Opinion: Finding Opportunity in a Pandemic
Opinion: Finding Opportunity in a Pandemic
Entrepreneur Voices: Edwin Frondozo
“I see this as the best of times […] when new partnerships and opportunities will grow. To the entrepreneurs who are reading this—take a look at the assets that you have today.”
As the CEO and co-founder of the Slingshot VoIP telecommunications network and a key leader for Startup Canada, Edwin Frondozo is heavily involved in Canada’s startup ecosystem.
He is also an international keynote speaker, the producer and co-host of the Business Leadership Podcast, and a tech entrepreneur experienced in identifying the crossroads where business, innovation, and people meet.
Describe your business before COVID-19. How has it been impacted?
That’s a multifaceted question for a number of businesses that are running at this point. When it comes to Slingshots VoIP telecommunications services, it was going to be a big year where we were investing in sales operations, building out our outbound sales teams, investing in cold calling, SEO, marketing, and organic reach.
So when March came around and the global pandemic hit, we pulled the plug on outreach, unsure that people were going to take phone calls because they were just worried about their safety. We are positioned as a company that provides remote work infrastructure, and we are confident when things come back to somewhat normal—that the opportunity will still be there. If not, it will be a bit easier to sell infrastructure that allows people to work from home.
I’m leveraging this time at home to put my thought leadership on social media. I’m also talking with business leaders and entrepreneurs.
What is your biggest concern right now? What is your biggest concern looking into the future?
My biggest concern right now is not knowing when the physical isolation and physical distancing will be lifted. Living in a small apartment with my wife and my daughter, who is almost four years old, has been challenging in many ways.
We haven’t spent this much time together I think since my daughter was born. My wife and I have been discussing a number of things. What’s going to happen with school? What’s going to happen when she goes back to work? Will the schools open up? How will I be impacted, because I work from home?
The biggest concern is what the new world of work will look like.
How has the entrepreneurship ecosystem been impacted by COVID-19?
The way I see the entrepreneurship ecosystem, there are two sides to the coin right now.
You see essential businesses that are still running and still operating, whether the employees want to work or not. Those businesses are flourishing. There are also businesses that are growing because people are on the internet all the time.
I hear about people who provide health services, meditation services, mindfulness services, and even personal training or exercise. These folks are flourishing because their ad spend is a quarter of what it used to be—it’s like the heyday again.
And then there’s the other side of the coin where businesses, restaurant owners, and folks who have in-person places are really concerned that their business will not be around when the physical distancing is lifted.
Even though the government is doing a great job by providing some relief on rent payments—they can’t eliminate them. So whether it comes back in three months, six months, 12 months—there’s going to be a lot of money owed. There’s a lot of uncertainty about where to go and what to do.
Are there any recommendations or solutions that would be helpful for the government to understand from the perspective of entrepreneurs?
The biggest thing that I think that the government can see are these solopreneurs who may not have been really financially literate, in the sense that they weren’t paying themselves a salary.
Where do they go to get help? Is it EI because they weren’t paying CPP? Do they go for the CERB? And for those of us who live in small spaces with young children, it’s difficult to operate when we’re so exhausted.
What opportunities do entrepreneurs have as we navigate the next few months?
I was on a summit call recently with global leaders from around the world. The speaker—a very well known entrepreneur—quoted the opening line from A Tale of Two Cities:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
I see this as the best of times. I feel like these are when new partnerships and opportunities will grow. To the entrepreneurs who are reading this—take a look at the assets that you have today.
What are you missing, or who can complement your business?
Because everyone is willing to talk right now. You could reach out to anyone and say, “Hey, I love what you’re doing. Why don’t we chat to see if there are any collaborations that we could do to help our community navigate through these times.”
You have to be open to these opportunities and you have to remove yourself from the fear and uncertainty. Turn off the news, and just think about how you could be of service to your community and to the country.
Is there a story or an individual in the entrepreneurial ecosystem that has given you hope?
Yeah, I see a lot of hope. Even for me during these “tight times”, someone recently reached out with a new sponsorship opportunity for my podcast. I have a friend who just closed a deal for over $120,000. It’s the biggest contract he’s ever had and it happened during a global pandemic.
Hearing these stories of people who are still willing to pay for services that you can provide is very hopeful. It’s just a matter of us keeping our minds set on the future and providing immense value to your clients.
After COVID-19 is over, what do you think the world will look like?
That’s a philosophical question. I think the world will be very conscious of the impact that we have on one another. I visualize in-person conferences, very different for the first few months and years. People will be wearing face masks and people won’t be handshaking. It’ll be interesting.
A lot of working from home, and I think for those who are not entrepreneurs they will go back to work and question their purpose and whether they want to be working because of the extended time away from work.
There’s gonna be a big shift in the world in terms of people’s purpose and their mission, which is where I think and hope we might all start working for things that we’re passionate about and provide impact to the world.
How can entrepreneurs come together to support one another right now?
I think the entrepreneurs first off should be reaching out to all their friends, colleagues, mentors and mentees.
Send a text, ask them how they’re doing, send a video message—I do that once a day to someone I haven’t heard from for a while just to say, “Hey, what’s going on?”
Reach out to your network, and ask how can we collaborate; ask what opportunities to help there are. It’s very important to keep the conversation alive and to be in the mindset of solving problems for everyone.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs (aspiring and current) in light of the current situation?
My advice is going to be typical to anyone thinking about entrepreneurship, or who are entrepreneurs: just do it.
We’re in a time where we don’t have to be perfect. People are looking for solutions. Looking for hope. So if you’re an entrepreneur, you are a leader. You are a community beacon. People will look to you for guidance, for hope, for inspiration.
Because you are in action, you’re moving.
You are continuing to build and create in a world where there is a lot of fear and uncertainty, so get into action and just be your best.