Can You Turn Extreme Weather Into Opportunity?

Protection from disaster

Entrepreneurs are eternal optimists, always ready to see the bright side. Give us a huge bag of lemons, and will make lemonade—then open a lemonade stand. That’s what came to mind recently when, driving around my neighborhood, I noticed how many entrepreneurs in my area of Southern California are already taking advantage of the coming El Niño storm season.

El Niño is an extreme weather system that brings torrential rains. The last time El Niño hit Southern California back in the 1990s, freeways flooded, cars floated away in homes slid down hillsides. Apparently, people have learned from that experience, because they’re taking El Niño 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 another kind of extreme weather: Southern California’s severe 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 on up 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 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 to have them on hand are likely to win big.

You can probably brainstorm dozens of other ideas yourself. Whether you’re looking to start a business 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. Extreme weather causes uncertainty, worry and fear. If you can ease people’s minds by helping lessen their fear and worry, they’ll turn to your business for help—and you’ll be able to find the silver lining in that cloud (literally, in this case).

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