Sue Stokes once had a stellar career as a curriculum manager at a further education college.
Younger sister Jilly Broughton was equally high powered, working for a government department in London.
But both were stressed out by the long hours, daily commute and lack of job satisfaction.
Sue, who lives in Heath Road, was the first to quit, throwing in the corporate towel in favour of becoming her own boss as a chimney sweep – one of only two women in the profession in Leighton.
She decided to add gardening to the service she offered and took an RHS qualification in horticulture.
The business is called – appropriately - Stokes Chimneys and Gardens. And she’s recently been joined by Jilly, of Bideford Green who has a degree in spatial (landscape) design.
Sue recalls the moment she told her former colleagues of her plans: “We were all in the staff room complaining that there must be more to life than teaching and I gliby said: ‘I’m going to be a chimney sweep.’
“Then when I took redundancy, I decided to carry out my threat because I wanted to be self-employed.”
She researched the four oganisations that offered training and – with her background in education – decided on the Institute of Chimney Sweeps as she preferred not only their ethical policies but also their attitude to customer service.
She did two days of intensive training, followed by six weeks with a mentor.
Then came the practical assessments – three sweeps that couldn’t be for friends and family.
The mother-of-two passed with flying colours and gradually built up a loyal clientele, probably because of her attention to detail and the fact she’s DBS checked, has a waste carrier licence, full public liability insurance and a cleaning certificate recognised by home insurance companies.
Sue says: “Chimneys need to be cleaned thoroughly and responsibly to keep them safe, as do stoves. And the extra attention I provide, ensuring the task is completed efficiently and without any mess, is really appreciated.”
She’s delighted that Jilly has come to join her. “We’ve always been close and now we can work together doing a job we really enjoy – keeping chimneys safe and gardens happy,” she smiles.
> Call Sue on 01525 850622.