Ever heard of the new normal? Hurricanes, storms, tsunamis and power outages – the new normal reflects what used to be known as anything but normal. Yet, in today’s disaster prone world, the new normal is fast becoming the landscape businesses must operate in. Given the intuition and innovative edge of some entrepreneurs, starting a venture that targets the new normal has become the normal for some.
Catherine Hooper strategy
Catherine Hooper is one such woman and the fiancé of Andrew Madoff, the son of the man branded as the world’s greatest Ponzi schemer since Ponzi himself, Bernie Madoff. Her startup Black Umbrella provides services that help people get ready to face natural disasters. She was ready and in business when the super storm Sandy came along.
Hooper was recently profiled in Fortune and described emergencies and natural disasters as very much the new normal within which people must get about their daily business. Hooper is right - the very things that most of us take for granted and so mundane are the very things you are unable to do when disasters happen.
Take for an example not being able to charge your phone or your computer which is top priority. Without our smartphones and our computers and tabs, we are rendered useless in most cases. Hooper’s company recommends buying an emergency power source like a generator and a heavy duty power pack.
She also recommends buying bathtub liners that safely store 100 gallons of water for drinking, bathing and sanitation needs and a powerful torch.
Being prepared for emergencies is her motto of success. Makes sense too when you realize just how relevant storing up on simple but essential things are, especially when the new normal means we are going to see more of earthquakes, storms and tsunamis in the years to come.
Tactics outsmarting disaster
As per UN estimates, half of the 10 deadliest disasters between 1975 and 2008 came after 2002. More are expected. In this part of the world, we had assumed – falsely- that we were safe from disasters and the 2004 tsunami proved us wrong. Since then, we have had earth tremors and floods and most of us have been caught unprepared. Whether you are in Colombo or New York, a natural disaster could cripple normal life and keep you trapped for weeks.
Hooper recommends strategies such as thinking ahead and deploying tactics that must outsmart the disaster. She says during Sandy, she was able to flush the toilets, make coffee and take a shower thanks to the water safely stored in her bathtub liner.
According to Hooper, the biggest mistake most of us make in our new normal set up is to assume that it will be not that bad. Black Umbrella as a startup thrives on making its customers understand that it could get worse – always be ready for the worst. It makes sense. The next one is always as bad as or worse than the one witnessed before.
Black Umbrella’s CEO has done her thinking ahead of everyone else – there could be cyber war that will make our smart electronics and computers useless or another terrorist attack – the super volcano in Yellowstone, Wyoming, USA can explode or the collapse of Cumbre Vieja, Spain’s active volcano ridge can set off mega tsunamis that are capable of rolling over half of the world.
Opportunities in shortcomings
Black Umbrella and Hooper must be commended for taking on a new normal and a new idea and in the process, turn it into a venture that actually provides people with preparedness way ahead of a disaster. Innovation is all about doing things differently and going where no one has gone before. Sometimes, business’ best lessons are learnt in life, in going through circumstances that tell us hey, no one has done something like this before.
There is an opportunity always where there is a shortcoming. Those of us in marketing who knew Philip Kotler’s book almost by heart are familiar with the story of the pineapple island.
Catherine Hooper has a lesson for us all and more so for would-be entrepreneurs. Watch the landscape for things that are happening. Are there things to be done and done differently? What is not being provided by anyone out there, a genuine need that can be translated into a dynamic start-up?
After all, businesses are all about fulfilling needs and wants; you don’t need to major in marketing to know that. In today’s wired world, needs are complex and some, as Black Umbrella teaches, are not governed at all by the supremacy of technology.
Some breakthroughs are in knowing your basics and applying them – such as what Black Umbrella has done. Ensuring you stock up on the basic everyday things. Ensuring your emergency readiness is at peak. Of course there are many needs out there, mentioned and unmentioned yet, almost all of them needed when disaster strikes.
And those are the opportunities that await the right entrepreneur.
(Nayomini, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional can be contacted at email@example.com)