Tool Library


A social entrepreneur is giving disadvantaged Edinburgh residents the tools to improve their homes – and lives – thanks to support from the Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs programme.

Chris Hellawell started the UK’s first-ever Tool Library with funding from the programme, which is a partnership between the School for Social Entrepreneurs and Bank of Scotland. The grant went towards renting an operating space, buying tools and insurance. Library members can access DIY advice and essentials such as tools, paint and wallpaper – all donated by the public – at a fraction of the cost of buying them.

Pooling Resources

Since it was launched over 19 years ago, the SSE has provided learning, mentoring and grants to over 1,800 people with entrepreneurial approaches to tackling complex social problems.

Through pooling resources, the Tool Library provides members with access to more equipment - by sharing a tool with the Tool Library is means you can access over 2,000 other tools. The aim of the library is to be accessible for everyone - there is no focus on one particular disadvantaged group, instead, the space is used by all in order to mix without barriers.

Chris gave me everything I needed to get my bedroom done, including valuable advice when I wasn’t feeling confident. You wouldn’t get that anywhere else. I have a small flat and have nowhere to store tools. It’s an incredible idea.

Annie, Edinburgh resident and Tool Library member


Chris believes the scheme helps members with their mental wellbeing. There's a strong link between feelings of self-worth and creating or repairing something. Through simple fixes, positive feelings build up, resulting in people feeling better.

The tool library is seen as environmentally friendly with an estimated two tonnes of carbon saved in the fisrt year by sharing six power drills. The Tool Library are building a model to track how much CO2 is being saved.

One of the other key messages behind the Tool Library is an emphasis on sharing as an alternative to consumerism and consumption. 

As well as funding support, Chris was also assigned a Bank of Scotland mentor – Scott Paterson, Head of Change Delivery, Group Operations, Scotland – and also benefitted from workshops, talks and networking events in areas including accounting and funding.

Scott would take me through the problems and let me fill in the blanks instead of doing it for me. We discussed recruitment for volunteers, management and systems, or using his experience working with people. I had no experience running a business. The SSE was brilliant. With their help it meant I could get on with it and start straight away. They showed me how to maximise my social impact and market ourselves as a charity. The support has been invaluable – I would certainly recommend it.

Chris Hellawell, Founder, Tool Library


According to the Office of National Statistics, the average UK household spends £110 a year on tools. Annual membership of the Tool Library costs £20. It currently has 360 members who can borrow as many tools as they want, when they want. Those struggling or on a low income can pay what they want.

Chris hopes to expand the Tools Library by offering evening workshops to the wider community, and is piloting an employability project pairing a young former homeless man with a retired CDT teacher. He is also hoping to set up a free book exchange library in public spaces to combat illiteracy, and is working with a disability social enterprise to make temporary ramps to increase access to local shops.


Helping Businesses Prosper

Businesses across Britain are facing significant challenges. We’re helping to address them through our Helping Britain Prosper Plan because we believe we are best placed to do this. We already serve approximately 1 million small businesses but we want to be more than a bank.

In 2016 we achieved 7 of our 8 business targets, including:

- Providing £1.2 billion of new funding support to manufacturing businesses.

- Providing £955 million in funding to help housing associations expand affordable housing.

- Exceeding our target to support infrastructure projects worth a combined £10 billion, under the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan.