A former music teacher who is now a leading figure in the world of mental health is the first woman president of Black Country Chamber's Dudley division.

Sylvia Wellings, director of Dudley Mind, says her mission as head of the borough's business community is to change the perception of the chamber as "a club for men in dark suits".

She went on: "The chamber is a fantastic organisation for business people of all ages and backgrounds to meet fellow professionals and to gain access to key decision makers, from local councilors to Cabinet ministers."

Mrs Wellings, aged 56, began her career as a classical pianist and taught for 16 years before moving into accountancy. In 1983 she went into business with her husband David selling woodburning stoves and later manufacturing accessories. Mr Wellings still runs Black Country Stoves and Spares.

In 1990 Mrs Wellings joined Dudley Mind as finance officer. She later joined the board as treasurer and was instrumental in the forming of Dudley Mind Trading of which she is also a director. In 2002 she launched LedgerTech Accounting Services to provide technical accounting skills to a varied client base.

She believes her experience of the private and voluntary sectors gives her a valuable insight into the problems faced by all businesses.

"The days when charities were run solely by volunteers on a shoestring are long gone," she said.

"We are now a highly professional organisation with a turnover approaching £1 million a year. We have to cope with the double burden of company and charity law."