christopher Heer, Annette Latoszewska | Last updated: February 14, 2021
With more and more people vaccinated every day, we’re starting to see the light at the end of a very long tunnel. And while COVID-19 will undoubtedly come to be known for, among other things, its devastating impact on businesses, particularly small businesses, the role of the pandemic in encouraging innovation and the many new businesses that emerged to solve once unfamiliar challenges, should not be overlooked. Similarly, as we start to think about recovering from the pandemic, entrepreneurs and innovators should consider the potential for new, profitable business ventures that is attributable to the post-pandemic status quo.

This potential is the product of multiple contemporaneous factors:

For one, the pandemic has necessitated change in countless industries. As we start to emerge from this recession, our purchasing habits, our expectations of businesses, our values and our preferences are all altered. As a result, demand for various goods and services is not what it was pre-pandemic. For example, many businesses have announced plans to continue to have many of their employees work from home even after pandemic restrictions are lifted, this could mean increased demand for things like productivity, project management and e-meeting software. Other examples include goods and services relating to telemedicine, e-commerce, grocery delivery, home-fitness, home improvement an even at-home experiential dining.

New demand is, however, just one small piece of the puzzle. As we emerge from the pandemic, debt is also uncharacteristically affordable. The Bank of Canada has stated that it expects interest rates to remain at record lows until 2023, making borrowing to finance a business’ start-up costs much more attractive and much more accessible.

Further, in January 2021, Statistics Canada reported unemployment had risen to 9.4%, the highest rate since August of the preceding year. The result is that there remains a large number of skilled workers seeking new opportunities following pandemic lay offs, giving new employers many capable applicants from which to choose when establishing their workforce.

Consider, too, that competition is lessened. A survey of members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business revealed that more than 200,000 Canadian businesses could close permanently during the COVID-19 crisis. Regrettable as it is, it presents a unique opportunity for those looking to enter a market, not only to find a foothold but also to price their products and services higher. While small businesses are particularly vulnerable, even big names have taken hard hits. Among the list of businesses that have either filed for creditor protection, liquidated, or closed most or all of their Canadian locations are Le Château, Garage and Dynamite, DavidsTea, GNC, Pier1 and Bose. Even Starbucks had revealed plans in 2020 to close 200 Canadian locations. It will be interesting to see what new giants have their beginnings during this key period. We may just see a new name in loose-leaf tea, in home décor, or in sport nutrition.

Commercial property is also currently less expensive. With so many businesses out of business, and those remaining businesses reassessing their real estate needs, landlords are suddenly short tenants. Even Scotiabank was reported to have decided to leave the top-most floors of their namesake building in downtown Toronto, for the first time since the building opened its doors in the late 1980s. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to find space amidst what would otherwise be commercial property in high demand.

When times get tough, and budget cuts are front-and-centre, while perhaps counter-intuitive, marketing and advertising expenditures are often the first on the chopping block. As others look to pare down their marketing initiatives, new businesses may profit from cheaper marketing and advertising costs as well as more advertising space.

Further, while a substantial majority of the population has only suffered financially over the course of the pandemic, it’s no secret that others have seen considerable profits and are looking for ways to continue to grow their wealth. As a result, businesses may find that it’s a particularly good time to turn to angel investors to get their great ideas off the ground.

Of course, while enamored of short-term potential and opportunity, new and newly thriving businesses would be amiss to overlook the many steps that, if taken today, can be instrumental to long term success. One key example is the protection of their intellectual property assets. Any business, big or small, new or long-established, in any industry, has intellectual property (IP) to its name. Protecting that IP today means maximizing its value as the business grows. For most businesses, the first logical step to that effect will be securing protection for their trademarks.

A trademark may be one or a combination of words, sounds, designs, tastes, colours, textures, scents, moving images, three-dimensional shapes, modes of packaging or holograms that distinguish an individual’s or a company’s goods or services from others in the marketplace. Most often, your first and primary trademark will be your business name. Take, for example, DavidsTea and Bose, from our earlier list. Each of these business names is a registered trademark. Each serves to identify a tea, and an audio speaker, respectively, as originating from a particular vendor.

This is important, because as a business grows, its reputation grows with it, and a positive reputation can attract new customers as well as keep previous customers coming back. You’ll want to make sure those customers are coming back to you. Unprotected, your trademark may be misappropriated by a third party looking to divert some of those customers their way. The best way to prevent that from happening, is to register your trademark with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and other intellectual property offices in the key jurisdictions in which you will do business.

Also important to note, are the trademark rights of others. Before investing time and money into a business to capitalize on some or all of the above opportunities, you will want to make sure that whatever name you’ve chosen for your business is (1) available for you to use, and (2) if you plan to register it as a trademark, registrable. A trademark search can check both boxes. By conducting a trademark search, you can ensure that your investment into your brand doesn’t go to waste when a third party brings suit against you for infringing their trademark rights. You can also ensure that, whenever you choose to register your trademark, you won’t have other similar registrations standing in your way.

If you’re looking to start or grow a business, and want to learn how we can help, contact us for a complimentary and confidential initial telephone appointment with a member of our team.