One University graduate has used his entrepreneurial skills to adapt and thrive despite Covid-19 breaking out just weeks after launching his business.

For many new businesses starting up in 2020 the pandemic restrictions made their ambitions seem almost impossible.

And just as Karl Pryor was launching is new venture, he found himself in lockdown.

Karl Pryor, 37, is originally from Aberdeen, but settled in Newcastle almost 20 years ago. 

He now runs his own business, P. Performance, in the city. Karl graduated from MSc Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Sunderland in October 2019, and decided to start his own business – just before Covid-19 struck.

Karl said: “In December 2019 I was fortunate to be awarded a grant from the University’s Graduate Development Fund to support the expansion of my recently established business, providing a range of training, fitness and sports therapy services.”

Karl supports individual clients through the use of movement and exercise prescription. He used the grant to purchase fitness equipment for personal training and therapy, especially relevant for those recovering from injury. He used the rest of the grant to pay half of the rent for his therapy room for six months – a decision that turned out to be a lifesaver.

“On 23 March 2020, the UK entered a strict lockdown with all health, fitness and therapy services forced to close,” explains Karl.

“That meant the complete closure of my therapy room, and gym which I was operating from. I could no longer take bookings for therapy clients or deliver 1-1 or group personal training. I was able to continue the business online, but my main income from the business dropped significantly.”

There was a further blow for Karl when he discovered that as he had only launched his new business in 2019 he could not claim for government support.

“After coming so far since launching my business I refused to quit,” says Karl, “So decided to instead adapt my focus.”

Karl received additional support from the University’s Enterprise Place, where he was able to access workshops, masterclasses and 1-to-1 business advice to help launch P. Performance. He received an ERDF grant of £1,000 which he used to enrol on two training courses to achieve both a Level 4 Sports Massage Therapy Certificate and a level 2 Instructing Studio Cycling award.

Karl became a Level 4 Sports Massage Therapist as the Sports Massage Association had successfully managed to reclassify the profession to the same category as other therapy professionals such as physiotherapists as essential medical services.

“That meant I was able to continue working to support patients in pain, restriction of movement or mental health requirements,” says Karl.

Almost a year on from the first lockdown Karl’s client base continues to grow in remote training and therapy.

“I have achieved so much in the past year and feel extremely grateful to the University’s Futures Fund for enabling me to do so,” says Karl.  “Without this support I would have been forced to cease trading before refining my focus of operations.

“The fund helped me expand upon services offered with the purchase of equipment to use with my training and therapy clients. 

“It also supported me with business costs in an extremely turbulent time whilst I was able to refine, adapt, rebrand and ultimately survive as a new self-employed business.  Without this help, things may have turned out very differently through the course of 2020.”