Posted: Tue 14th Feb 2023
Enterprise Nation member Niamh Gaffney shares her passion for first-aid education and small business.
Niamh is the owner of Emergency First Aid, and is based in Co. Kildare. She recently set up her own Facebook group to help small businesses like hers find more connections and get a little free advertising.
Give us an insight into who you are and what you do.
My background has always been sports outdoors. I'm permanently running around the mountains. And my career, oh my gosh, have you an hour?
I've done everything, but in recent times it's been medical. I trained as a medic and then that led to me teaching first aid.
Did you ever work as a medic?
Yeah, I did. I worked in the pre-hospital setting, I've done private ambulance work and I also worked as a medic at events and as a volunteer medic. My qualification is EMT emergency medical technician and traditionally we work alongside paramedics.
How did you get into teaching it?
When you're working in a medical setting, it's a very natural progression, because people ask you how to do CPR.
It's also a natural progression for a medical professional to begin teaching first aid. And then the progression from there is to go into full health and safety – first-aid, manual handling and fire safety courses.
How long ago did you set up your business delivering courses?
Fifteen year ago.
Have you always worked for yourself and run your own business?
Before I did what I'm doing now, I used to run a franchise-based business called Stretch-n-Grow, which is a healthy eating and exercise programme for pre-school children.
I would go into pre-schools and teach children, at an early age, how to develop eating good eating habits and how to exercise. I did that for about eight years before I went into what I'm doing now.
So, you've always had this entrepreneurial spirit going on?
I guess so. For one year, I worked in an office for a company. Other than that, 90% of my career has been my own business, contractor, or freelancing.
What form do your courses take? Describe your business.
Because mountaineering and outdoor sports are a large part of my background, I teach a lot of mountain leaders and expedition members, and mountain first aid – that's kind of my area of passion.
But I also do a lot of health and safety office-based stuff. I'm in a different company every week, and I'm probably visiting a hundred different people every week. It's pretty exciting and never a dull moment.
Now, I saw you've set up a Facebook group for small businesses. What's the name of it?
It's called What's Your Business?
Why did you feel you needed to set up a Facebook group for small businesses in Ireland?
I've been using social media platforms for years, and you've got to have a presence on these platforms if you want your business to be known.
I've taken out ads on social media and no matter how hard I try or how much money I spend, I always seem to see the competitors, with big companies, with bigger and better ads.
I took on an SEO company to manage my ads and they explained to me that financially I couldn't compete with the bigger companies on ads.
All these small businesses, like myself, are just swamped and don't have a chance on social media. So I looked for a group that would let me shout about my business without all the rules – and there were very few of them.
So I said, I just have to start this "What’s Your Business?" group to give small and medium-sized companies a chance to say, "Here I am, this is my company". Every week I allow one post from each business to say "This is what we do". And within the group we generate contacts.
What's your plan with the group?
The group currently has 150 members and I wanted to get to 1,000. I want people to be able to search for contacts within it and grow the group.
Why do you feel small businesses aren't getting support?
There is support for small businesses, from our government, in the form of grants to get you set up. But my point for this group is social media exposure, and how can we show up louder than the massive companies spending thousands a month, without us spending the same?
I want to offer something free. There's nothing free on social media to advertise unreservedly – there's no free platform without strings attached.
If this group got to, say, 10,000 members, and each of those members has a business, they get to generate thousands of contacts. I won't let large companies on board – this is just for small businesses, so they can shout on social media without having to spend money and without feeling swamped by bigger brands.