Ayoung Darlington entrepreneur and part-time model hopes to become hot property in the world of estate agency having realised his ambition to set up his own business.
Russell Hartshorn has proved youth is no bar to setting up a business - for at the age of 22 he has launched Northgate Estate Agents.
He is confident the business will be able to help to ease the stress of buying, selling or letting property by providing exceptional customer service and detailed step-by-step information to clients.
Russell first became interested in property while still at school and after choosing a work experience placement with Halifax Property Services, he decided it was the career for him.
He secured a full-time Youth Training post which led to a permanent position with Thirlwell's Estate Agents firstly in Middlesbrough then Billingham. Quickly progressing through the ranks from Trainee Sales Negotiator to Sales Co-ordinator, whilst gaining NVQ levels two and three in Residential Estate Agency via the North East Chamber of Commerce, he then decided it was the right time to go it alone.
"I had always had a keen interest in the property market and enjoyed looking round houses from a young age," he said.
"I also liked meeting people and so pursuing a career where I was able to offer hands-on customer service within the property industry was an easy decision to make.
"Becoming my own boss was my goal from the start and I was determined to work hard and to gain as much experience as possible to make it happen."
Russell was so forward thinking with his plans for self-employment he purchased his new premises on High Northgate in Darlington over two years ago.
Demonstrating his ability to spot a good investment, he now owns the premises outright and has carried out renovation work that substantially increased the value of his investment.
A part-time career in modelling involving photographic work, television extra work on Hollyoaks and Coronation Street as well as Product Promotions also helped pave the way for him to realise his ambition. He still enjoys working for Tyne Tees Models in his spare time.
Said Russell: "During my six years within the industry I had gained a lot of valuable experience.
"At the same time I also saw a lot of opportunity for improvement - particularly in terms of customer service - which I knew in my own agency I would be able to address." Despite his experience, Russell wanted to get the right kind of advice and assistance to make a success of the venture. So he contacted Business Link's Tees Valley operation.
Suzanne Henty, an account manager at the organisation, has worked with Russell since June in fine tuning his business plan, providing cashflow forecasts, carrying out information research and securing a grant for equipment.
She also helped him get a grant from Darlington Council for furniture and training.
Russell has also launched a website which features the step-by-step guides as well as the properties he is marketing.
Suzanne said: "Russell's focus and determination was evident from the start.The amount of time and energy he had already invested in planning prior to actually starting the business was extensive."