Meet the Mini First Aid entrepreneur and mum-of-six who is doubling the size of her business after Dragons' Den appearance
The initial reaction from her husband and business partner, Matt, was ‘absolutely not’ but Kate was curious. A few months later, after going through the application process and during a lull between covid lockdowns, they found themselves, and four of their six young children, pitching their Mini First Aid business in front of the five ‘Dragons’.
On the show, they secured £50,000 of investment from Sara Davies, founder of Crafter’s Companion, for a 20 per cent stake in the business. This was later renegotiated into £25,000 for 10 per cent of the business in line with the support it needed.
Over the last 18 months, Sara’s input has helped the business to grow to 70 franchises across the UK and reach £3m turnover. As well as providing first aid classes for parents, carers and children across the UK through a franchise model, Mini First Aid also sells first aid kits and equipment on its website and in Boots. There are other major retail listings in the pipeline and the brand is also poised to go international.
Today, Kate and I meet in a coffee shop in Chapel Allerton, the Leeds suburb in which she lives and where the Mini First Aid head office and its nine staff are also located.
"The business became much busier after Dragons’ Den. Class bookings and demand for our products went up. Enquiries from people wanting to buy a franchise also went up, which was a massive compliment,” says Kate.
“We had a dedicated team just to answer those enquiries for a few weeks. We’d been growing at five or six franchises a year and we added 15 within six months after the show aired last year. Everything is moving really fast at the moment and trying to do that with six kids in the background is exciting but challenging.”
Sara’s investment manager meets the couple every month, working as a business coach. They also meet Sara herself every quarter.
Mini First Aid is currently focused on increasing the number of people attending classes. Last year the company trained 80,000 primary school children in first aid and has broadened its classes to include qualification courses, home safety training and first aid training for gap year students.
It is dipping its toes into international territories too, starting with China. It also has enquiries from Europe, the US and South Africa.
"The UK market is ticking over really nicely now, which is amazing,” says Kate. “We train over 1,000 families every week.”
“But what we know about our model is that first aid is first aid. There are slight differences around the world but it’s fundamentally the same. People have babies all across the world, so if we can meet that parent market then there are lots of opportunities for us to grow our franchises internationally.”
As a parent of six children, including two sets of twins born 20 months apart, Kate has to be extremely organised when it comes to home and work life. “All the family stuff has to be military and I get very frustrated if it doesn’t go quite right, like this morning when none of the children’s water bottles were in their school bags,” she says. “We have a childminder two days a week which allows Matt and I to work a long day and the rest of the time it’s a massive juggling act.
Kate, describes herself as ‘very ambitious’ as demonstrated by her plans to double turnover to £6.2m in 2023. But she also has a strong ‘desire to help people’. “Sometimes that can be to my detriment because I want to be all things to all people,” she says.
She adds: “I can be my biggest critic. The outward image is that people will say ‘how do you do it?’ But they don’t see the bit that Matt sees, which is the crying when it gets too overwhelming.”
Helping people is the whole reason behind the launch of Mini First Aid. The sudden death of Kate’s brother Matthew at the age of 23 in 2003 from a heart attack caused by cardiomyopathy, was devastating for her family.
At the time, friends on the scene were confused and panicked about how to perform CPR.
Kate, who launched the business in 2014 when her eldest children, Alfie and Grace, were toddlers, has made it her mantra to make sure everyone, no matter how young or old knows how to do CPR.
She aims to make sure that CPR is taught in all primary and high schools, and that a defibrillator is available in every single community space around the UK. Early CPR and defibrillation can double the chances of survival.
"First aid training is always seen as something like a long day course or a qualification. But your average parent or bystander doesn’t need a qualification. They just need to know what to do until the ambulance arrives,” says Kate,
"I wanted to create something really accesible so initially took classes to people’s homes and charged £20 per person for two hours to learn the essentials.The idea is that you get intense training for two hours but in a really informal way.”
Her huband Matt – a professional trombone player who played with a number of bands and artists including Frankie Valli, Elbow and Atomic Kitten during his career – joined the business when Kate was pregnant with their first twins, Olivia and Emily. They have clearly defined roles, with Matt focusing on operations, while Kate is on the creative and training side.
With a corporate background as head of training and development for Mars, Kate is used to providing courses. “My whole career has been built on running programmes for people that are really engaging,” she says.
She adds: "We don’t know whether if he’d had that initial CPR and a defribrillator my brother would have survived. But we can only hope that by teaching what we do, that if it happens to someone else then they will have the confidence to know what to do.”