“I felt abandoned, anxious and horrible. When it became clear this wasn’t going to pass quickly I thought I could sigh and give up or choose to rise to the challenge.”

Cora Laffey, aged 24, moved to Belfast from England two years ago. At the start of 2020 she worked in gyms as a self-employed personal trainer, so when the Covid-19 pandemic began and gyms had to close it really hit her hard.

“I felt anxious because I was looking at my ability to earn being completely taken away from me. I didn’t qualify for government grants because my business was too young. It was really hard to stay positive at first as there was so much to get my head around. I wasn’t in a position where I could move in with parents as that would mean moving back to England, so I thought I have to find a way to make this work.” 

Before the pandemic Cora had an idea for a business in the retail sector and took part in the Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme for some advice and guidance on how to set it up. Enterprise is a free, three-day programme that covers the basics of starting a business and provides access to start up finance support if needed.

“The business idea I had involved working with the retail sector, when the pandemic began it was clear this wasn’t the time to pursue that but instead I was able to use what I learnt through Enterprise to diversify my Personal Training business and take it online. The programme showed me that my business didn’t have to be stagnant and it could move in different directions.

Moving online transformed my business structure to one that has the ability to outlast and outperform the in-person format that I assumed was my only avenue to income in my sector. It allowed me to adapt to the world as it changed in a way that I wouldn't have even been aware of. The Prince's Trust course enabled that movement.

Cora’s online business involves setting up personalised programmes for clients depending on what they want to achieve, that could be fitness, strength or flexibility. Using social media, Zoom and email she works with people to help them achieve their goals.

“The income from this way of working has completely saved me. I’ve also been able to reach out to other online businesses for advice which has been great, choosing to help other people and rely on other people has changed my outlook and really helped my own mental wellbeing. I feel like the situation has fostered a sense of connectivity in local communities.”