Written by Andrew Seale

In the age of social media and online presences, Rio Fazio was taken aback when his advisor suggested trying a traditional approach to marketing his soccer fitness program for kids.

“She said to try going door-to-door,” says the York University kinesiology grad. “That was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.”

But he did it, and it paid off. In fact, word-of-mouth and face-to-face relationship building has proven to be the most effective way for Fazio to inspire kids to join his Real Intense Outdoor Football Club (RIO FC) training camp.

The notion came from one of his advisors at the joint Province of Ontario and City of Toronto’s Summer Company program, a launch pad for students looking to start their own business over the course of the summer. Summer Company provided Fazio with funding and mentorship as well as seminars to help him get his concept for kid-focused fitness.

“I’ve played soccer all my life,” says Fazio. “I wanted to teach the kids throughout the summer that fitness is important and you can get it through soccer.”

With RIO FC, there’s half an hour of fitness, followed by drills to work on techniques like footwork and agility. He designed the program based on his own experience growing up and travelling for soccer as well as his time working with the head strength coach at York University.

“If they're beginners, they can learn the basics and maybe a little bit more,” he says. It also provides a good starting point for those looking to play in more competitive leagues further down the line.

But the concept for RIO FC was only a fleeting idea when he found the Summer Company program. Through the funding he was able to invest in his business; to buy the equipment necessary to run the program, register his new company and pay for a little advertising.

“What I took from the program is you really have to be focused… you (need) a good platform,” says Fazio. “If you don't have a solid base you can't build up, you’re just going to sink through it.”

His solid base is his commitment to inspiring passion in young kids interested in soccer and building a community around the program. And while the summer is wrapping up, he’s looking for an indoor space to continue the program part-time, no matter how many doors he has to knock on to get more kids out.

“I’m driven by my passion,” he says. “I like what I'm doing and I like that I run everything so I know the service I'm providing is going to be the top service.”