IT’S hard to imagine managing director Paul Drake knee-deep in scampi entrails for a glamorous £4.50 an hour.

However, Mr Drake really did start from the bottom up, moving from gutting fish to making cottage cheese, which was apparently the best job in the creamery.

He became a father at just 18 and believes this is what spurred him on to become more qualified and pursue other opportunities.

He said: “There was plenty of pressure on me to get this right.

"I worked six days a week making cottage cheese because there was no paid holiday; laws about that kind of thing didn’t exist back then.

“I knew there had to be opportunities out there and I wanted to do right by my family.

"We had a tough time and lived in a council house with practically nothing, but I had the hunger to make it happen.”

He undertook a degree in computer science at night school while still working at the cheese factory and then took a job at a long-distance learning college.

What followed was a role at DuPont Knowledge Management and then at a software house, before Mr Drake and business partner Shaun decided to team up and step out on their own.

“We went for a stroll one lunchtime and were both feeling demotivated and fed up," he said.

"We were tired of the monotonous repetition and had the crazy idea to launch our own business.

"We had no idea where to begin.”

However, the colleagues put their heads together and Stockton-based Sapere was born.

More than nine years later and the business is going from strength-to-strength, with new recruits and a move to a bigger office.

“I’m very aware of where I’ve come from," he said.

"I didn’t have the desire to trawl through 15kg of scampi entrails to achieve a 50p per hour raise, but I’m doing something I love now and every day is exciting.

“Shaun and I have exciting plans to grow Sapere, and have the hunger for it too.

"All I can say is watch this space.”

Five minutes with… Paul Drake

Favourite North-East building and why? It has to be the pier at Saltburn. I find it peaceful, relaxing and have time to reflect.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? Cleaning scampi for about £4.50 per hour.

What is the worst job you've had? The first one - pulling entrails out of freezing cold scampi with local radio blasting out for eight hours a day. The entire place stank and so did your clothes, it was truly awful.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? It would be spicy chicken and sausage paella with a nice flat garlic bread. A mish-mash of dishes but it tastes amazing.

What would your superpower be? The power of healing. I think that speaks for itself.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party? My grandad, he died before he had chance to take me for a pint, but he was someone I really looked up to. Paul O’Grady, I read some of his books last year on holiday and he’d be a great laugh. Johnny Vaughan, I’ve just discovered his teatime Radio X show, I think it’s really funny and his vocabulary is pretty impressive, so I think we’d have a great laugh. My wife, just because we have such a laugh together.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? I think it was my super king-size bed and mattress. It cost about £1,500 but has been worth every penny.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? I have to be honest, I have no idea. Believe it or not I’m new to Twitter, so I don’t really follow anyone. However, I’d imagine Stephen Fry would be interesting.

Favourite book? Open the Cage, Murphy! It’s one of Paul O’Grady’s books under his Lily Savage persona. I don’t read many books but couldn’t put this one down.

When did you last cry? At my wedding. It was on a stunningly beautiful beach in Thailand with family and friends. I had my sunglasses on the whole time so no one knew…until now.

What is your greatest achievement? Raising two kind, caring, compassionate children with a happy and positive outlook on life. I was a pretty young father and my eldest is now 22, so I had to grow up pretty quickly.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? “Win the job and then worry about how you’ll do it.” We could be the best code writers in the world, but if you don’t have any paying customers then it won’t get you very far.

Favourite animal and why? My dog Roscoe. I’m not really an animal lover but he won me over instantly. He’s a feisty little Jack Russell, full of life and energy and it’s true when they say your dog is always happy to see you.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? Fred Barber. It’s a long story but he used to be a professional goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach.

What was the last band you saw live? Mumford & Sons at Leeds Festival. They were amazing (much better than the tone-deaf woman singing along behind me).

Describe your perfect night in? A delicious, home-cooked meal with my wife and children, a few glasses/bottles of Prosecco, chatting and laughing the night away.

In another life, I would be... A tennis player. I used to play regularly with my siblings growing up, so when it came to playing against anyone else they would get thrashed! I’d love to know if I’d have been any good with the right coaching.

Who would play you in a film of your life? I have no idea, but I’ve been likened to Peter Griffin from Family Guy by my wife, so it would have to be a cartoon.

What irritates you? Lots of things but predominately loud, brash and rude people.

What's your secret talent? You mean other than making cottage cheese and gutting scampi? DIY. I like nothing more than switching my brain off over the weekend and tackling a job like fitting a kitchen.