Meet the Mini First Aid entrepreneur and mum-of-six who is doubling the size of her business after Dragons’ Den appearance

Her husband and business partner Matt’s initial reaction was “definitely not”, but Kate was curious. A few months later, after going through the application process and during a lull between the covid shutdowns, they found themselves and four of their six young children starting their mini first aid business in front of the five “Dragons”. .

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Over the past 18 months, Sara’s contribution has helped the business grow to 70 franchises across the UK and achieve a turnover of £3 million. As well as offering first aid courses to parents, carers and children across the UK via a franchise model, Mini First Aid also sells first aid kits and equipment on its website and in Boots. There are other big retail announcements on the way and the brand is also about to go international.

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Kate and Matt Ball, directors of Mini First Aid, with their six children.

Today Kate and I are meeting at a cafe in Chapel Allerton, the Leeds suburb where she lives and where Mini First Aid’s head office and nine staff are also located.

“The business became much more active after Dragons’ Den. Class bookings and demand for our products increased. Inquiries from people wanting to buy a franchise also increased, which was a huge compliment,” says Kate.

“We had a dedicated team just to respond to these requests for a few weeks. We had been growing five or six franchises a year and we added 15 within six months of the show airing last year. Everything is going really fast right now and trying to do it with six kids in the background is exciting but challenging.

Sara’s investment manager meets with the couple monthly, working as a business coach. They also meet with Sara herself every term.

Mini First Aid is currently focused on increasing the number of people taking the courses. Last year, the company trained 80,000 primary school children in first aid and expanded its classes to include qualification courses, home safety training and first aid training for gap year students.

It also dips its toes into international territories, starting with China. He also has inquiries from Europe, the United States and South Africa.

“The UK market is doing very well now, which is amazing,” says Kate. “We train over 1,000 families every week.”

“But what we know from our model is that first aid is first aid. There are slight differences in the world, but it’s basically the same thing. People have babies all over the world, so if we can meet that parent market, we have plenty of opportunities to grow our franchises internationally.

As a mother of six, including two sets of twins born 20 months apart, Kate has to be extremely organized when it comes to family and work life. “All the family stuff has to be military and I get really frustrated if it doesn’t go well, like that morning when none of the kids’ water bottles were in their school bags,” she said. “We have a nanny two days a week, which allows Matt and me to work a long day and the rest of the time it’s a huge juggling act.

Kate describes herself as “very ambitious”, as evidenced by her plans to double her turnover to £6.2million in 2023. But she also has a strong “desire to help people”. “Sometimes it can be to my detriment because I want to be everything to everyone,” 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 what Matt sees, which is the crying when it gets too overwhelming.

Helping people is the reason for launching Mini First Aid. The sudden death of Kate’s brother, Matthew, aged 23 in 2003 from a heart attack caused by cardiomyopathy, was devastating for his family.

At the time, friends at the scene were confused and panicked about how to perform CPR.

Kate, who started the business in 2014 when her eldest children, Alfie and Grace, were toddlers, has made it her mantra to ensure everyone, regardless of age, knows how to perform CPR.

It aims to ensure that CPR is taught in all primary and secondary schools and that a defibrillator is available in every community space in the UK. Early CPR and defibrillation can double the chances of survival.

“First aid training is always considered a day long 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 arrival of the ambulance”, explains Kate,

“I wanted to create something really accessible so I took lessons from people first and charged £20 per person for two hours to learn the basics. The idea is that you get some training intense for two hours but in a really informal way.”

Her husband Matt – a professional trombone player who has 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 a training and development manager for Mars, Kate is used to delivering courses. “My whole career has been built on running programs for really engaging people,” she says.

She adds: “We don’t know if my brother would have survived if he had had that first CPR and a defibrillator. But we can only hope that as we teach what we do, that if it happens to someone else, he will have the confidence to know what to do.

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