IT seems particularly apt in this run up to Christmas to have a meet the boss who spent a formative part of her career in the festive department of the North-East flagship department store, Fenwick.

Claire Foster, who runs MAC Security and Fire in Consett, with her husband Craig, believes her early management training in the department store provided the best possible training, across the board.

She explains: “I worked for Fenwick for seven years in a range of roles including an under-buyer for handbags, which was my dream job. I was involved in everything from negotiating with suppliers, managing staff, working out what would sell and leading on customer service.

“The time I spent running the Christmas department was a particularly brilliant experience as the atmosphere was amazing, singing Christmas songs from October an being constantly covered in glitter – although I must admit my home Christmas tree was just thrown up that year!”

Following on from Fenwick Claire worked for Pertemps, starting as a trainee recruitment consultant and working up to be a branch manager. She enjoyed the time in this sector but described it as learning from a school of hard knocks due to the high pressure of it all. “I learnt my most valuable skill at Pertemps, the skill of managing up!” she says.

After having her first child, Fergus, ten, she decided to utilise her skills on her own behalf and worked as a freelance sales consultant. She was so successful for one of her clients, that the product was showcased on the Alan Titchmarsh Show.

This entrepreneurial spirit brought new business closer to home when her husband Craig asked her to help his security systems company, MAC Security and Fire.

She says: “I started doing some sales for our business and it was always, ‘While you’re here can you just…’ It just snowballed and after I left to have our second child, Lucas, now seven, we decided the time was right for me to become MD and Craig moved into the technical director role.”

MAC Security and Fire emplosy 11 people and provide electronic security products and services for local as well as national clients in a range of sectors including domestic, commercial, industrial, construction and off shore.

There is currently expansion underway for the business as it has recently bought a new building in Delves Lane, Consett which will enable them to have a new trade shop on site as well as offices.

Claire says: “This new venture will be complementary to our existing work, as it will primarily provide off-the-shelf solutions for the DIY market and as well as supplies to the electrical sector.”

The current growth will be supported by the company’s new ability to go into the offshore industry. Craig Foster has recently qualified to work as a fire and security consultant on wind turbines.

Describing working with her husband Claire says: “It’s a bit of a weird balance but worth it as we can bounce ideas off each other and we talk, a lot, all the time! We’re the best of friends and can switch between home and office mode, which helps.”

Claire is also proud to be the chair of Henry Dancer Days charity which was recently awarded a Children in Need grant. The organisation, inspired by Henry Dancer who tragically died from osteosarcoma at just 12 years old, supports families and children with cancer with financial grants and distraction projects in hospitals such as storytelling and ceramics.

Q and A with Claire Foster

Favourite North-East building and why?

Durham Cathedral – Such a beautiful building steeped in history (and featured in Harry Potter!). It really symbolises home when you are travelling North on the train.

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

Management Trainee at Fenwick Ltd, £7,000 pa (I think! - it was a few years ago!)

What is the worst job you've had?

Goodness, I don’t one! Everything I’ve done, I have learnt something – even if it was not to do it again!

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

Beef Stroganoff and mash potatoes! I know there a plenty of recipes for beef strog, but my mum always used a recipe book by Robert Carrier – even 40 years ago the book would fall open at the page, I still use it every time now!

What would your superpower be?

Ability to stop time! There is always so much to do, as a Mum, at Work, at Home, with friends. Time is so precious It seems to be passing so quickly! I would stop time to enjoy longer time with my boys.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party?

Winston Churchill, Randy Pausch, Albert Einstein, My Grandad Bobby

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter?

My boys' school – I love seeing pics of them while I’m at work

Favourite book?

Randy Pausch – Last Lecture

When did you last cry?

Friday night watching a film – Finding your Feet

What is your greatest achievement?

My two boys – just wow!

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

Learn to manage up! Never take a problem to your boss without thinking of some solutions first.

Favourite animal?

My two Dalmatian Dogs – Patsy and Edina. They are so loving and protective of the family.

Most famous person on your mobile phone?

Alan Titchmarsh

What was the last band you saw live?

Radiostar – a local band.

Describe your perfect night in?

Fire on, sitting watch a film with Craig and the Boys

In another life I would be...

Criminal Psychologist

What irritates you?

Bad manners

What's your secret talent?

I mix an amazing Gin and Tonic!