Chris Hellawell, Edinburgh Tool Library

Social Enterprise Edinburgh Tool Library

What does your social enterprise do?

We are a library of tools that promotes sharing over ownership.  We help our members live more sustainably, save them money, and allow them to reach their potential by helping tools reach theirs.

Why are you passionate about this cause?

I saw a similar model working in Toronto when I was visiting, and was appalled when I got back to the UK and realised nobody was doing it here.  I have strong environmental beliefs, but am also driven to develop the tool library into a resource for young unemployed people as a way into working in the trades.

What was your biggest challenge in starting your social enterprise?

I felt that in order for it to work, we had to gain charitable status.  This went from being a one month process to a 7 month fight with the regulator, which we eventually won.  I feel this was really important, because if other tool libraries are to take off, they can now follow the precedent we have set.

How has the School for Social Entrepreneurs supported you?

Starting a social enterprise can be a very lonely experience.  Having peer support, as well as the backing of my mentor and the SSE staff has been really important.  The times I have been feeling really challenged, or a bit overwhelmed, I have been able to pick up the phone, and get help and advice.  I couldn’t have got this far and maintained my sanity had I not been with SSE!

Nobody has a perfect plan when they start out, but the SSE course helps you to see where you can improve and make your business the best it can be.

What are your plans for the future?

We are now working on developing our model for employability with young people.  By this time next year I hope we will be running a workshop, teaching classes, and helping young unemployed people into the trades industry.

What would your advice be to a budding social entrepreneur?

I would say to go for it. There are things that you don’t realize you don’t know when you are setting out as a social entrepreneur