Starting a Business During a Pandemic

Legal Eagles: Might Not Be as Crazy as It Sounds

If you’ve thought about starting a business but never had the time, or found other excuses to keep you from taking the initial leap, consider this (now) to be a sign to go for it, even during the pandemic.

Whether it is because you were laid off from your last employment, unhappy with your current job or just want more control over your time and work, starting a business lets you be your own boss. This is particularly beneficial considering the obstacles and challenges LGBTQ individuals face in the job market, including discrimination in the workplace.

The recent landmark Supreme Court case decision in June gave a major win for the LGBTQ community by barring employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation. The Justices decided that discrimination based on sexual or gender orientation is prohibited because it is ultimately discrimination based on “sex.” This allows LGBTQ individuals to be protected under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

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While this new federal law is a significant victory, this unfortunately does not mean that the issue of LGBTQ employment discrimination is completely gone now. There are some possible loopholes: if an employer has a religious reason for not hiring or terminating an LGBTQ employee, the employer may claim it has a protected religious exemption which would allow it to do so. The fight for equality is not over yet, and there are still injustices and prejudices which make it harder for LGBTQ individuals to excel in the standard job system.

The overall uncertainties about employment, because of discrimination concerns or business closures and downsizing due to COVID-19, are all the more reason to start a business, whether it’s your full-time gig or a side hustle. There is a risk to starting a business, but there are also currently uncertainties and instability with employment. Should you be cautious and do your research? Yes, of course, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t unique benefits to becoming an entrepreneur in our current economy.

Now, more than ever, the accessibility of resources is a tremendous benefit to prospective entrepreneurs. There are endless books, podcasts, blogs and websites which can guide you through the beginning steps of starting a business. A great place to start is the Small Business Administration’s resource web page. The pandemic has forced us into a world of virtual interactions, but this also means you and your potential customers aren’t restricted by geography and can meet people, access information and order goods and services from home. Maintaining low overhead costs initially is one of the most common pieces of advice for new businesses, and this is much easier to do when the new normal is for people to work from home.

You can learn a lot about what to do by paying attention to what not to do. Even established corporations are realizing there are flaws with how their business is structured, providing a learning opportunity and a market opening for more efficient competitors. This was one of the first economic realizations during the pandemic when larger supply chain companies were unable to adjust after international shipments were halted, opening the market to smaller businesses that provide locally sourced goods. That’s just one example of how the market and business models will need to change in the long run. If entrepreneurs stay informed about new consumer needs and create a sustainable business model, they can help fill the gaps in our current system.

Intrigued? Here are things to keep in mind:

Don’t hesitate to launch an innovative business. People are looking for change, and consumers are open to new business models. There is a growth in consumer consciousness, and many people care more about quality goods and services rather than just hyper-efficiency.

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Consult with advisors. There are many legal and financial considerations when forming a new business, which a business attorney and other advisors can help you with. It’s time-consuming to research all of the initial considerations, licenses, registrations and business forms you will need to start your business. That said, it’s much easier to start a business with all of the correct filings, rather than facing delays and needing amendments to make sure the business is created properly.

For instance, you can consult with an attorney and a tax accountant regarding what would be the best structure for your business model, whether it’s an LLC, C Corp, S Corp or Non-Profit. Other considerations may depend on what type of service or product you are offering. If you are creating a new product, you might need to check if there are any patents, copyrights or trademarks already filed for that product or design. The right set of advisors can help prevent issues from arising and make sure you can start your business smoothly.

Plan ahead for your funding. Companies need to think long-term if they want to be successful in our changing economy. Find investors, get crowdfunding or use the bootstrapping approach to start your business. You need to plan for some inconsistencies in cash flow and know that it will take time to get your business off the ground. However, there are currently lower interest rates for borrowers, remote working can help minimize overhead costs and e-commerce has reduced costs for equipment and product inventory, which overall makes this a perfect time to get started.

Sara Shariff is an attorney with Hull and Chandler in Charlotte who practices business law and estate planning law. Her fields of expertise include business formation, contracts, corporate transitions and mergers and acquisitions.

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