LEAP Business Start-up Programme

The LEAP Business Start-up Programme is a free course providing expert advice and the chance to win a cash prize of £2,500 to help start your business.

Our LEAP Business Start-Up Programme is designed to assist pre-start, start-up, and young businesses and is fully funded by Lewes District Council.

Applications for 2022 are now open – please complete your details below using our online application form.

'De Minimis' State Aid:

To be eligible to receive certain types of publicly funded business support, we need to establish whether you can receive De Minimis Aid under EU State Aid Regulations. Potentially any assistance you may have received from a public body might be De Minimis Aid. This could be from Central, Regional, Development Governments or Agencies or Local Council. If you are not sure whether any assistance you have received is De Minimis Aid, please clarify with the body which granted the assistance. A general Enterprise can receive up to €200,000 circa £176,000. NB. A Farm that has diversified is treated as a general Enterprise. The support proposed in this current document has been valued at €5156 circa £4,000. Please confirm that your business has not been granted De Minimis Aid within the past 2 fiscal years. If this statement is not correct, please contact us on 01323 641 144 to provide further details. By signing the declaration you acknowledge that failure on your part to meet the eligibility criteria will render you liable to repay the value of the aid shown.


The information I have given on this application is accurate. I understand that failure to provide accurate information may result in me being removed from the programme and having to repay any expense occurred. (1) I understand that participating in the LEAP Programme will assist me in the planning and preparation of my new business, but participation does not guarantee that my new business will succeed. (2) I fully understand that any adviser(s) or mentor(s) that I meet and engage with through LEAP are giving me their personal thoughts on how they would analyse, evaluate and make decisions. Any such information or suggestions then acted upon by myself either personally or on behalf of my company is at all times at my own risk and any disadvantage gained as a result is not attributable in any way to the advisor or LEAP Programme. (3) By signing this declaration I understand that this form and others completed on the programme may be passed on to Lewes District Council, Government Departments, EDEAL, ACES and other funding and programme partners. (4) I understand that photos will be used during the LEAP Programme to publicise the work of the LEAP partners. I consent to such images being used. (5) By signing this declaration I agree to the sharing of data amongst partners. Your data will not be sold to any third parties, and will be used purely for administering the programme and keeping you, and our funding partners, up to date on your progress. (6) I agree that any decision made not to grant me a place on the programme is final, and I accept the judges decision when a winner is selected.
This acts as your digital signature and confirms that you agree with the declaration above.

By joining the LEAP Business Start-up Programme, eligible entrepreneurs will:

Attend a start-up workshop

Attend an interactive start-up workshop in Lewes or Newhaven.

Attend seminars

After shortlisting, 15 move on to Stage Two and attend a series of seminars focusing on areas where enterprises tend to fail in their first year. Those on the programme also receive mentoring from a team of dedicated business experts to help those entrepreneurs create viable, strong and robust business plans.

Go before a judging panel

Five business plans will be judged by a panel and the best business idea will be announced at the Lewes District Business Awards. The winner will receive the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ Award and a cash prize of £2,500 to help them set up a business. A runner up will receive £500.

The amazing group of LEAP Business Start-up participants from 2017

Judging panel and experts

Melanie Richardson

Managing Partner at Swindells Accounting

With offices based in Uckfield and Seaford, Managing Partner Melanie Richardson is responsible for the day to day running of the firm as well as looking after a wide range of clients. She heads up the corporate finance department, dealing with acquisition and disposal of companies, business group restructuring, and corporate tax planning. She is a board director at the Sussex Chamber of Commerce.

Christina Ewbank

Chief Executive EDEAL Enterprise Agency

During 23 years with Mercedes-Benz and smart UK, Christina Ewbank has run dealerships in Chichester, Eastbourne and Brighton and was also Regional Manager for Lexus Northern Europe based in Brussels. She has brought her expertise running multi-million pound businesses to Edeal Enterprise Agency providing business support for start-ups and existing businesses and runs the Town Centre Management Team, including the Eastbourne Borough Market and town centre promotions in Eastbourne.

Ian Woodward

Natwest Relationship Manager

Ian Woodward has been a Bank Manager for NatWest in Eastbourne for 15 years. He manages accounts for a wide range of businesses, specialising in finance to purchase freehold business premises. Outside of Banking Ian is a keen swimmer, and competes regularly for Eastbourne and Sussex Masters teams, as well as teaching swimming for Eastbourne Swimming Club. Ian also arranges occasional Charity events, the most recent being a Sausage Tasting Competition at the Matthew 25 Mission, where they provide meals for vulnerable people 5 days a week. As you can see he likes to get stuck in.

Find out from local businesses how LEAP has helped them

To be eligible to receive this support you must be 18 years old and over and able to attend training sessions in the Lewes District

Ready to get started?

The programme is every year.

Registration for the 2021 Leadership Programme is now open.

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