This article originally appeared in my regular column at Forbes.com:
As the sun peeked through the clouds this morning and I felt the warmth through my kitchen window, my thoughts, like those of many others, turned to the 7 million people across the Eastern U.S. still without electricity because of Hurricane Sandy. Some are without homes. Temperatures are expected to drop this weekend as victims of the storm wait for power and for a “new normal” to return. Our hearts and prayers go out to all our friends in New York City and New Jersey, in particular, where we do business on a daily basis. In some ways, life will never be quite the same.
Like many media companies that call New York City home, Forbes itself has struggled with email outages, although news and social media feeds have continued to roll. Others including Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Gawker media were literally brought to a halt, as the storm at the center of the news had literally crippled them. Millions awoke to a city with no newspapers, let alone the basic necessities of a transit system and electrical power. The news of the devastation is bleak: tunnels flooded, bridges and roads washed out, downed trees and power lines making commuting and communications impossible. Experts estimate the cost will reach $55 billion or more.
Amid these reports, we continue to celebrate the smallest of victories: a child born, a family rescued, a town coming together to help its neighbors.
For entrepreneurs, a natural disaster of this magnitude does a peculiar and even a wonderful thing: it generates ideas. By their very instinct, entrepreneurs identify vulnerabilities and look for solutions. That instinct has led a number of entrepreneurs to help those in need the best way we know how – through entrepreneurial thinking. Here are a few of the inspiring examples I’ve seen:
There’s The FFS, a jewelry company that created a bracelet in honor of New York City with all profits going to disaster relief. The two sisters behind the design are no strangers to this type of effort – they also helped victims of the Haitian earthquakes and Hurricane Katrina in a similar way.
Then there’s the entrepreneurial teen who sold hot coffee from a big thermos he wedged into his mother’s shopping cart to the long long line of commuters waiting for gas.
Some large corporations are thinking like entrepreneurs when it comes to relief efforts: Duracell brought charging stations to Battery Park to help the stranded charge their phones. NBC is airing a one-hour fundraising special to collect funds for the hurricane victims.
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