Coronavirus has changed the way we do things; from the food shop to ways of working. Amidst the pandemic, alumna Rosaria Barreto has adapted, creating further opportunities to expand her own business.

Rosaria Barreto graduated from University of Portsmouth in 2018. From a young age, she knew that she wanted to be her own boss. When she came across the BSc (Hons) Exercise and Fitness Management course, it ticked all the boxes to pursue her dream.

During her time at university, she gained vocational qualifications including Personal Training, GP Referral and Sports Therapy. Although she wanted to kickstart her own business after graduation, it wasn’t feasible, so she started working for a summer camp and began her business venture by personal training clients in her spare time. Some days she would work for twelve hours and it caught up with her, making her feel burnt out. She took a risk and went self-employed full time, starting her own business.

“I was working hard before, but not smart. At the time it was scary making the decision to go self-employed and I felt awful letting colleagues down. But now, I look back and I’m so glad I went with my gut.

By May 2019, I was doing what I’d always wanted but after a few months I wanted more; to help more people, and to create a better work/life balance. I particularly loved working with elderly adults and women with clinical health complications – It was extremely rewarding. Because of this, I decided to focus my efforts on contacting retirement villages and care homes to offer classes. I wanted to chase the expectations of society, so that we no longer think of older adults as frail or vulnerable and that age doesn’t necessarily deter fitness. Then COVID-19 happened.

At the beginning, a significant amount of work had stopped, nursing homes weren’t letting external providers in, potential customers were postponing meetings and the government support for businesses hadn’t been released.

I decided to trial free online classes to maintain momentum. Seeing my clients happy faces daily and talking about new projects, gardening or the latest Netflix series’ kept me going. Lockdown has been a bumpy journey, and my mental health has been challenged more than usual, but this is my purpose and I don’t know what I would’ve done without it.

I’ve continued to run classes, one of which is a 60+ exercise class three times a week. I’ve had a great interest and the more I ran them, the more I realised it’s not just about the physical benefits; what’s important is what they gain psychologically. It’s an opportunity for everyone to see their friends on a regular basis and have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Seeing how beneficial the classes have been made me realise I want to help more people. I had a vision – Vitality Hub Mature Movers."

"I want the classes to be easily accessible for older adults, if it’s too difficult they might give up within five seconds. I also want to help a range of abilities, as we get older our bodies change especially if they’ve been neglected, so I am planning to develop a system which groups sign-ups to suit their health status, ability and personal preferences. But I need some extra help in the form of crowdfunding.

The campaign aims to tackle social isolation and the prevention/management of chronic diseases. So far, feedback from my clients has been positive about the classes and how beneficial they’d be to others. In regards to technology, I think you’ll be surprised by how many people over 70 own mobile devices. Yes, there will be people who don’t know what video calling is but people are eager to learn and I’m eager to teach.

Lockdown has had to change the way entrepreneurs think, and everyone is relying on virtual support now more than ever. Older generations have become one of the most affected groups, but an invention comes out of necessity.”