Enriching interview with a woman entrepreneur

As part of Women’s Day 2022, and in line with our commitment to supporting local entrepreneurship, here is an enriching interview with a woman entrepreneur, passionate about Aqua gym, a Wellpreneur! Our guest this week is Saskia Virahsawmy-Naidoo, who after having worked 13 years as a Financial Controller in a parastatal body and 11 years as Manager in a Management Company, decided to start her own entrepreneurial venture, dedicated to Wellness. Among her many passions, she shares with us today one of them: Aqua gym therapy.

What prompted you to start your own journey as an entrepreneur?

In 2020, the Management Company where I worked, was bought back and following a restructuring the Company unfortunately decided to lay off all the management team and staff with more than 10 years of service. After spending so much time in the corporate world, with all the stress and sleepless nights I really did not want to go back in there, so I decided to set up my company, Lasours Biennet Ltd. whose mission is to make clients feel good in a zen environment.

I am a “Wellness Entrepreneur” which is a new class of entrepreneur that is mission driven, focused on wellness, and has a burning desire to make an impact on people’s health. The buzz word for a “Wellness Entrepreneur” is Wellpreneur.

How did your interest in Aqua gym start?

Exercise has always been my passion. I still remember telling my dad once when I was back in Mauritius for my holidays, as I was studying in the UK, that one day I will have my own gym and teach aerobics which at that time was the trend. The urge for exercise was so intense that despite working as a qualified accountant I got trained to become a certified Zumba trainer and was having weekly my home gym. After some time, I unfortunately started to suffer from knee pain and of course quitting exercise was out of question; so, I started to enquire about the type of exercise that will be beneficial for such type of pain; water exercise and swimming were on top of the list; so therefore, came the idea of doing Aqua gym. Every Sunday morning, a group of friends came home for an hour of Aqua gym and fun. This was the start of my journey!

To quote Paulo Coelho “She silently stepped out of the race that she never wanted to be in, found her own lane and proceeded to win.”

What are the challenges you have had to face as a Woman Entrepreneur on a personal and professional level?

As a woman entrepreneur, challenges are there but the right mindset is very important. A woman choosing to become an entrepreneur has already accepted that she is moving away from her comfort zone and she is ready to face any challenge; her focus is to make the business work and flourish. The first challenge faced was and still is Covid. Unfortunately, we cannot do much against it and have to work around it, finding work around solutions. In 2020, I started doing online zoom exercises morning and afternoon. And when we resume physically, I had lost 30% of my client base. Then I worked hard again to rebuild my base and then boom! Covid 2021 struck again. Zoom sessions were back and I lost 50% of my client base. But I never lost hope as I believe in the Universe and knew things will get better. The second challenge is Finance. Forget about going to the bank for a loan; I do not have constant monthly inflow of funds so I cannot be a right candidate for them. The third biggest challenge is the ME, MYSELF AND I mode!!! Being a small entrepreneur, you cannot afford to hire resources; the bottom line being in red during the first years. So, I end up doing everything by myself. However, I have no regrets, with hindsight I will never go back to being an employee. On the other hand, since my children, Yann and Rachel are grown-ups, I can devote all my time to my business. And they now and then assist me when I shout for help.

Can you please explain to our readers all about Aqua gym?

Before talking about aqua gym. It is very important to know the main properties of water:

  1. Hydrostatic pressure – As soon as you are in the water, there is a positive pressure against your body which has a positive impact on swollen joints. The water acts as a massager to your body.
  2. Resistance – It acts against your muscles and build up resistance on your exercise.
  3. Buoyancy – It lifts your body and reduces the body weight by a maximum of 80%. Therefore, exercises hard to practise on land become very easy in water. I really like when my clients step out of water and tell me “Ayo! aster mo santi poi mo lekor; dan dilo mo ti siper leze!” (Now I’m feeling the weight of my body; I felt so light in water!”.

Aquagym is all about cardio and toning exercises in water where participants use all the core muscles of the abdomen, waist, knees, ankles, back and others. You work all parts of your body without putting any pressure on the back and joints. The fitness equipment used are dumbbells, noodles, and kick boards.  It is important to mention that the session will not be interesting without some nice music.

Are there any national or international associations which you have joined / or with which you have affinities with regards to your activity?

I participate annually in the worldwide Aquathon which is hosted by South Africa. The objective being to raise awareness about the benefits of aqua gym and at the same time raising funds for NGO s’ in need. This year will be the fourth year I will be participating in this worldwide event. The first years, in kind support was given to a shelter; funds were remitted to Breast Cancer Care and Autism Mauritius and this year will be in favor of Lupus Alert.

Do you have a project for the immediate future that you would like to share with our readers, still relating to Aqua gym? If yes which one?

I have recently introduced aqua yoga which is taught by my assistant. I now want to open up more one to one session to both men and women with specific health issues that need special attention. I even have in mind pre- and post-natal ladies.

What are the benefits of practicing Aqua gym?

  1. Strengthening the heart. Aquagym are great workouts for the heart. When your blood circulation is good, you will get enormous health benefits for the heart and muscles. Aqua gym can lower blood pressure and makes the heart remain stable.
  2. Helpful for muscle formation. Water can increase muscle endurance and quality of better health.
  3. Weight loss. Aqua gym can assist in losing weight. In fact, I have cases of clients that have drops 1 to 2 sizes after several months of aqua gym. It is important to add that healthy eating works hand in hand with aqua gym.
  4. Overcoming various diseases. Aquagym could also be an alternative to overcome/reduce health issues such as sciatica, arthritis, osteoporosis, weak joints, obesity, and others. A few doctors in Mauritius do recommend Aqua Gym to their patients.
  5. Maintaining the balance and flexibility. Aqua yoga is beneficial to provide a balance and flexibility for the whole body.
  6. Relax mind and body. After an aqua session, clients are completely relaxed and moral boosted. The quality of sleep is greatly improved.
  7. Joint impact and Frame. Reduces impact on joint and improves bone health. So nice when your clients tell you “Saskia depi ki mo fer aquagym, mo nepli gagn douler zenou ou ledo” (Saskia, since I practise aqua gym, I no longer have knee or back pain).
  8. It builds the lung power without becoming out of breath. Now with Covid, I cannot stress enough on the importance of exercise.
  9. Besides keeping fit, my aqua session is a forum where ladies socialize; great laughter therapy session while listening to nice music

What is your greatest satisfaction when performing your “activity”?

The health relief my clients get from Aqua gym and the enthusiasm and commitment of all my clients. Aqua gym is your splash of wellness!

We would like to thank Saskia for sharing her journey and her passion with us, while giving us such an inspiring speech, specially dedicated to all women who choose to follow their dreams. We wish the Wellpreneur all the best on this magnificent path of caring for people’s well-being.

Mauritius: Culture and Traditions: Tilak Ceremony
Mauritius – Culture and Traditions: Holi Festival