IT’S never too late to go into business for yourself.
When Robert de Koning found himself out of work for the first time in many years at the age of 58 he decided that it was an opportunity to try something new and has now started his own business, working as a chimney sweep.
Robert, who is Dutch and has lived in Fife for the last 17 years, said: “I have always been self employed. I opened my first fruit and veg shop when I was 18 and I’ve worked at a few different things over the years.
“One of the things I had been doing recently was supplying firewood and when I found myself out of work my daughter suggested that I combine it with being a chimney sweep. I thought it was a great idea.”
When considering the possibility Robert discovered that more and more people are once again requiring the services of a sweep.
He said: “This is a profession that had all most died out after coal was replaced with gas and oil but in the last few years we have a growing number of people have decided to reopen their fireplace and chimney to install a cosy wood burning stove.
“A well restored fireplace can add great character to a room, and if well maintained, can be an excellent source of heat.”
Robert went on a course in Cornwall to become fully qualified and also shadowed other sweeps as they went about their jobs.
He said: “It’s a very different profession than it used to be. There’s a lot more to it than just sticking a brush up a chimney. The brushes themselves are very different. The old-fashioned ones could sometimes damage the inside of the chimneys. The modern ones are much more lightweight and effective.”
Robert had some help with his computer skills from the Business Gateway as well as the Job Centre in Cupar. He said: “They really helped me,” he said. “I was very pleased with them, they did more than just their job.”
A modern sweep does more than just clean the chimney; they’ll give tips and advice on heating and ventilation and every chimney Robert sweeps will receive an insurance certificate.
He said: “I’ve done a lot of research and I make each customer five promises which are on my website. I’m very excited about becoming a sweep and I’m very much looking forward to it.
“It’s reviving a dying profession and bringing it up-to-date.”
Visit Robert’s website - www.chimneysweepfife.co.uk