In 2016, Danielle Leslie was unexpectedly laid off from her job at an online course-hosting platform.
"I just remember crying on my way on the way to the train, because I just flashed back to having to move in with my mom just a few short years earlier," she said. "I had failed at a venture and still had student loan debt, still had no savings, no car, no prospect of what was going to happen next."
The future was a big question mark, she recalled. But after a friend asked for her help to make an online course and then others asked her to consult, Leslie realized she had all the knowledge she needed to be her own business. Not only that, she was making more money being her own boss.
"You have everything you need right here, and it starts with your story," Leslie explained. "So whether you're creating a course or you're working in a role, you can use your life experiences, what you've overcome, to create a better world."
Leslie is the founder of Course from Scratch, an online instruction series that helps people start their own virtual classes. Her company had its first $1 million sales month in March and then another one in August.
With more than 898,000 people filing for unemployment in the U.S. as of the latest Labor Department report for the week ending October 10, more individuals are looking for ways to turn their skills into a career they can do from home because of the coronavirus shutdowns.
Online course company Kajabi has seen a 165 percent increase in new accounts since the beginning of the pandemic. The platform allows people to upload their own courses and charge a fee to interested students, and is on track to make $1 billion in customer revenue this year. Leslie's Course from Scratch is hosted there, alongside other platforms.
"We had a lot of people that were furloughed from their jobs, are stuck at home and thinking, 'How could I make some extra money?'" Kajabi CEO Kenny Rueter said. "We had some other people that said, 'Wait a second.' It was a wake-up call that you don't really have control over your own destiny if you're out in the corporate world."
Rueter started the company over a decade ago after he built a PVC pipe sprinkler system that acted as a water toy for his kids. He found there were very few places that would allow him to upload his plans online and sell them.
"That's what Kajabi is," he explained. "It allows you to sell your knowledge online and then to market that and to find buyers and to nurture those prospects into buying your knowledge."
It's that innate experience about a situation that Lauren Bongiorno is tapping into. The diabetes health coach was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 7 and had wished all her life there were more mentorship options out there for people with her disease. She gives advice on everything from diets to lifestyle choices.
"With coronavirus specifically, there has been more stress on people's lives and with stress, when that comes, you need a support system," she said. "That's what coaching does to an extent. It gives you guidance and support and accountability."
Before the pandemic, Lauren Bongiorno Coaching was mostly remote, but she did have a WeWork office for some employees. However, she was forced to go fully virtual and has found even more success. Bongiorno, who also hosts her course on Kajabi as well as other platforms, has seen her six-figure company reach four times as many customers during the pandemic as her previous four years in the business. She attributes it to more people taking time out to focus on their health, while so many activities are paused.
"They realize maybe they have more time on their hands than they would have maybe previously to carve out time for programs like this and that's going to pay off," she said.
While the aspect of having to start something new especially at this time can be daunting, Bongiorno assures people that individuals are a better judge of what people need based on their own experiences.
"With the new reality of what's happening, with more people working from home, don't let that scare you from thinking you can't make a living that way," Bongiorno said.