ANDREW Chambers admits he’s done it the hard way.

Setting up a business at the start of the recession, his endeavour would have made even the most enthusiastic industry expert shudder with anxiety.

It certainly made him question his own judgement.

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But it’s worked.

As managing director of Arc Wealth, Arc Finance Group, Arc Estate Agents and Arc Health, the former mortgage advisor has more than succeeded.

The 33-year-old admits the venture hasn’t been without its travails, but, as he sits in his office assessing the journey, his words are matched by a strong sense of satisfaction.

He said: “I was a normal mortgage advisor, working for my dad, but got to the point where I thought I needed to look for a new job.

“I looked around but couldn’t see anything, so thought ‘why don’t I go on my own?’

“I had quite a few people telling me it was a bad idea.

“At the time, the credit crunch had started, though the information coming out was saying it was going to be a blip.

“I thought I’d be fine, and the business started in February 2008.

“Literally the same week, the credit crunch hit.

“I sat down and thought to myself ‘what have I done?’

“I had just bought a house I couldn’t afford but I got on with it and started obtaining clients.

“It’s built from there, I’ve worked through it and we’ve grown year-on-year.”

Arc Wealth, which offers financial advice, operates from Darlington’s Stanhope Road South, alongside the business’ sister health and estate agent divisions.

Across town, Arc Finance Group, which trades as Arc Protect, runs a life insurance call centre on Haughton Road.

Mr Chambers said the branches were performing, revealing he wants to grow their presence with the help of more staff, including apprentices.

He added: “We have got a really good relationship with our staff and we are a big believer in apprentices too.

“We’ve probably had about 20 apprentices that have come in and we feel strongly about that.

“We are a young company and we are looking to continue expanding.

“The life insurance side is one of the largest protection advisory firms in the UK, but, me being competitive, I would like to get up the list a bit further.

“With wealth management, we’re looking to find the right advisors (to help its growth) and with the estate agency side we are trying to do something different.

“The aim of the business has always been about offering a good quality service.

“We run it on strong moral principles; I’d rather cost myself money and stick to my principles than make it by breaking them.

“We always endeavour to do the right thing and do the best for people.”

Five minutes with…Andrew Chambers

Favourite North-East building and why?

As a Sunderland AFC season ticket holder for the past 20 years, there is only one place it can be: The Stadium of Light.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid?

An apprentice sheet metal worker at a factory in Shildon. It was a long time ago. I think I was paid around £200 per month.

What is the worst job you've had?

I did some temp work in the summer holidays from university and ended up working in a factory in Chilton. I had to fill large rubber moulds with graphite powder. I finished each shift looking like I'd been working down the pit. I’ll be honest, I didn't last long.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner?

I do fancy myself as a decent cook but if was totally honest I’m a much better baker than anything else. It would probably be a collection of different cakes and desserts.

What would your superpower be?

This is a tough one. I think I would go for the ability to freeze time. Running a company is great and really fulfilling, but I don't spend as much time as I should having fun with my kids, Oliver and Isabel. If I could freeze time I could finish all of my work and get home to see them sooner.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Niall Quinn, David Beckham, James Corden and Gary Barlow.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much?

I don’t really go in for having too much expensive stuff. The most expensive was a big TV, which was about £3,000.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why?

I don't really use Twitter anymore.

Favourite book?

I must admit I’m not much of an avid book reader, but the last book I read was Peter Jones’ autobiography.

When did you last cry?

This is a little embarrassing. When Sunderland reached the Carling Cup final at Wembley I shed a tear when Fabio Borini scored. After the goal I composed myself, the half-time whistle blew and I telephoned home to check the kids were OK. Five-year-old Oliver answered the telephone saying, ‘Dad, Dad, we've scored!’ That was it, I broke down in tears again. I probably need to grow up!

What is your greatest achievement?

It maybe a little boring, but growing a successful group of companies is my biggest achievement. I started Arc in February 2008, I had savings of £3,800 to start my business, the credit crunch had just hit and times were tough. But, with hard work it paid off. Across the group we now have around 60 staff and we are still growing.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given?

It was from my father-in-law, David Sloan. He instilled in me the idea that there is no substitute for hard work.

Favourite animal and why?

It would have to be a greyhound. My wife, Rachel, and I have rescued five greyhounds over the past seven years and we will continue to help these often overlooked dogs for the rest of our lives.

Most famous person on your mobile phone?

I have some well-known clients in my mobile but alas, due to data protection laws, I can’t disclose who they are.

What was the last band you saw live?

Stereophonics.

Describe your perfect night in: Just chilling out with my wife and kids, watching a good film and probably eating ice cream.

In another life I would be... Skinny. If you want a serious answer, probably a car mechanic, as I really enjoy fixing cars. I’m currently building a kit car and I find that type of thing very therapeutic.

Who would play you in a film of your life?

It would probably be someone with some sort of weight control issue. Maybe James Corden…

What irritates you?

People not being polite. Please and thank you costs you nothing and there is just no reason not to be nice.

What's your secret talent?

While I was at university I taught myself to play the guitar. I don’t do it very often anymore but I really enjoyed it.