Like so many entrepreneurs when the pandemic hit, Paintbucket founder Kristin Pulaski had to rethink her business.
"We were in shock," Pulaski told ABC News. "We thought it was going to be two weeks."
With the shutdown in New York lasting nearly three months for nail salons, the Brooklyn-based shop needed to figure out a new source of revenue, and so Pulaski turned to the community she had built on Instagram and engaged with her audience.
"I was realizing that our following wasn't just in New York City, it was nationwide," Pulaski said. "And it made me think, 'How can we expand Paintbucket into the rest of the country?'"
Pulaski and her team began offering virtual tutorials and classes, but the game-changer was creating an e-commerce business with Shopify, a platform offering tools to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Now, she was able to sell merchandise nationwide, including Paintbucket's signature nail wraps, something that she created during the pandemic to allow her customers to have the salon's designs at home.
"I found a manufacturer that could make 100% polish nail wraps and print our designs right onto them. So it just seemed like an organic solution for what people needed at that time," Pulaski said.
Even with her salon back open, Pulaski says that nail wraps have become an essential part of their business and she plans to continue expanding the product line.
"I think Kristen and Paintbucket is this example of entrepreneurs who, during the pandemic, created a brand new business that will be around for a long time." Harley Finkelstein, president of Shopify and serial entrepreneur, told ABC News. "They were not waiting for things to go back to normal, they were incredibly resilient … and I think they inspire all of us to think differently about how we're going to run our businesses in the future."
Over the last year, Americans have been quitting their jobs and starting new businesses like never before. A record 4.5 million people exited the workforce in November 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and new business applications hit a record 5.4 million in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"For a long time, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur or starting a business was scary. It was expensive, it was complicated but what has happened is that technology has made it really easy for anyone with an idea to sell a product or a service to anyone else around the world. And at the same time, the cost of failure is trending towards zero," Finkelstein said.
And whether you're starting a new business or hoping to pivot as Pulaski did with Paintbucket, Finkelstein offered a few tips to keep in mind:
Tip 1: Know your customer
"You need to have a deep understanding, a deep empathy for the people that are buying from you." Finkelstein said. "Ask them: Who are you? How did you hear about me? What do you love most about my business and what do you hate about my business?"
Tip 2: Become an expert
"No. 2 is to deeply understand your product. At the end of the day, what people are buying from you is your product," he said. "So if you are making tea or you're making T-shirts or you're a nail salon, make sure you have an incredible product."
Finkelstein says that over the last few years, consumers have made a shift in their buying behavior, showing that they want to buy from companies that are specialized and who are passionate about their products.
"Consumers have started to vote with their wallets, to buy from independent retail brands and independent businesses whenever possible," he said.
Tip 3: Seize this specific moment in time
"Go into it with gusto. Be fearless. The cost of failure is so low right now that if you try something and it doesn't work, it's OK to try something else." Finkelstein said. "This is the best time to start a business, maybe ever."