THE list of bespoke shoe manufacturer Simon Bourne’s achievements is drawn from far and wide.

Always pushing himself out of his comfort zone, this creative entrepreneur once travelled to India to do freelance sports reporting on the Nehru Cup because he thought it sounded interesting.

Today he is newly-settled in his historic new business premises, which were once the offices of the vice president of Ushaw College in Durham.

Simon Bourne lives a few minutes’ drive away in Langley Park.

But his career started in a very different place to the former Catholic Seminary.

He said: “I had a struggle at school because I always felt different but one particular teacher Mr Crabtree, who taught me English, spotted that I had a flair for writing.

“This belief in me helped even though I had a mixture of jobs when I left school. It resulted in me doing freelance sports journalism in my spare time. It was great experience and I ended up doing reports for ITV, radio stations and other sports channels.

This background then helped me get a marketing job with Durham County Council childrens’ services team. One of the highlights of my time there was organising a Durham’s Got Talent for young people which attracted around 1,000 entries and had a Grand Finale at the Gala Theatre.”

While in this role he was buying a sofa at the Original Sofa Company, ended up giving marketing advice to the owner and being offered a job. He sold sofas really successfully but this work helped him find his real passion, quite by accident.

Simon Bourne said: “I turned my hand to quite a few different roles at the business but was always disappointed to throw away the leftover leather samples. I asked my boss if I could sell them, so made a fair amount of cash selling bags of gorgeous leather for £20 on eBay.

“Then I thought I can increase my profit if I make something from the leather so learnt how to make shoes, taught by John Borrowdale from Weardale. My first pair were very rough and ready but I fell in love with the idea of creating bespoke leather shoes in beautiful colours.”

Deciding on his business idea was one thing but it took three years and a few false starts before he identified a business which could make shoes to his standards, on time.

He had tried out four or five workshops and spent £16k that he couldn’t really afford trying to get the right shoes produced, causing huge stress. Due to these challenges he decided his manufacturer had to meet five criteria before he would work with them. They had to agree to no minimum order (so he didn’t have to hold hundreds of pairs in stock) speak English, agree a price, have the right attention to detail and quality and have a team of people, no one-man bands.

Then out of the blue an agent in Portugal contacted him and introduced him to his current supplier who has been perfect. He has never looked back.

His workshop meets all these needs and more.

He said: “I was still working at a Sofa Workshop, where I had won awards for customer service until December last year, running the business in my spare time but orders came in so thick and fast I knew I needed to take the plunge.”

After being based in a small unit initially, his new move to Ushaw College has given him the perfect space for his company.

“I’m delighted to be here as my rent helps to ensure this fantastic building is maintained and restored for future generations.”

The Hand Dyed Shoe Company has over 30 different styles and a huge range of options including monograms, embossed effects and all the colours of the rainbow.

“I want buying from me to be more than just buying handmade shoes; it’s a whole experience.”