Meet the Founder of First Aid For Life
We met Emma through our work with the British Library and we’ve seen her business grow and grow through sheer passion and determination for giving people the confidence and tools to save lives. Here’s her story!
Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?
My older sister, her daughter and my mother, certainly. All three women epitomise everything I strive for - to work hard, have integrity, look after other people and to have a legacy. My sister was twenty years older than me, had been a very successful nurse and sadly she is no longer with us. She was involved in a car accident which left her brain damaged and my niece (and my sister’s wonderful husband) were her carers for twenty years. My mother had seven of us and worked extremely hard, always put the family first, therefore she wasn’t able to do what she wanted and really achieve her own ambitions sadly until after my father died, when I was 9 and the only one still at home. We had great fun together and our family remains very close. She had always been a grafter, making sure we had everything we needed. She taught me that you get out what you put in. I hope that I am passing this mantra onto my children.
How do you think your early years have influenced what you do today?
I have always worked hard and as an entrepreneur, resilience is so important. It’s come from being a headmaster’s daughter and having a huge, supportive family. As kids we always mucked in, helping my dad out with things like sending out letters to parents. There’s over 150 people in our close family and we all keep in touch and lean on each other. There’s a strong ethos towards education and health in our family’s careers and interests and doing things that help other people. Having that security of a family voice and values influence me hugely.
You trained as a nurse before setting up First Aid For Life. Tell us what made you start the business.
As a nurse, particularly in A&E, you see time and time again situations where first aid has been positive or sometimes it hasn’t happened, because someone has misunderstood something. There was a pivotal moment when I was looking after a little boy and the mother spilled hot coffee over him. She ran outside with the screaming child to get help, when what she should have done is run cool water over the burns - just simple first aid. He suffered severe burns and secondary infections, which could have easily been prevented. Empowering people with the skills and confidence to administer first aid, saves lives and prevents life altering injuries. It was frustrating knowing how many people could have avoided A&E altogether had they known how to help and give appropriate first aid in the emergency.
Fabrice Muamba came perilously close to death on the football pitch. His life was saved with a defibrillator and treatment that is readily available if people have the skills and confidence to step forward. First aid saves lives and prevents minor injuries becoming major ones.
We do loads of work in schools to prevent knife crime and we know that the overall impact is positive when first aid is taught in schools. In Scandinavia, it is compulsory learning in schools and their survival rates following cardiac arrest are 3 times better than ours. Take road accidents; the UK is one of the only countries in Europe where first aid isn’t a mandatory part of the driving test. Elsewhere, if you’re hit by a car or knocked off a bike someone will know what to do and they’ll carry a kit in their car. That’s when you start seeing a real impact. We’re still chipping at the edges.
You are positive impact personified! What have been some of the most positive results come from the work you do?
We receive loads of lovely messages thanking us for what we do and for the impact our training has; from people saving people, to people saving animals. We are creating peace of mind giving people confidence that they would know how to help themselves or others in a medical emergency. If a child starts choking, they’ll know whether it’s serious and they can act calmly and know the majority of the time they will be able to help. It takes away the panic, that it’s not going to be a disaster. We have so much free information to give people - for schools, new mums, nurses, carers, doctors and beyond. For those who don’t have the money, we can help them with information, which is all on the site. We have three books too (which are Amazon Bestsellers)- Burns, Falls and Emergency Calls; Slips, Trips and Fractured Hips and First Aid for Dogs. We train professionals as well as volunteers of charities, such as the MayTree Trust for suicidal crisis, as well as helping adults and children to learn these skills and working with people with learning disabilities to ensure everyone can gain access to these skills.
How do you keep learning more whilst on the job?
Learning is so important in different ways. I am well aware of sounding sense in the saying, “Use it, or you’ll lose it” so I am constantly trying to stimulate my mind. Learning from other businesses is just amazing and I love my peer mentoring, networking and mastermind groups, where we all support each other on our businesses. The British Library Business & IP Centre is also incredibly helpful - it puts on loads of events with a host of business owners to guide us on what works and what hasn’t worked. I really loved working as a mentor with the British Library and getting to know another business in detail, digging deep to help them find new ways forward and maximise their business potential. I am an active member of the Guild of Nurses and the Guild of Health Writers. I do a show with Talk Radio and Eamonn Holmes, which keeps me on my toes. Tomorrow, I am on a mental health first aid course as there’s so much confusion between physical and mental health. We need to understand as a society how we address mental health and the connection with physical. As employers we can do a lot to care for staff wellbeing.
It’s also nice to learn things that aren’t to do with work. Last week I took a day off to visit a National Trust property and my daughter and I have started Spanish lessons too. The beauty of running your own business is that you can adjust your own hours to do the things that matter.
What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to get to where you are today that you think you'd struggle without?
My supportive family, for sure. My husband, children and extended family appear all over my books and blogs and are happy to appear in various states of distress. I stress that no one’s been injured in the making of these images (!). My admin team are utterly fab and their attention to detail is superb, it is vital to recognise that members of the team are often better at elements of my business than me. It is critical to be able to delegate, without this, the business can’t grow. Start delegating and stop doing things that you are not best at, or don’t fuel your passion, as otherwise you will just trade your time for money. The only way to grow exponentially is to get other people on board.
I think as an entrepreneur you need to understand what you are good at and what aren’t your strengths. You also need a huge dollop of resilience, self-motivation and dogged determination. When I set up there were a lot of doubters, which wasn’t helpful. The first person that didn’t choose to book with me, I took personally, which is ridiculous in hind-sight as no-one has a 100% conversion rate. I soon learnt that it’s about getting to a point where you’re working with people you want to work with, who understand your personal and business values and become part of your tribe.
Where do you get your inspiration?
All sorts. A lot of the time it’s other businesses. My family too; my son was responsible for me building the first online first aid course for Zombie Apocalypse! My customers often suggest topics and courses and we are always listening and reacting to their feedback. Overall, I have a real desire to leave a positive legacy and create a positive impact. You only get one chance at this life and I would like to leave it knowing that I have enabled more people to access life saving first aid skills and that the world is consequently a slightly safer place.
What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?
It’s something businesses should be thinking about but when they’re starting up and ensuring that their language and accessibility enables diversity. However, the reality is that people in small businesses generally recruit based on need and suitability for the position and diversity becomes a secondary factor.
What are you working on this year?
I want to do a lot more for schools, we have produced a wealth of invaluable free resources and I am also working on a campaign around preventing non-accidental injury – such as child and elder abuse. We have set up a social cause called http://www.staysafe.support with the support of RoSPA, Age UK, Dame Esther Rantzen, Hugh Pym (the BBC Health Correspondent) and Carolyn Cripps OBE, Fit for Safety; signposting older people and their carers, to resources to help them remain fit and well. There are many issues for older people, from their susceptibility to falls, to fraud and loneliness. I am also ensuring that we’re creating loads more quality content that resonates with the audience and press.
Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2019?
What a difficult question: Emma Watson holds herself with integrity and is a strong ambassador and great role model. Meghan Markle and Michelle Obama are similarly trying to leave a positive legacy and stand up for their beliefs. I also admire the people of my son and daughter’s generation who, as young people, often get a knocking but are still able to be focused, with a sense of integrity and strong work ethic. It’s a tough world out there and I think it could be even harder for the next generation.
Name the quote you live by
‘Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today’. There’s often too much overthinking going on and people dilly dally striving for perfection – once it is good, get your message out there. You can perfect it afterwards.