Start a Shed

Advice for getting your shed off the ground

Starting a Shed

Most Men’s Sheds start with someone thinking “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a Men’s Shed here?”

To turn your idea into a reality you will need help. This means getting more people interested. You need to find like-minded people who want to make the Men’s Shed a reality.

You want other local people to know what a Men’s Shed is. Once they hear about your idea, some people will want to know more and might offer to help. Try to get people talking about your idea, word of mouth is the best advert, and do your best to provide an easy way for anyone who is interested to get in touch with you.

Firstly check on our online map of Scottish Sheds to see if there already is one or maybe one already being developed in or around your community. If there isn’t one use one or both of our two Facebook opportunities (Scottish Men’s Sheds Association and SMSA Shed Members Forum). Maybe someone has already posted the question or you need to ask the question and see if there are other people or organisations in your area with the same idea.

Get in touch with your local Council Community Centre Development Worker and/or Community Voluntary Service (CVS), Legion Scotland branch, Royal Voluntary Service, Rotary, Lions or Round Table etc. to get some support for your idea. They all offer free services and are there to help you.

You can use local groups, clubs and meetings to spread the word. Find out who runs a local group and ask them for a 10-minute slot at their next meeting. Go along and tell people about Men’s Sheds and keep a note of anyone who is interested. Use our leaflets and wear your member pin to show you are connected to the SMSA Shed Movement.

Get noticed

Other ways to get your idea talked about include:

  • Going onto local radio
  • Make up a flyer or business card and hand them out at gala days, in the street, local events, shops, pubs, bookies etc. Give them to people who are in local groups or who have lots of contacts or friends.
  • Ask women you know or women’s organisations to help, they often appreciate the benefits of Men’s Sheds and encourage men to get involved. They often have good networks for spreading information and news and are often very involved in getting Men’s Sheds started.
  • Write a letter or article for your local newspaper or community newsletter- they are usually keen for new “human interest” stories.
  • If you use social media like Twitter or Facebook this can be a great way of sharing news. If you don’t, find someone who does and who is willing to help with some initial promotion to get the ball rolling.
  • Make up a basic web site. There are lots of free, easy to use, web site design tools out there. If this sounds too “hi-tech”, remember that a web site is just a leaflet on the Internet. You only really need a simple page outlining your idea and giving your contact details.

1. Organise a meeting

A good way to take your Men’s Shed idea forward is to have a public meeting.

You can organise a meeting in a local community centre or church hall, anywhere with a big enough room to meet in. Try to get somewhere free (your local “Voluntary Action” office may have a meeting room for the community to use free of charge). It could be worth asking your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for help finding a meeting room.

You will need a plan of what you want to do and say at the meeting and what you want to get out of it. You will want to tell as may people as possible about your idea but also you will need to recruit people to help you so sign up anyone who is interested and supportive and create a contact list.

If you can get a few other people to “sign up” to your idea it will give you more influence when asking for help from the council or funders.

You could use your meeting to find people willing to form a “steering group” or committee. You just need 3 or 4, or more, people who are willing to meet regularly to take your plans forward.

2. Set up a steering group

A “Steering Group” is just a group of people who share a goal and are willing to put time into making it happen. You will have more influence and be taken more seriously if your group becomes “constituted”. This means that you have a written constitution (a set of rules, see SMSA constitution template in Member Resources) for your group members to sign up to.

3. Development/Business Plan

Once you have a handful of people interested it is a good time to find out their skills if you haven’t already. You will need to create a Development Plan (no financial projection) or if you are doing a three-year financial projection for your Shed its called a Business Plan. Sound scary? Download our example one in the online Members Resource Library (free to join to get access) and tailor it to your needs and/or look at SCVO – setting-up-a-charity/make-a-plan . Break up the sections between your members and then it’s not so scary. You will need this with the financial bit (Business Plan) for when you want to open a bank account.

4. Scottish Charity Status (SCIO)

If you want to have some protection for your members and attract funding to start your shed, we suggest you go down this route and become a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation or in short as that’s quite a mouthful, a SCIO. Have a look at our Charity Status page for the advantages and disadvantages.

If you have done all the above stages (1-3) and want some support with the application get in touch with us:
In the subject section of your Email call it – SCIO Application Support!

5. Bank account

Once you have printed out your charity application, checked all the boxes that you have all the info they require e.g. Development Plan and rush off to catch the post (worth getting it registered or signed for) you will have to wait for a few months for OSCR, the charity regulator to process your application. They will get back to you, to let you know they have received your application quite quickly and assigned a person to your case. Very nice and helpful people at OSCR.

You won’t be able to open a charity bank account until you receive the good news from OSCR and your charity number. So while you are waiting for this have a chat with all your local banks, to see which one feels best and supports you the most. In our experience it has varied considerably between banks. This type of account is a ‘business account’ and usually not done in a branch but in the head office somewhere in Scotland on the phone. Some banks branches are really helpful, will give you all the papers to fill in, in the meantime while you are waiting for your charity status. Others aren’t, so do shop around and ask the questions. You do want a good banking partner who supports you. Why do we need a Bank account you might be asking? To be able to receive the money from your Funders and supporters for your great Shed enterprise.

So finally you say to yourself after all this paperwork, where is the Shed? Well indeed. Hopefully during this time, you have been scoping out your village or city block looking for suitable premises.

6. The Shed

If you want to have a Shed which can support 30-50 men with a social, workshop, kitchen, toilets and storage area then we advise a minimum of 250 square meters as your foot print or bigger. Groundfloor with good access somewhere so you can get in long pieces of timber etc. You might also want an outside area for a Polytunnel to grow your veg and flowers. You might want but it’s just not available, so you might have to change your plans in the short to medium term. Who knows what the future holds in 15 years. We also think it’s important to have your shed on a good transport route as in the village centre. This way people can get to you and also the community can see you, get to know you and support you with commissions to do for them. You will have to derive some income to keep your shed open and running.

Importantly you need to have a building with no rent or a peppercorn rent of no more than £100,00 per year. The majority of 1500 Sheds in the world run like this. Speak to your local councils for their ‘surplus to requirement’s’ list of buildings. If you do have your council support they should apply something called, ‘a community benefit formula’ to the commercial rent. This will reduce the rent to the zero or as in many councils the £100 per annum. Your Shed’s purpose will tick most of the Scottish Councils, Scottish Governments and the World Health Organisation boxes. You are helping them achieve their aims. Have a look at the Social Return on Investment (SRoI) document we did on Scotland’s first Men’s Shed in Westhill, Aberdeenshire. (see Member Resources) It made a 10:1 return on the investment. No wonder the Australian government support their national Shed Association and set up support for Sheds, it saves them millions. The best investment around.

Approach your local agencies to ask for help finding suitable premises for your Men’s Shed, if you haven’t already. e.g. Churches, CVS, Voluntary Action, Third Sector Interface (TSI), Community Planning Dept., Council and Community Development Team.

The Community Asset Transfer (CAT) process  is another way of getting a building or land for your Shed. Community Asset Transfer involves the transfer of management and/or ownership of land and buildings from a public sector body to a community-based organisation, eg: a local charity, community interest company or industrial and provident society.

Many Scottish Sheds have got their premises through this process. The Scottish Community Empowerment Bill created this opportunity for our communities and you can see the related information on the Scottish Governments website:

CAT Transfer options
A range of agreements can be entered into to facilitate the transfer of an asset to a community-based organisation – but the most common form is long a long term lease (20+ years) rather than straight out ownership.
Often, local authorities (this also includes the Police, Canals, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service etc but not the Military of Defence)  can be approached for buildings in their care.

Checklist for Shedders
Any voluntary or community group interested in Community Asset Transfer
should consider a number of things by way of preparation:
• Gather evidence to show how the community and local people will benefit
from the transfer
• Gather evidence of community support for the transfer – community consultation
• Check to see if your local authority has an Asset Transfer Strategy or CAT department and if there have been other Community Asset Transfers nearby from which you can learn
• Solicit assistance or develop a business plan that demonstrates the financial
viability of your plans – you can get specific assistance from The Community Ownership Support Service – COSS. They have representatives all over Scotland who will guide you through the process for free
• Check that land and buildings in question really are assets and not liabilities – for example, they are liabilities if they cannot generate enough income to fund repairs, maintenance and ongoing operational costs

This process is a perfect fit for Scottish Shedders as they use their existing skills often from their work life to fix the building at a fraction of the cost of using outside contractors. If this interests you give us a call to discuss in further detail. The one key step in this process is once you are a constituted group with charity status and you have found a building you want for your Shed you MUST formally write a note of interest and send it to the ownership body of that particular building.

If it is not in writing and only verbal the whole CAT process can not start. 

7. Funding

See our separate Funding section.

8. Time on your hands

It’s important to find people who have ‘time on their hands’ and who are really willing to stay for the long haul (12-24 months). That’s the honest truth. Look for 5 to 10 people to make up your group and make sure they are all along for the ride. Everyone is important, nobody is the boss. No one is better than anyone else, put the Shed first. Then at the end of the Shed creation journey and the doors open, you can look around and see their smiling faces right next to yours, for many years to come. Nobody got left behind. That’s what it’s all about.

The SMSA are in discussions with funders and the Scottish Government about providing a network of SMSA Shed Development Officers who can help you with your Men’s Shed plans. We hope they get behind us to be able to provide this service for you sooner than later. Speak to your MSP’s and Councilors – your voice really does help. Tell us your challenges you face along the way and we will add our weight to your voice.


The diagram below shows how some Men’s Sheds are started:
(Diagram created by Myra Duncan of md consulting for a Report by the Joint Improvement Team (JIT). Reproduced with author’s kind permission)

What our members say

In short. We already feel invigorated, more motivated, more active, healthier and indeed happier. Isn’t that what a Shed is about?- Bill B
Your advice and help in negotiating and securing us a lease has been invaluable. We wish you every success in developing the SMSA to the point that every area in Scotland will have a regional advisor.- Alan P
There have been times when the task ahead of us has seemed too much and without your presence to re-kindle our motivation we might have faltered.- Peter
Many thanks for such a fulsome conversation this morning. Both Lawson and I learnt a great deal from our chat and from your advice. Well Being!- Alan S

Men involved in community Men’s Sheds report living healthier, happier and more connected lives.

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