"To see Nicolas business going from strength-to-strength is testament to her character and is a great inspiration for other people wanting to start their own business."
A Nuneaton mum who began running Zumba fitness classes three years ago to unite those feeling isolated is seeing her business move in the right direction following a rise in demand during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Nicola Rigby, from Whitestone, decided to launch her own Zumba fitness classes – called ‘Zumba with Nicola’ – in 2017 as a way of improving her own fitness and overcoming anxiety and loneliness.
Nicola’s sessions – which incorporate Latin dance – were regularly attracting more than 20 people per session before the Coronavirus pandemic took hold but after migrating to online sessions, she is now attracting up to 40 regulars and has more than 500 Facebook likes.
The 40-year-old was initially supported by the start-up team at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce. This start up support service is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, forming part of the CW Business: Start, Grow and Scale Programme. It is also funded by Warwickshire County Council and the 5 Warwickshire District & Borough councils.
This included working with a Chamber business coach, Rita Booth, on a marketing plan and pricing structure that eventually saw Nicola hosting four sessions a week in community centres across the north of Warwickshire.
Nicola, who combines her business with a part-time cleaning role, said: “I had spent three years working hard to build up my client base and then all of a sudden the pandemic hit just as I was starting to see some consistent growth in my sessions and, initially, panic set in.
“There was no way I was going to allow all of the hard work I had put in to come undone, so I took my classes online. I brought out my ironing board and placed a footstool on top of it to create a makeshift desk for my laptop, and I’ve been able to host two-day sessions and two evening sessions a week from home ever since!
“It really hit home during lockdown just how important my sessions are to some of the people who attend. A lot of my customers are ladies in their 50s, 60s, and 70s – and for some of them my sessions are the only human interaction they receive, so before the sessions I set some time aside for a general chat with them.”
As for what the future holds for Nicola’s business after lockdown is fully lifted, it’s clear to see that the future is bright.
“I am starting to reintroduce some face-to-face sessions now and have teamed up with another Zumba instructor to host a session every Sunday morning at Attleborough Sports Club - which is that busy that we now have a waiting list and have launched a Wednesday evening session at the same location” she said.
“When I look back at where I was three years ago to where I am now, I can’t believe it, and I’m so grateful to the Chamber for the platform it gave me and for teaching me to believe in myself, be confident and know my worth. It is these mantras that have stuck with me throughout by business journey when times have been tough.”
Rita praised Nicola for her patience in developing the business into the growing force that it is today, and is hoping her story will inspire others to access the Chamber’s support.
Rita added: “To see Nicola’s business going from strength-to-strength is testament to her character and is a great inspiration for other people wanting to start their own business.
“When Nicola came onto the programme, she was just starting her Zumba business and was really struggling to get people to her classes – she only had two classes and they were never more than 40 per cent full.
“We spent time working on ways to improve engagement with her audience, exploring how to reach people outside her usual network, and focusing on a pricing structure to encourage people to commit for longer so she could grow the business to the point that it was giving Nicola some sort of living.
“It’s great to see that those early foundations have helped her through these very testing times over recent months.
“The Chamber offers ongoing support to start-ups - whether it’s an initial idea or within the first 12 months of trading – and we’d encourage people to get in touch to benefit from one-to-one help and also to find out about a series of workshops that are available to them.”
For more details about support for start-up businesses, visit www.cw-chamber.co.uk or contact the start-up team on 024 7665 4321 (option four).
Pictured (taken in Nov 19): Nicola Rigby (left) with Rita Booth