Dawn Evans founder of the Cardiff-based training company Ajuda is a finalist for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in the 2016 South Wales Business Awards.

The 45 year old who runs her UK-wide business from offices in Cardiff Bay, said: “I’m amazed and delighted to even be considered for such a prestigious award. To stand shoulder to shoulder with five other inspiring women in business is deeply humbling.”

Ajuda is a multi award winning company which currently runs 52 courses including health and safety, first aid, manual handling, health & safety, food hygiene training and fire safety training throughout Wales and the rest of the UK.

Dawn herself was born on a council estate in Cardiff. Her father was a long distance lorry driver and her mother always worked, apart from the early years of her and her younger sister Nicola’s childhood.

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Circumstances changed when her father set up his own haulage company when Dawn was about 14. This enabled the family to move from the council estate to a detached house in an affluent area of Cardiff.

“This definitely inspired me,” says 45 year old Dawn,“I was institutionalised into estate life – in a bit of a bubble – and this move, coupled with my parents’ strong marriage had an influence on my later life.”

Dawn joined the Territorial Army at the age of 18 – where she met her husband – and she became a qualified Army PTI (physical training instructor). She stayed for 12 years and earned herself a long service medal in return.

After Dawn’s children were born – Bethan who’s now 16 and Thomas (14) she decided to go to university to get a degree in education. It was when her daughter nearly choked to death at a playgroup and she saved her life through her training Dawn realised there was a market to teach people first aid.

This led to Dawn lecturing at her sports centre and local college. From there a fledgling business grew as more people approached Dawn to run her life saving courses.

She was then invited onto a course for entrepreneurs and subsequently won a scholarship from the Welsh Government for her business plan. This enabled her to set up her own company. Dawn was a sole trader for three years and her business became a limited company in 2009 – Ajuda. The name is from the Portuguese word meaning ‘to help’.

In 2012 Dawn found herself in a position to buy her training academy premises in Cardiff Bay. Then she went back to University and completed a another degree, this time in coaching and mentoring course and is now a business mentor for the Princes Trust and Business Wales. Just for good measure she also did a course in sustainable leadership at Cardiff Metropolitan University last year.

Not surprisingly Dawn has won a number of awards for her work including the Welsh Business Award for Community Contribution and Innovation in 2013 and last year she won the Educator award for the Inspire Wales awards when she was up against two universities.

She set up the charity HeartStart Cardiff – part of the British Heart Foundation – to raise money for life saving equipment and to provide free first aid training to school children and communities across the Welsh capital.  She was given the Heart Hero Award from the British Heart Foundation in 2015, and was invited to meet HRH Prince Philip at St James Palace last November.

The South Wales Business Awards event will be held on Friday September 9 at the Bear Hotel, Cowbridge, Cardiff.