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19 March 2015 Written by 

Local business man sets up social enterprise to keep the elderly healthier and happier

In 2013 local Herts resident, Chris Lee, set up 'The Repair Shed', a social enterprise that aims to bring older men together to keep them healthier and happier for longer through making, mending and learning.

Chris was just 7 months into his start-up journey when he won a competition run by local enterprise agency, Wenta, for a year's free workspace at their My Incubator – Stevenage facility. Chris is certain that the win came "just at the right time" for his start-up enterprise.

"As many can confirm, the life of an entrepreneur - even one of the social variety - can be a lonely one at the start-up stage. It also requires discipline to focus on the less exciting activities associated with working 'on' the business, as opposed to working 'in' it. The offer of desk space in Stevenage coincided with my determination to increase structure and self-discipline around The Repair Shed development."

The competition involved entrants tweeting in their 'new business ideas'. Since his win, Chris has found the My Incubator facility to be a very useful and fun environment to work from.

"Through using My Incubator I have made lots of useful contacts. What stands out for me is the friendliness of the people in the Stevenage workspace. I made a fool of myself playing rounders in the summer with the My Incubator team and I'm looking forward to future social events too! I've always subscribed to a 'work hard, play hard' philosophy!"

Since winning the free workspace, Chris has also had some additional good news for The Repair Shed. Two funding successes which will cover the cost of a new workshop at their Hemel base as well as finance for the next 12 months to pilot some waste prevention projects. Chris is now also working with women as well as men, he said:

"We have a group of six 'founding members' of The Repair Shed and this includes two women, soon to be joined by a third. For many older women, their husbands did all the home maintenance and DIY. Some want to learn new skills, stay independent, and save money - I love their thirst for learning!"

Utilising his carpentry talents, Chris also recently won North Herts District Council's 'Be Resourceful' competition for his 'patio palletable' creation that he made out of two pallets from a builder's skip. Chris won ten free swims at Royston Leisure Centre as a result and is rewarding himself with a very early swim each Friday!

So what does the future hold for Chris?

"The plan is to get founder members up to speed before expanding our membership. We'll be increasing our operation hours from 1 day a week to three days too."

Chris added:

"Without any real marketing, we already have a waiting list of older men interested in joining The Repair Shed - so the new workshop and funding have come at just the right time. There are exciting times ahead for 2015 and I'm very grateful for Wenta's help in getting me to this point."

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