11 June 2015
How to take your business online
First Aid for Life is an award-winning first aid training business and a current participant on the Innovating for Growth programme at the British Library. Established in 2007, by Emma Hammett, First Aid for Life provides quality training courses, taught by highly experienced teachers, giving people the necessary skills to help in a medical emergency. The Business & IP Centre, helped First Aid for Life offer training courses online.
We asked Emma about the challenges that led her to Innovating for Growth, how the programme changed her business and her tips for taking a business online.
Hi Emma, what challenges were you experiencing in your business before Innovating for Growth?
When I joined Innovating for Growth, much of the business was solely reliant on me. The successful migration from ‘live’ first aid courses to delivering an online platform was something I was having difficulty getting my head around. I wanted to scale up but scalability can be more challenging with a service industry, unless I went down the licensing or franchise route, my practical courses were constrained by the number of trainers within the business.
What vision did you have for your business to scale up?
To achieve my goal of growing the business, I decided to create an e-learning platform to take first aid training from the physical classroom to a virtual one. Development took longer than anticipated, but I am incredibly proud of the innovative and interactive Online First Aid programme which combines video, illustrated step by step instructions and ‘test yourself’ sections to create a truly unique and engaging learning experience.
The new website offers a range of 32 online first aid courses that comply with verifiable Continued Professional Development requirements, assist with pre-learning for those with English as a second language, and provide an ideal solution for businesses to fulfil corporate and social responsibilities. Bringing my service online has opened up many opportunities including the possibility of joint venture and affiliate opportunities with a range of companies.
How did Innovating for Growth help you to achieve this?
Through workshops and mentoring sessions, I learnt how important it is to develop structures and systems in order to achieve real growth. The Business & IP Centre helped me to secure my intellectual property rights, develop and grow my team and create a source of scalability outside my core practical business as well as develop a tangible brand identity. Ultimately the programme helped me to add an online element to my business which has been vital in taking my business to the next level.
I am now in a position where I can work on my business, rather than just in my business and can strategically direct it to achieve our goals. My original offline business has been growing at 30% over the last 5 years and I am optimistic that the online training will lead to further growth. I now employ a team of 17 trainers who are medical and emergency services professionals, consequently the business reaches most corners of the UK. Innovating for Growth helped me to delegate and build a talented team of first aiders. The quality of our training and customer services is of tantamount importance and I want to retain the quality of service as the business grows.
What were the steps for taking your business online?
I started planning the online courses nearly three years ago; I created the content in the format I required and researched platforms that could support the functionality I wanted. My initial courses were not in an ideal format and it was not until last year that I found the right platform and web designer to really make the courses work in the interactive and fully responsive manner I had been looking for. Once I found the correct platform I worked with a web designer to add the content I had developed, tested it on users and finally launched the new site.
What advice would you give to another business trying to move to an online platform?
- Be prepared to invest time and money to get it right and test your concept to ensure you are creating something that people will want to buy.
- Ideally choose a well-recognised platform rather than anything bespoke so that you can easily find freelance help to make changes and support you as your course develops and you are not beholden to a particular web developer.
- Carefully think through your reasons for wanting an on-line business and ensure you create courses to achieve those goals.
- Once the courses are selling they should begin to provide a passive and sustainable income that can bring you real flexibility to your working life.
- If you need help growing your business – apply for some help with Innovating for Growth.
If, like Emma, you want to win £10,000 worth of free business support, apply for Innovating for Growth today.
Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund