Finding Opportunity in Adversity

If there's one thing all entrepreneurs have in common, it’s the ability to find the silver lining in any cloud. Sometimes, that saying can be interpreted literally—for example, entrepreneurs in my area of Southern California are already taking advantage of the coming El Niño storm season.

El Niño is a severe weather system that brings torrential rains. The last time a strong El Niño hit Southern California back in the 1990s, freeways flooded, cars floated away and homes slid down hillsides. Apparently, people have learned from that experience, because they're taking El Niño more seriously this time around. In recent weeks in my neighborhood, I've seen new windows being put in, rain gutters being cleaned, and roofers frantically hammering away to replace or patch roofs before the rain hits.

It's a funny turnaround, because all summer long, entrepreneurs were benefiting from Southern California's unprecedented drought. I saw dozens of lawns being replaced with xeriscape (drought-tolerant landscaping), solar power installers going door to door to help customers cut their air-conditioning bills, and even lawns being dyed green so they could look fresh without watering.

You don't have to be in Southern California to benefit from the growing number of extreme weather events that are taking place around the country. Look back over the past decade or so, and look ahead to coming weather predictions, and you'll be inspired with many ideas for ways a small business could help Americans protect themselves from storms, floods and snow. Here are just a few of them:

  • Sell emergency preparedness kits, ranging from first-aid supplies to freeze-dried food.
  • Provide emergency training for schools, churches or other community organizations that are responsible for vulnerable populations.
  • Retrofit buildings to protect them from potential disasters endemic to your region.
  • Consult with small businesses to help them develop disaster plans for protecting their equipment, employees and data in case of emergency.
  • Start a business to digitize valuable personal records, such as Social Security cards, birth certificates, insurance papers, loan documents and more so they can be stored in the cloud, protected from natural disaster. (This is the kind of thing everyone means to do but never gets around to actually doing.)
  • Sell pet safety kits to help people feed, protect and transport pets during an emergency.
  • Stock up on products to help people deal with the coming severe weather. You wouldn't believe how many people in Southern California I've heard talking about buying industrial-strength rain boots—something you rarely see at all around here. Entrepreneurs who have them on hand are likely to win big.

Whether you're looking to start a business or already have one, smart entrepreneurs can turn any type of adversity into opportunity. All you have to do is think about what people are likely to need in that situation, and what they'll have trouble finding that you can provide. That goes for services as well as products. Severe weather causes uncertainty, worry and fear. If you can ease people's minds by helping lessen their fears and worries, they'll turn to your business for help—and you'll be able to turn lemons into lemonade.

You can probably brainstorm dozens of other ideas yourself. Your SCORE mentor can help you come up with others. Visit to find a mentor today.

Rieva Lesonsky
<p> Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. <br /> <a href="" target="_blank" title="GrowBizMedia"></a> | <a href="" target="_blank" title="Rieva on Twitter">@rieva</a> | <a href="" title="blogs by Rieva">More from Rieva</a></p>


Great article. Sometimes we

Great article. Sometimes we get so busy that we forget to think outside the box.

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