Business is not always about boardrooms, briefings and black coffee.

In tribute to these who take a more unusual approach to enterprise, Deputy Business Editor Steven Hugill examines the unconventional and downright difficult careers in the North-East

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a...chimney sweep

Richard Bryan is a chimney sweep with Wilkins Chimney Sweep, which carries out services across Tyneside.

The company was founded in 1895 by Tom Wilkins, in Berkshire, and passed down through his family until 1998, when Peter Harris took over.

He franchised Wilkins Chimney Sweep in 2011, and its North Tyneside division was established in July last year.

How did your career as a chimney sweep start? After obtaining a degree in housing management, I spent 25 years working as a housing manager in the public sector.

I worked my way up to a senior management position and really enjoyed my job.

However, I started to think about a change of career to take me out of my comfort zone.

I was offered the opportunity of voluntary redundancy and decided to start my own business.

What attracted you to chimney sweeping? When considering what I wanted from my new career, I had a wish list.

I wanted a job where I would be working with my hands, rather than sitting at a desk, one where I would be meeting customers on a day-to-day basis, rather than responding to emails and answering phone calls, and where I was working for myself, rather than being a small cog in a large organisational wheel.

I read an article which said that demand for chimney sweeping services was increasing as people installed stoves and opened up fires.

A chimney sweeping business seemed to tick all the boxes.

How difficult was it to get the business going? Following a career in the public sector, I had no experience of setting up or running a business but with the support of my franchisor, Wilkins Chimney Sweep, the task was simplified.

I received training in both the practical process of sweeping and in the financial and administrative side of running a business.

Together, we developed an initial marketing plan to launch the business.

What was the biggest challenge? Being such a fundamental career change, everything was new and my learning curve was steep.

However, the most significant personal challenge has turned into my biggest personal achievement.

In addition to sweeping chimneys, I also fit cowls, caps and cages to chimney pots high up on the roofs of homes and businesses.

As someone who had suffered from a fear of heights since childhood, it was a great challenge initially to carry out this element of the job.

However, following ladder training I am now increasingly confident and obtain significant satisfaction from completing these jobs.

What does the future hold? During my first year, I want to establish the business and build a reputation for providing a professional, clean and friendly service.

In the longer term, I hope to build a sustainable business, based on high levels of customer satisfaction, hopefully resulting in customers coming back again and again and recommending me to their friends and family.