A former nurse who put her life-saving skills to good use after her husband experienced a heart-attack, is now helping new parents and families to master essential life-saving skills after calling on help from Launchpad.

Claire Knight’s life changed overnight when her husband Thomas suffered a heart attack. With a young family to care for while her husband recuperated, Claire began re-assessing her work-life balance and decided to leave the security of the NHS and make plans to launch her own business.

With a clear idea to help parents learn essential first aid skills,built around her teaching knowledge and nursing experience, , Claire began researching the assistance available to help her transform her ideas into a reality. She contacted the Sheffield City Region Launchpad programme and, with some trepidation, attended her first workshop. After several months planning, developing and refining her ideas, the Whiston-based entrepreneur launched Rotherham-based Links Care in June 2019.

Claire realised she needed to build a customer base for her business. Selling her company’s services and charging individuals for the skills and expertise was something which did not come naturally. Working with an experienced Launchpad business adviser, Claire was able to access a range of workshops, training events and one-to-one support, helping to build her business confidence and identify new ways of securing customers for her fledgling business.

As the new entrepreneur began attending networking events, Claire spotted a unique niche in the marketplace. She realised that many new parents turned to A&E simply because they were unsure how to spot the signs of common childhood ailments. She realised by helping parents to master basic first-aid skills, it could not only help to reduce worry, but also avoid unnecessary trips to A&E.

Like many businesses this year, Links Care was affected by COVID19. Claire began re-assessing her business model and moved her training workshops online – something she felt initially would not be practical. She was particularly concerned about teaching skills like Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, however her fears proved to be unfounded. Since launching her live online training sessions, Claire has been able to teach a minimum of two sessions a week and expand the geographical reach of her business.

With COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown measures beginning to ease, Claire is hoping to grow and develop her business further by providing parents with the flexibility to attend online workshops as well as returning to delivering face-to-face sessions.

Claire said: “I had enjoyed my career working with the NHS, but I always liked the idea of working for myself. When a colleague mentioned she was thinking of setting up her own business, I decided to join her at a Launchpad training event to find out more about self-employment.

“I was excited about the prospect, but I knew starting a business would be a huge time commitment. When my husband survived his heart attack, I began to re-evaluate my working life and spending time with my family and being able to work flexibly around the children was the most important thing to me.

“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned since working with the Launchpad team has been the flexibility and opportunities which are open to you as an entrepreneur. When Covid-19 forced me to stop delivering my face-to-face sessions, I knew it would have a significant impact upon my business. I been considering moving some elements of my training online, but I felt my business was not quite ready, for example, I was unsure whether resuscitation could be taught remotely. All that changed overnight and since launching our online live training sessions, demand for my services have risen significantly.

“The support I’ve received from Julia and the Launchpad team has been invaluable to my business. The workshops have helped me to develop a stronger grasp of the reality of running a business and the advice and support has helped me to unlock the potential in my business and as a result I’m now hoping to recruit additional nurses to help me delivery of my training services and grow the business further.”

Julia Millea, Business Adviser, Launchpad said: “Claire saw an opportunity to build a business around the skills she had developing during her nursing career. Like many people, she was initially apprehensive about leaving the security of employment, but when her circumstances at home changed, she began to realise running her own business could help her to achieve a better work-life balance.

“Through her work with Launchpad, she has successfully laid solid foundations for her business, as well as being quick to spot and respond to changes in the marketplace. COVID-19 was potentially a huge stumbling block for many businesses, including Links Care. However, Claire successfully changed adversity into opportunity and by moving her training sessions online, she was able to open up new markets to her business. As a result, her business hasn’t just survived, but it’s been an incredible success story.”

The Sheffield City Region Launchpad programme helps individuals who are thinking of starting their own business as well as providing ongoing support and guidance during their first three years of trading. The programme is financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities based in the Sheffield City Region and the Princes Trust.