Tell us a little bit about your career before starting Mini First AId and at which point in your career did you become a mum?
“I had a big corporate training role for Mars which I loved and when I had my first child, Alfie, I was really lucky to have a year’s maternity leave with full pay! It showed how much they value staff and their families, and that they want you to go back. And it was fantastic, but when you were back at work, you were BACK! I managed to negotiate flexible working down to four days. However, this effectively meant that I was still doing my 5 day job, but in 4.I know this is a common story for so many women who return to work after having a baby. So it was really hard, but I actually fell pregnant with my second child, Grace, quite quickly (there’s only 20 months between Alfie and Grace). During my maternity leave with Grace, there was a company restructure and my job was going to change. This was going to mean more travel and time away from home. I had two young babies and I just didn’t want to do that on a regular basis. So, I took redundancy and began to look for other opportunities, which led me to some consultancy work around training and HR. But in the back of mind was always this first aid idea niggling at me.”
What inspired you to start a business in first aid and at what point did you decide to dive into the world of entrepreneurship?
“Educating people about first aid and specifically CPR, has been something I have wanted to do ever since losing my brother, Matt. Matt had a condition called cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that we have seen in the media more recently having affected some footballers. The condition means that damage to the heart builds and then suddenly the person affected goes into cardiac arrest. When you hear about it happening to footballers, a doctor is present, the defibrillator is there. Thankfully, we have also seen campaigns for defibrillators to be present at all grassroot football games. Unfortunately, my brother was on a beach in Portsmouth when it happened to him. There was no defibrillator and his friends did not know how to do CPR. We don’t hold them responsible in any way, but it’s always in the back of your mind: What if this group of young people knew how to do CPR until the paramedics arrived?
So your brother Matt is very much your inspiration?
Absolutely. I’ve always thought: What can I do to help prevent this from happening to other families? I think when somebody dies, some people go straight into activist mode and set up a charity, or start running marathons, but we as a family weren’t really there when it first happened. It was a huge shock and took a long time to get to that point. My brother was only 22 years old when he died and I was only 24, so myself and my parents were just dealing with the fact that he had gone. But it was something that was always in the back of my mind. And then when the moment came, I knew I had the skills to write quality training courses and identified a gap in the market . Accessible first aid courses weren’t readily available in my area, and that is where the germ of an idea came from.
So how did you get started with your own first aid business?
I got myself trained up and one of my mates worked as graphic designer and I paid him with a bottle of red wine to design me a logo ( The Mini First Aid logo). And he did a really thorough job and we still use that logo today! And then I started running Mini First Aid classes for parents and carers, alongside my consultancy work and juggling my two young children. In the beginning, I ran the classes in my spare time and saw it as me doing something worthwhile, whichs gave me a bit of extra money. It grew from there and now there are over 70 franchises across the UK and we train around a thousand people adults and children every week in basic and lifesaving first aid!”
As it’s a passion project for you as well as a business, what’s the most rewarding thing about running Mini First Aid?
“We get messages from people every week telling us about different first aid situations which have happened to their baby or child, and because they attended a Mini First Aid class, they knew what to do. Often, this has saved their child’s life. We sent out a newsletter last week, about a family who managed to successfully deliver CPR to their baby, and you can’t read to the end without crying. I am not interested in getting any glory for that, but feel passionately about educating people and making a difference. The fact that we are growing a successful business that we can earn a living from, and that all of our trainers can earn a living from, gives me a massive amount of satisfaction.”
How has your business developed over the years?
“As well as training adults in first aid for abies and toddlers, we now train school children in first aid. In the last academic year, Mini First Aid trained 80,000 children, which is incredible! I was amazed by that, but my husband Matt – who runs all the commercial side of the business, made a point in stating that there are 6 million primary school children in the UK, so there is still a long way for us to go! [She laughs] But to go from nothing to 80,000 in 7 years, gives us a real sense of achievement! Watch this space as we’re about to introduce a nsew groundbreaking class!”
At what point did your husband come into the business?
“We had just moved into our new house, done a renovation and we decided to have a third baby. When we started trying, I had a miscarriage. Sadly, it was a missed miscarriage – where you don’t miscarry the baby, so you have to have an operation – which was horrible. We had a lovely midwife who told us that although it hadn’t worked out this time around, if we wanted to get pregnant again,we should go for it. Then when I did fall pregnant, we went for the scan and there were two heartbeats! It was a proper fall off your chair moment. It felt like a gift – like the universe was saying you’ve lost one, so you’re going to have two! So it felt really lovely. And at that point I was ‘Mini First Aid’ completely on my own. I was marketing, PR, finance, website – I was everything! I was managing everything to a point and just about getting away with it, but it was very entry level and I said to Matt: “I can’t do this and have two tiny babies at home – as well as Alfie and Grace.” Matt was running an events company at the time (he’s a professional musician), so completely out of the realms of first aid. But he does know how to run a business and offered to come on board for 6 months, to give me ‘a break’ when the twins arrived. As if!’ [she laughs] Six years later, he is the Operational Director of Mini First Aid. We also have a team of 9 people in our Head Office, who look after our franchises, commercial operations and marketing etc.
Your business is obviously like your seventh baby – especially because of the personal connection, how do you find having franchises of your business, because it can often be hard to let go and delegate when you are so passionate about your business.
“Oh my god yes! It was really hard as I am a bit of a control freak. Even now, if I read something that one of our trainers has written on social media and it isn’t quite the wording I would have used, it can niggle at me. I still have to have a word with myself and say: “Right, come on Kate, it’s still getting the message out there, there’s nothing negative about it and it doesn’t matter if it’s not quite in my style.’ I also have a really good Franchise Manager , Gemma, who is really proactive in making sure everything is delivered on brand, and the style of training is replicated to the same standards throughout the franchises. But you do have to learn to let go, as your business grows or you cannot continue to expand.”