My Journey: David

David – Company Owner & Founder

‘Before I started, I’d never even driven a van before in my life, let alone swept a chimney.’

David, Mr Soot’s Owner & Founder

It All Started With Moving House…

If you’d told David 10 years ago he’d be running a successful chimney sweeping, testing and inspection company, he would have laughed.

As someone who wore a suit and tie to work and sat behind a desk, fireplaces were the furthest thing from his mind. But that all changed when he bought a house.

“It was a Victorian property, with lots of the original features, but it had an old 1980s gas fire, which just looked rubbish and out of place. I wanted to put an original open coal fire back in, so started researching it.

“I spent hours looking at designs and so on, but when it came to getting one fitted, I just found the whole experience a nightmare.

“Of the few tradespeople that bothered to call me back, hardly anyone wanted to touch it. Pretty much every installer was pushing me towards a multi fuel stove, which I didn’t want.

“I can now understand why, but as a layperson at the time, I found it baffling. And very few actually explained properly what the potential issues were. So I started having to read up on it myself. And I started to really get into it.”

It was then that David had a ‘eureka’ moment.

“I’d been wanting to run my own business for years, but couldn’t work out what. I had literally every idea under the sun, but nothing seemed viable.

“I did wonder if I could install fireplaces but, as I found out, it is not only a two-person job, and my own DIY skills were very basic at the time.

“Also, I had no prior experience of the solid fuel industry, so I couldn’t even go on the relevant courses.”

However, you could join the course if you were a registered chimney sweep. And that immediately appealed to David.

“I figured that, if nothing else, I could learn how to sweep my own chimney, so I looked at all the chimney sweep associations. The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps stood out a mile as it was the only one which offered you onsite training with an experienced sweep. For a rookie like me, this was invaluable.

“So I did the course and the rest, as they say, is history.

Setting Up Mr Soot

“My first van – a Citroen Berlingo (pictured above) – cost £600. I’d never driven a van before and at first I was terrified. But I soon got the hang of it.

“I went through numerous names until I decided on Mr Soot. It just sort of stuck and I liked it. It was personal but not me as such, which appealed. A friend sorted a logo, I started building a website and I got some business cards printed and, hey presto, I was in business!”

David remembers his first year very well: “I was still working at my full-time at my desk job then, so I’d do sweeps after work and at weekends.

“My first ‘silly season’ – September to December – was manic. I learned so much and had never been so tired in my whole life. Your first season is gruelling, but the experience is invaluable. And, as I tell our new sweeps, it does get easier with experience!

“What you do learn fairly quickly is that sweeping is hard work. It’s hard mentally and physically. But by the same token, it’s so rewarding. You’re working in a niche trade which very few people understand. Even other tradespeople find what we do interesting because we are – comparative to other trades – quite a rarity.”

David is now a trainer for The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, a Business Mentor for The Growth Company and a Co-Founder of Burnright. He’s also a regular contributor to local and national media, and was recently interviewed on BBC Radio 4 about his role in the solid fuel industry.

“The good news is that more and more people are starting to recognise the value of chimney sweeps of solid fuel technicians,” concludes David.

“Householders, businesses and even government ministers are turning to us for advice. There has never been a better time to enter the industry, and I’m very excited about the future.”