Following her appearance on Dragons’ Den, Kate Ball, director of Mini First Aid, describes the experience and how it felt to secure investment from ‘crafting queen’ Sara Davies
Why did you decide to go on Dragons’ Den?
There were a couple of reasons. We wanted both the expertise of a dragon investor who would add vigour and experience to our business, but also to raise the profile of Mini First Aid. After such a challenging year with the pandemic, we just wanted to give our franchisees the opportunity to be busy teaching first aid again and get more parents, carers and children learning first aid after seeing the show.
What was the experience like?
The experience was hugely nervewracking. The wait in the lift seems like an age - especially when attempting to keep small children quiet!
We decided to take four of our six children into the den with us to demonstrate children learning first aid. I think a lot of people thought we were crazy, but our business is built on family. The kids are at the heart of what we do and we work flexibly - so they had to be part of it.
As well as juggling the kids, the main source of nerves is the pressure you’re under. We know our business inside out, but we also knew we only had one go - there are no retakes or pauses - to represent our business and potentially gain an investment.
For the main part, we were really happy with how it went, but both of us got stuck on numbers. Matt [Ball, Kate’s husband and Mini First Aid director] is the absolute pro when it comes to the business numbers, but for a moment, following a question from one of the dragons, Matt’s mind went blank and I just stood staring at him wanting the ground to swallow us both up.
How did it feel when you secured investment from Sara Davies?
Sara was the dragon we wanted. We love her ethos, we knew she had children and would get what we do and we knew she could do great things for the product side of our business.
We were absolutely delighted that she loved our brand, what we stand for and saw our business as an investable opportunity.
What’s it been like working with her and what’s she bought to the business?
Sara and her team have been hugely supportive in practical business support, mentoring and helping us explore and expand our ideas for what Mini First Aid can achieve.
We’re busy developing new Mini First Aid products for retail and working on a number of media activities with Sara to promote people learning first aid.
What inspired you to start mini first aid?
I mentioned it briefly on Dragons’ Den, but it was basically down to my younger brother Matt.
Matt had undiagnosed cardiomyopathy, a serious condition of the heart, and we very sadly lost him when he was 23. So ever since then I’ve been passionate that as many people as possible can learn first aid because you just never know when you might be needed to save a life.
When did you franchise it?
I set up Mini First Aid in 2014 from my kitchen table in Leeds.
Initially, it was local parents and carers coming to my classes, often with children in tow to learn lifesaving first aid techniques for babies, toddlers and primary school-aged children.
I could tell there was a need and desire to learn first aid in a relaxed and informal way and for people to gain the peace of mind they need to safely parent their children.
I felt that if the business could succeed in Leeds, then why not right across the UK, so we launched our first franchise in Bristol in 2015. We now have 65 franchises and I’m absolutely thrilled that this means so many people in the UK can now access our classes.
What do you look for in a franchisee?
Being a good people person is absolutely number one. For people to engage with first aid training, they need to feel relaxed, supported and valued, so it’s vital our Mini First Aid trainers can deliver on this.
A sense of humour is also great. First aid can be a very serious topic and sometimes a well-judged lightening of the mood can work wonders, especially in the kids’ classes.
And just someone who is passionate about the importance of first aid. Many of our franchisees have experienced a real-life first aid situation themselves and this has stayed with them and inspired them to be brilliant trainers.
What do they get for their money?
Full training and certification as a paediatric first aid instructor, arranged to fit around the franchisee’s professional and personal life, plus franchise systems, including their own website, email address and Facebook business page.
They also get resource packs, including comprehensive digital media and promotional materials, training on how to administer their business, including access to a Mini First Aid mentor to support the launch process, and probably most importantly, membership of our closed Facebook page, which is an invaluable resource where our franchisees share tips, inspiration and experience.
Developing people is part of the Mini First Aid ethos, so support is ongoing for the life of the franchise, whether it be business management skills, social media training or the development of new courses.
We also hold a free annual training weekend, including loads of workshops to help franchisees develop their business, media and teaching skills.
We’re really proud of the support we offer our franchisees and it’s absolutely crucial as they are Mini First Aid.
Where do you see the business being in five years’ time?
With almost full capacity in our UK franchises, we’re looking to expand abroad and are excited to be moving expansion along after a pause during COVID.