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• Leo Winstanley, founder of Hand-i-Craft in Formby announced as North West Ambassador
• Start Up Loans recognises 12 small businesses from across the UK as leading and inspiring examples of UK start-ups supported by the programme
• The programme has delivered more than £122.5m of funding to over 13,114 businesses in the North West since 2012

Leo Winstanley founded Hand-i-Craft, based in Formby, after losing the ability to use his dominant hand and arm in a car accident. Now, it is a successful woodworking shop, stocking handmade items, finishes and accessories that are sold online. Leo is among 12 businesses announced today as Ambassadors of the Start Up Loans programme, part of the British Business Bank.

The annual Start Up Loans Ambassadors programme, now in its eighth year, celebrates exceptional business owners who have launched an enterprise using funding from the government-backed scheme. As an Ambassador, Leo Winstanley embodies the can-do mindset it takes to make a start-up successful.

Leo Winstanley, founder of Hand-i-Craft said: “Starting a business is no easy feat, and the support of the Start Up Loans programme, alongside a good dose of dedication, was pivotal in the early days of my business. I’m excited to represent the North West as a 2023 Start Up Loans Ambassador and look forward to inspiring others to embrace entrepreneurship and create their unique success stories, just as I have created my own.”

Leo’s car accident caused severe nerve damage, but woodworking has been a form of physical and mental therapy. He combined his drive with innovation and created a successful woodworking shop. His YouTube channel “Hand-i-Craft” has garnered over 11,000 subscribers, and he has become a prominent figure in the online woodworking community.

Drawn from each of the UK’s 12 nations and regions, the 2023 Start Up Loans Ambassadors reflect the broad diversity of sectors and business owners supported via the programme. More details of the businesses selected from each of England’s nine regions and three Devolved Nations can be found further below.

Leo Winstanley and the other 2023 Ambassadors will be introduced at a launch event in central London that kick-starts a year-long programme which will see the new Ambassadors take part in a series of local and national activities, helping inspire and encourage aspiring start-up founders to take the leap into business ownership.

Dr Sophie Dale-Black, UK Network Director for the North of England, British Business Bank said: “Leo’s story demonstrates the immense possibilities that the Start Up Loans programme offers. It’s exciting to be involved in an inspiring story of overcoming adversity. We’re looking forward to seeing his business grow as he shows that a disability is not a barrier to starting a business. Leo should be a role model for many businesses in the North West, and beyond, and offers a great example of how Start Up Loans can help transform lives.”

Since its inception in 2012, the Start Up Loan programme has delivered more than 105,000 loans to business owners across the UK, amounting to more than £1bn of funding. Of those loans, 40% of loan recipients have been women and 20% from Black, Asian, and Other Minority Ethnic backgrounds (not including White Minorities).

Through a network of business support partner organisations, the Start Up Loans programme provides: access to pre-and-post loan support to help applicants to develop a business plan, fixed-interest, first and second loans of up to £25,000 to start or grow their business, as well as mentoring support to help loan recipients with everything from cash flow to marketing.

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