Business isn't always about boardrooms, briefings and black coffee. So, in tribute to the North-East men and women who take a more unusual approach to enterprise, Andy Richardson takes a look at the unconventional, alternative or downright difficult careers in the region's economy

MARK Lloyd began his career working as an apprentice at his local jewellers. He is now a goldsmith and owner of Mobeus jewellers in Hartlepool, re-modelling jewellery and creating bespoke commissions in the workshop at the back of his store.

Tell us about what you do?

I look after the day-to-day running of the business and manage a team of five staff. But as a goldsmith myself, I cover for David who has worked for me for 13 years and have trained him since he left school to be a goldsmith. I also design and create special commissions in the workshop particularly individually designed wedding and engagement rings.

How did you become a goldsmith?

I was at Hartlepool Sixth Form College studying A-levels in art and craft, design and technology and was originally hoping to get a job in woodwork but spotted an opportunity at my local jewellers for a goldsmith's apprentice.

There was quite a few people went for it but I was the lucky one! Once I completed my apprenticeship, I then worked at a Hartlepool jeweller's for seven years before deciding to go self-employed when I was 28.

What's the most unusual piece of work you've created?

There's so many because every piece of work we commission is unique and that is what makes them so special. But the most unusual piece was an automated silver water lily, designed by local schoolchildren. It was a long project, taking over four months to get the design and construction just right. But the whole process was definitely worth it and really paid off when the lily was put on permanent display at the Bowes Museum.

What's the most expensive piece you've created?

It's probably some restoration work we carried out for a 2½ carat diamond ring, which I remodelled in platinum for the owner. The diamonds in the ring were worth well over £20,000 alone, so that definitely added a bit of pressure but the customer absolutely loved it and that is what makes it all worthwhile.

Where do you get the gold and silver to make your jewellery?

A lot of people think that Hatton Garden in London is the centre of the jewellery industry, but most of the major manufacturing jewellers are based in Birmingham. I usually order gold and silver in sheet or wire for the length and width needed for a job and it arrives by special delivery. It doesn't come in big lumps of gold and silver.

What's the most rewarding aspect about your work?

Without a doubt, it's presenting the finished product, whether that's a repair or a commission, to its new owners. It's the joy on their faces and their genuine enthusiasm and thanks for my work which really makes my job worthwhile.

The personal feedback we get is always positive and it's great to know that people appreciate the work we do. One of my personal favourites is commissioning wedding rings and bespoke engagement rings, watching the happiness of the couples when they see the finished products for the first time - there's often a few tears.

What's the most challenging part of your job?

Definitely the pressure involved in working with other people's jewellery. When you take on a project, there's undoubtedly a responsibility to the owner to do a good job, especially as a lot of things not only hold monetary value but also have a sentimental value.

What do you do in your spare time?

My big passion is music and I've been a drummer in many local bands across the years, including Procession, 23rd Spiral, Demon Summer and NEEB, and have enjoyed success recording for a major London record label ZTT at Sarm West Studios alongside Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Seal and performed at festivals across the country including Glastonbury. It's a great distraction from the business and also useful, as we've managed to turn the shop basement into a rehearsal room.