Not since the Great Depression have so many Americans lost their jobs, and so many businesses shuttered their doors. The global pandemic has struck close to home whether you’re in Milwaukee or Milan.

While COVID-19 has upended the world, disruptive times are often a catalyst for growth, change and innovation. If you’ve lost a job, or simply if the pandemic brought to life that you weren’t living the life you want, now is the time to soul search, pivot and follow your dreams.

Instead of bemoaning fate, these three entrepreneurs looked at the roadblock in their paths as an opportunity to pivot in unique ways and find even greater success from their new direction, than the one they left, and so can you.

Get Creative

If math teachers could teach virtually and kids could go to school via Zoom, singer Cheryl Porter reasoned that they could just as easily learn to sing over the Internet as well.

Porter, a classically trained opera singer who has coached IL VOLO, as well as talent from The Voice and America’s Got Talent, went from teaching in person, to developing an online course and teaching privately via her platform. In just six months she’s made two million dollars and catapulted to the top vocal coach in the world.

“We don’t grow from our comfort zones. We grow from difficulties, adversity, challenges and doubt. It is in those times that we find our true calling and determination. This pandemic has put everyone to the ultimate test. It has made us face our deepest fears and our biggest adversary, ourselves. All change is good. It forces us to change the rules and change the game. If we can find that light of motivation, especially in these uncertain times, we can do anything!”

No one will argue that 2020 is a challenging year, but the success stories of these diverse opportunities should provide hope and inspiration to make lemonade from a year dripping in lemons.

Turn Your Pain into Passion

As a man of science, Dr. Matthew Putman knew how deadly COVID-19 was when he contracted it in March. Having seen 90 percent of patients in New York who were put on a ventilator later die, Dr. Putman was adamant he didn’t want to be intubated, even though his blood oxygen level was dangerously low.

Matthew’s father, John, a lifelong inventor with over 50 patents to his name, decided to take matters into his own hands and very quickly build a non-invasive respiratory relief device similar to a CPAP sleep apnea machine to try and save his son’s life. While he worked to create a device, Matthew used a CPAP device and saw his condition improve.

“One of the most distressing things about COVID is that the power we have to combat it is so limited at the moment,” said Dr. Matthew Putman. “There are not standard therapeutics. nHale was a way to empower people to not give up hope or to rely on a system that is overwhelmed by the crisis.”

The device John built in his garage works like a CPAP machine but is about $300-400 versus $1500 for a traditional CPAP device. Matthew, who is the CEO of AI manufacturing company Nanotronics, knew the machine called nHale his Dad created could be a true lifesaver for so many during this crisis.

“We were poised to do something because we had spent 10 years building intelligent factories that made domestic scaling of devices possible,” Putman continued. “I had never thought of making BiPAP devices before, but when this happened it seemed clear to me that there was no reason why we could not make them faster and less expensive than others. We had a platform that felt like it was waiting for nHale.”

The father/son duo recently announced that their breathing device obtained Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, Nanotronics has donated a number of nHale machines to healthcare facilities that traditionally serve communities of color and are disproportionally affected by COVID-19, and thanks to a partnership with The Health Bank – this life-saving device will be made available in 16 countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

Branch Out

Breaking into the music is never easy and seemingly near impossible when the clubs and bars you would normally perform in were closed due to COVID. But this didn’t stop Darrell Kelley, a young musical talent who creates performance art that shines a light on social injustice.

As the spotlight on Black Lives Matter and other social causes garnered national attention, Kelley knew he had to be a part of the conversation so he got creative. He developed his own “pop-up tour” where he traveled to different cities and simply began performing al fresco. It’s a socially distanced way that allowed him to lend his artistic talent to the cause and organically grow a fan base. Today he is charting the world indie charts.