The Portobello Business Centre helped Alex Ferreira on her path to self-employment as a fitness trainer, and she continues to work with them as she plans her future. For the moment, she works for a variety of organisations as an independent trainer, but her ambition is to set up her own fitness studio.
Originally from Lisbon in Portugal, Alex takes up her story, “I first moved to London in 1994, before returning to Lisbon in 2005. Unfortunately, the worldwide credit crunch and recession hit soon after, and the Portuguese economy was badly hit with unemployment soaring. I made the decision to move back to London, hoping to do the best for myself and my young daughter.
“When I got back to London, I needed to find a home for myself and my child, and work to support both of us. It was actually a council housing officer that suggested I contact the Portobello Business Centre.
“I first visited the Centre back in 2011 and I was introduced to Colin Rutt, one of the Centre’s advisors, and we hit it off right away. Colin steered me through all the pitfalls of setting up as self-employed, with advice on things like business planning, tax, cashflow and finding clients.
“Now, I have a thriving portfolio of clients in both community and commercial sectors. I teach a range of classes including zumba, boxing, body conditioning and spinning. I work at places like the Portobello Green Fitness Club, Aquilla Health & Fitness, a private health club in Kensington, and I also work for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
“I’ve also done some very interesting work in the community sector with people who have dementia and others with mental health problems, and I’ve also worked with people who have cancer. Another project involved making a fitness video aimed at the over-50s. I’m also studying part-time for a qualification in Pilates so that I can expand the services I offer.
“When I first went to the Portobello Business Centre, life was quite tough for me, but Colin was absolutely brilliant in helping me to overcome that. He’s very honest and tells you how to sort out your business life in a way that’s easy to understand. He helped me with research and contacts, and when he didn’t know the answer to a question, he knew who to ask. His calm, common sense and knowledge of business principles really helped me to gain the confidence I needed to set up on my own.
“I went on some of the workshops that the Centre regularly runs, including their course for start-up businesses which was really useful. I’ve also been very pleased to be able to give something back to the Centre by speaking at several of their events and workshops, sharing my experience of setting up on my own.
“The Business Centre really helped me at a time when life was a struggle, and I’d have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone thinking of starting out as self-employed. The staff there offer fantastic personal support as well as down-to-earth practical help.”