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Episode 209: Having A Bigger Desire for Gain Than Fear with James Constantinou


The desire for gain should be bigger than your fear. That’s how James Constantinou sums up his journey to becoming the star of Channel 4’s “Posh Pawn”. A self-confessed journeyman, James went from selling cars to traveling overseas and importing products back to the UK to try and make a name for himself. However, James found his niche in the lending business and eventually in the pawn brokerage industry. In this episode, Adam Stott talks with James Constantinou about his journey and how the media was monumental with the rise of the pawn brokerage industry.

James Constantinou is the man behind Prestige Pawnbrokers and the star of Channel 4’s smash-hit spin-off, Posh Pawn.

Show Highlights:

  • James Constantinou’s duck and dive journey from different jobs to a pawnbroker
  • How his business turned from money lending into pawn brokerage
  • James’ approach when it comes to handling risks with business decisions
  • The challenges of getting into the pawn brokerage industry that includes dealing with a fossilized whale vomit
  • Making money in times of adversity
  • How the media was monumental to the rise of James’ pawn brokerage business
  • Coming into the used and vintage designer handbags business
  • James’ online shop that sells the goods of his pawnshop
  • The positive results that the COVID-19 Pandemic has brought to business owners
  • The impact of media marketing for James’ business

Links Mentioned:

You can find out more about James Constantinou at prestigepawnbrokers.co.uk/
Watch the Posh Pawn on demand

Transcript:

Please note this is a verbatim transcription from the original audio and therefore may include some minor grammatical errors.

Adam Stott:

Good evening everybody and welcome to tonight’s podcast. Hopefully you’ve been having a wonderful bank holiday weekend. Of course I’ve got something brilliant to bring you tonight, which is going to get you in that motivated place ready for this week coming.

I’ve got a fantastic guest this evening, who is the star of Channel Four’s show Posh Pawn. It ran for eight series so it’s been on TV for a long time. I’m sure you’re gonna recognize him and I think he’s got some really interesting stories to tell us about tonight. Obviously this being the Business Growth Secrets podcast, when I speak to James tonight, I want to talk to him about running his business, growing his business. His transition throughout the pandemic, the different things that he’s done in terms of running his business. So it’s gonna be a really interesting business chat. 

So, welcome James! How you doing buddy? You good?

James Constantinou:

Yeah, I’m good Adam. Are you okay?

Adam Stott:

I’m really looking forward to chatting with you tonight so it should be really interesting. We’ve got tons of viewers coming on, and obviously, a lot of them will recognize you from your TV show, which we were just having a good chat about prior. But really what I want to kick off is about business and find that really from yourself where you started, as to where you are now. What kind of journey has been like for you, you know, along the way. 

James Constantinou:

(02:16) Well, I mean, I’ve always been a little bit of a ducker and diver, wheeler and dealer if you like. Sort of since I left school really. The Pawn Broker industry lends itself to that type of person, I think. Although it’s not typically, those types are not typically in the industry. Some of my success may be hooked down to that type, or part of my personality or my character if you like. I’ve done… since I left school I’ve done all sorts of things; some double glazing, imports, I’ve traveled around Asia. I’ve started import companies bringing bits of furniture back. I’ve sold cars and dealt with classic cars and I’ve refurbished properties. So I’ve built up a stock of a rental portfolio, pre the crash of 08.

 So I’ve been involved in lots of different things. With the crash of 08, with the Lehman Brothers, and everything that happened around that time, sort of inspired me. That’s where the idea of pawnbrokers came from really because I was quite fortunate. I had just come out some development and had some money to spend, and it was really, what could I do to in this time? It was quite bleak you know there weren’t really a lot of opportunities out there. 

(03:35) It’s quite weird I can see this we are on a sort of similar timeframe really. There are going to be some opportunities in the coming years because we are in a similar situation. And I think that there’ll be a lot of people that will be able to make a lot of money during these times. For me in 2008, I had some cash sitting around on some cash I was dealing in. I was doing property development and the time, just sold some fairly lumpy properties local to where I am today over in Surrey. It was really what I could do with that money?

The banks, you couldn’t put it in the bank at the time, because it was quite worrying putting your money on a deposit. So that’s really where I started thinking about money lending and a secure way of lending money out. It really started off in my mind, thinking about it really to friends and family, or people that I knew that might need to borrow. People around me, the banks were putting in their loans not lending, overdrafts. So it became a very dire situation really.

Some of these guys were local to me and going back up. We’ve got a place up around me, called St George’s hills. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. So they were driving back to their 4-5 million pound houses but they were running out of money to petrol into their cars. So it was quite dire for them. That’s where the idea of the pawnbroker thing came from. So it was how can I lend the money I’ve got out to people securely? What skills would I have to secure my position? And then I was looking at classic cars because that was my background. I had a friend who was an art dealer. I’ve family that understood wine and always had an interest in ‘bling-y’ things. It evolved from there to be quite honest with you.

Adam Stott:

I think it’s really important for a business owner, now obviously coming up with the idea and where we’re going to go with the way the story goes is awesome. I love it, right. But for a business owner that ability to be able to buy and sell really well. You called it ducking and diving, almost, but that really is one of the real key abilities for business owners to be able to spot opportunities. People overlook that. They don’t really see the value in that sometimes. I think it’s massive, you know?

James Constantinou:

(05:59) I think it is. I think it’s not always a thing you can, there’s not a course you can go on and learn some of that stuff. In the pawn broker game where it’s so diverse. I mean if you want to learn about gemology or you want to understand a particular brand of watches, you can go and learn that stuff. I take my hat off to people that understand some of those assets because there is a skill in that, but that’s not my skill. 

It’s what I do for a living but those skills are not the skills I have. So I employ people to look out for my position in that respect and I’ve got some of the best people in the country. Those assets so make sure that every time we facilitate a loan, or we buy something of value, that we buy the right value. We understand what we’re buying. When we first started we didn’t have all the skills around us we sort of winged it a little bit.

Adam Stott:

That’s a big mistake early on.

James Constantinou:

We were fortunate to be honest with you. I mean we were probably very cautious in terms of what risks we took. And I think just having that sort of business mind helped me, if you like, to take those precautions. I wasn’t, I was quite careful in my approach but we took some risks and I can’t say we didn’t get our fingers burned a couple of times.

I think it’s a numbers game isn’t it? It’s a roller coaster ride. If generally you’re going in the right direction, if you do your sums right, you should be okay. You can’t run a business and say I’m never going to lose any money, that’s not going to happen. And if you do run it that way, you’re probably not going to be very profitable. You’re not taking any risk at all. 

Adam Stott:

If you take out risks, it takes out opportunity, and again is something that people have to recognize. What was one of those of your… an early story of back in the day when someone came in with something really strange? Like how are we going to value this, or something? 

James Constantinou:

Well, to be honest with you I mean, I think one of the interesting things about business is we did see, and we still see things that we don’t fully understand. When I sort of heard of some of the assets that were coming in, I mean fossilised whales vomit is one thing. I thought it was a wind-up. One of the guys in the office was winding me up. It’s got a value, and it’s amazing, you know, some of the stuff that comes in. You think I didn’t know fossilised whale vomit existed until now.

And that was one of the great things about the business. 

Adam Stott:

(08:29) So what is fossilised whale vomit?

James Constantinou:

Don’t ask me Adam. All I know that it’s worth a few quid.

That was one of the good things about the TV show as well, I think. Because as it got more and more people did bring these weird and wonderful objects into me. If we didn’t totally understand it, because of the TV show, and as it was received by so many people. They liked it. People in that industry, whether it was auction houses, they were willing to help out.

I think they saw the show is, they knew it was positive. So we were able to call on a lot of people, whereas before we might not have been able to ask them to help out. So when we got some of these weird and wonderful objects, we picked up the phone, said: “This is Posh Pawn. James from Posh Pawn here. We’ve got this here, we don’t understand it.”. They’d go “Yes we understand those.”. So that’s how it works a lot of the time, which was great for us as a business because we can’t afford to have someone sitting in the office who is an expert in fossilised whale vomit sitting there 24 hours a day for a bit to come in.  So yeah, so that’s quite handy. 

Adam Stott:

The metal horse. Ask him. 

James Constantinou:

(09:36) Yeah, the metal horse was one of those little ones you’ve just got to have. You can’t let it go, I don’t know what it is. I mean, a horse and armor you don’t get off of them very often. It was a full-sized one as well. I remember the guy came in. He had it made, tailored to his own body. It was quite a thing.

He presented it and when I bought it, we did the deal. It was televised so when I did it. Where the hell am I gonna put this now? We got it crammed in one of the shop fronts, it looks great. It’s amazing actually because something we had a couple in, not long ago, from Australia. Who watched the show, made their way to Hatten Garden. They didn’t really want to have their picture done with me, they wanted their picture done with the horse and armour. I was sidelined.

Adam Stott:

Was that being a good deal on that metal horse, or not? 

James Constantinou:

I don’t know if it’s a good deal because I’ve still got it. To be honest, it’s still for sale on our online store but I haven’t had any takers for it.

Adam Stott:

So the online store. We’re going to talk about that as well we’re gonna talk about how those come about and obviously, we had a good chat. So when we started this business, and you went out, you started in 2008. You said you’ve been pretty successful in your property pursuits, and you saw an opportunity now. The reason I think this is super relevant, and you already hit the nail on the head by talking about relevance. There are some uncertain times around at the moment, in the same way.

I started my very first business in 2008. When I started that business in 2008, pretty much everyone around me saying “This is the worst time to ever start a business, you know is the worse time.”. But really I’ve benefited in a massive way because it was hard, and that kind of trained me. So when it got easy. I was like “Oh my God. This was easier than I thought.”. I used to it being harder, right? Would you agree which was kind of a little bit?

James Constantinou:

Well I think so but it depends what you’re doing as well. I mean there’s no doubt about it. There’s gonna be a lot of emerging businesses, and we’ve already seen it. All the companies that are evolving from the pandemic and you know what’s happened. There’s been hundreds of thousands of businesses evolving.

Sure there’s going to be hundreds and hundreds of thousands of businesses without a doubt. These schemes of the government that have been put in place are great. But really in respect, it’s like kicking the can up the road, if you like. It’s gonna happen it just a matter of when and I think it does gonna be tough times for a lot of people. But as you said there are people that make money in times of adversity. That money is not made on a level playing field, it’s made in dips and dark turns in the market. When you’re talking about real money, it’s made in downturns and up-turns in the market. Very rarely, it’s much harder to make money on a level playing pitch.

Adam Stott:

So when you started the business, you kind of have this idea right to go in and do it. It was difficult I think, from what I heard. You found it quite difficult, in terms of you weren’t inundated but there were some certain things that you did to get this business going. One of the things I’ll say chalk it up to is marketing. It’s about advertising, it’s about PR. I think you’re such a good example of what you did to get a business. You put the fuel in, didn’t you? If a business is an engine, you know marketing is a fuel that gets the engine going, right?

James Constantinou:

(13:05) If you can’t tell people that you’re there and you’ve got those services available, then this business is going to fail. You need to get your message out there. That was one of the difficult things with what I was offering. Because it hadn’t been done at that level before, in the country. I mean no one had been loaning money against Hermes or Chanel handbags. No one had been loaning money against boats or airplanes. No one has been loaning money in the country, really, in any great pieces of art.

So we were telling, we were trying to tell people that had money, or had assets they had built up in good times that they could come to a pawnbroker and borrow some money. Because they were sitting there in a lot of cases, as we were hearing, concerned about their situation. About the houses being repossessed, about their cars being repossessed, and about their children’s school fees. What I didn’t know is that they were sitting in front of a piece of art that might be worth 200 grand. They could pop down to one of our stores, or our store down in Weybridge, and they could borrow money almost instantly against it.

If you’re talking about short-term funding, it was cheaper than a bank to borrow that money for up to three months. I can’t say it was cheaper past the three months. But if you wanted to borrow 100 or 200 grand from me for less than three months, I can guarantee it will be cheaper. Not in terms of the interest rate, because that’s a red herring. I’m talking about the setup fees and the early redemption fees, the insurance policies, and all the other stuff that goes with one of those loans.

So when people became aware of what we were doing, because it was a snowball effect basically. Until that moment, until we got some publicity. I’d say it was probably prior to the TV show we had BBC World News down filming something of what we were doing with an important client. We had a lot of very important assets with us and they wanted to film some of what we were doing. So BBC World News comes down, I think they did a feature on us in the Sunday Times. This was all in the space of about three or four months.

Prior to that, we were desperately trying to get our name out there. I’d sent people to put leaflets on car windscreens. They coming back to me they’ve been chased out the carpark. I said “Get yourself back out there! Go under the cover of darkness, do what you have to do.”.

I mean, yeah, it’s very difficult to find traction in the marketplace. To have the exposure is very important. It is the most important thing I would say. Because if people don’t know what you’re doing, your phone’s not gonna ring. 

Adam Stott:

(15:49) Absolutely, and really, from what I understand, the PR was massive for you. There are a lot of businesses that don’t embrace PR isn’t there? Certainly, smaller businesses that don’t embrace PR in the right way, and can be such a game-changer. Like you said, especially where you’ve got a product that people don’t understand. The thing is, especially in an industry as well where the industry is more of something you don’t speak about. It’s usually not something you kind of talk about. Pawnbroking there’s not really a big topic of something that you go out there and talk about.

You managed to take an industry and build PR in to get explosive growth and I think that that was really interesting. What was it like? Was it you were just at the time, just trying everything you? Were you just testing things? Or was it that you saw the response from this BBC particular ad and you fought you know when we did more of this? What was the…? 

James Constantinou:

BBC World News, so when we were aired on the BBC World News. I think that’s the first TV thing we did, and we were getting calls from Germany, from people asking us if we were franchising, and all sorts of calls. So it did teach me a lesson. So when the opportunity of making a program for Channel 4 comes along, of course, when we first heard about it, we were a bit skeptical. We didn’t know if it was like a fly on the wall type of documentary, an exposé, or the normal that you would think. And I think the industry as a whole was skeptical.

In fact, it wasn’t well-received when the news sort of filtered down to the other people in the industry that we were making a TV show. We were new kids on the block. Some of these pawnbrokers have been in the game for hundreds of years, it’s their family-run businesses. Then me coming along, secondhand car dealer, who’s built some houses coming along, who knows nothing really about pawnbroking. Within a few years, sort of a couple of years, we’re starting to make TV shows about their industry. I think it wasn’t well-received, but when it was aired and what it did to the industry. which has changed the public’s perception of pawnbroking.

 I mean really, until then it was sort of seen as a Dickensian business and a bit seedy, even if you looked at some of the websites of our competitors, or those who were the closest to us in terms of the business structure at the time. It was a bit flat, to be quite honest with you. We made it a little bit sexier, I think. We put it on TV, we showed it as it was. You come in to borrow some money, you leave. It’s nothing, it’s a bank basically without all the rigmarole of you up in knots. Having you sitting on tenterhooks for two months, waiting for a reply. We can do it within 24 hours if not the same day in some cases.

I think the industry when it got aired when we went to the next annual meeting it was well received. People said their phones had started ringing. Not only is it my phone ringing off the walls, but their phones were also ringing as well. They were saying that we’ve never had so many calls. They had seen the show. “Did you see the pawnbroking show?”, “I have come in, I’ve seen what you guys do.”. I heard it from a lot of people.

Adam Stott:

Who actually did some good for the industry, you know I can actually imagine that. So that’s good, really, you know? It’s interesting that you’re saying that were new and you went in and you disrupted and I think that that’s a really good thing. I think that my background is in, originally the car industry. How much do you think that trained you, James? What do you owe to the car industry?

James Constantinou:

Well, I think that you know the buying and selling part of the cars, you can turn that to a lot of other trades. It doesn’t have to be cars. Just the art of sort of spying something, going to have a quick look. Working out what you can do with it, and knowing what’s involved in terms of the cost too. I mean, classic cars so it’s a bit different.

Adam Stott:

That is different because classic cars, and again, that was that bit harder to value aren’t they? You’ve got the demand and different things, and yeah, so suppose that lends itself perfectly to what you do now.

James Constantinou:

(20:13) Yeah I mean, the classic cars are, the car part of the business is a big part of what we do now. It’s not even half of what we do but it’s 20% of what we do.

There are some things that I brought from my previous experiences. I mean I used to import furniture from Bombay years ago. So just the buying and selling aspect of it, the cars, just general knowledge really, what I’ve picked up over the years in business has helped me immensely. I think, one of the things that I’ve learned and when I had an inkling about it but definitely, I think that I mean I really love the industry as well and really enjoy what I do.

I can’t say that any two days are the same, I can’t say that every day that I wake up, there’s an amazing asset in my inbox because that would be a fabrication. Every week there’s something very special coming in. Something has arrived or something I’ve never experienced before. It’s quite a challenge at times to value it, and I think that’s all part of what we do. If we didn’t do it, then we’d be like the other people in the game, and that isn’t really, you know that’s not what I want. 

Adam Stott:

How much of your success would you put down through embracing those opportunities? Would you say this has been a massive thing?

James Constantinou:

100% at least it’s about that. Because if we would have sat there, I could have opened pawnbrokers, dealt in bits of gold and FOB watches. It wouldn’t have really been very inspiring to me, I probably wouldn’t have put my heart and soul into it. I mean it’s really down to the fact so we are dealing in some sexy stuff that I’m enjoying it to be quite honest with you.  That’s the sort of guy I am, you know? If I’m not enjoying it, then I’ll go do something else, and I’m not worried about doing other things.

I mean I’ve still got a development company. We still, build houses, we’re NHPC registered. I’m not tied to this business, I do it because I really enjoy it. We are expanding now. We can see the opportunities that are coming in the coming in the next few years with the economic climate being the way is.

Adam Stott:

(22:20) In perspective and the opportunities for entrepreneurs in terms of the economic perspective, I understand in your industry that there’s a massive opportunity, without a doubt. But for general entrepreneurs, what would you say you would think is the opportunities that are available right now?

James Constantinou:

Well I mean I just think there’s a lot of things coming out now. Things have evolved around the pandemic. I’m getting things that come through my inbox every day that are pandemic-related. Whether it’s COVID sprays, or all sorts of you know, all sorts of stuff going on at the moment. There’s are solicitors firms who are dealing with claims against wrongful dismissal, there are lots of things coming, there are lots of things coming. There are thousands of businesses opened up and have evolved through this situation.

Although I think we’re gonna see… the High Street is suffering. All you got to do is go down the street and look at how many shops are boarded up or closed. I mean, don’t forget, it’s not going to get better soon, it’s going to get worse. When all the schemes come to an end, some of those businesses have been holding on, have only been holding on because of government funding. And I think that we’re gonna see a lot of closures. They’ll come back, it will take time. It might be years before the High Street recovers would come but those guys won’t just go away and sit at home.

Adam Stott:

(23:59) You’ve seen that, haven’t you? The big High Street retailers buying online businesses as well. You were saying to me before we jumped on the call, about how your online sales have actually exploded. They’ve been massive, and a lot of interest, a lot of traffic for online. What’s that been like? How did you do that?

James Constantinou:

So there are two parts to the business: there’s an online shop, which is selling second-hand goods and assets, not only that we… some of them we may have loaned I guess, but we buy and sell a lot of goods as well. So we’ve got an online store. We’ve got a bond broking website as well. But the online store, I mean, when the pandemic first hit the beginning of last year. I always thought that it’s going to be dire for people. It’s going to be dire fairly quickly. 

But actually, it hasn’t been that way, to be quite honest. I am not suggesting that it hasn’t been that way for some people that have it hard or are suffering right now because that wouldn’t be the case. But a lot of people, particularly the people that are employed, not so much the self-employed people. If you’re a businessman and you foresee some of the furlough grants, and your employers, employees are at home. In some cases, some of our guys were off and were receiving 80% of their income. Now, I don’t know all the other businesses, but if they were receiving 80% of their business’s income and they weren’t going on holiday, weren’t able to go to restaurants, weren’t able to travel to work, buy lunch out. Do all these things.

I think in a lot of cases or in some cases, that they are financially probably better off right now. I can tell you that I know that to be true because my loan book has gone down. This means that a lot of people are paying back the debt that was owed. We’ve never seen that level of debt repayment, had it not been for the pandemic. That tells me because I’ve seen it, that they’ve got more money than they had before. A third of my loan book has been wiped away, I’m not concerned about it because I know in the next six months it’s coming back. 

Adam Stott:

(26:08) That’s good to level out, isn’t it, as well. To level it out every now and then and probably don’t want to run it too hot in your loan book or too high all the time or I would imagine. 

James Constantinou:

Well, I mean it’s nice as a business if you’re expanding, which we are, we want the loan books growing. I’m not concerned about the loan book going the other way. It’s an indicator that generally there’s a lot of people out there, though some of the government schemes have got more money than they may have had before. I’m not suggesting that they’re better off long-term; they’re not going to be 100%. There’s going to be some hard times ahead, and if you’re self-employed, it’s probably been a lot harder for you than you’d have been on the books as an employee. I have forgotten the original question. 

Adam Stott:

We’ll go to a different question but I think you answered anyway in terms of what your thoughts on the online sales and the online has grown. 

James Constantinou:

Just, in brief, the online sales have gone through the roof over the last… since the pandemic where people couldn’t go out. Since February last year, we sold twice as many goods online for the same period. As the shops are opening up, we are just starting to see it level off a bit. Not so much online, we’re seeing decent sales through some of the stores.

Online sales went through the roof, and it wasn’t just my business. I was talking to lots of other business people and they’re all saying exactly the same, they were having a bumper-year online sales. People were sitting at home they were looking online more, their habits had changed. Their habits have definitely changed. I was looking at things that normally I wouldn’t look at.

Adam Stott:

Yeah, 100%. I’ve got to ask you about handbags because I think the ladies wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t. You came up with this idea to learn about handbags. What was that like? I always talk about innovation being a really important part of business as well and coming up with that innovation. Actually, it was a friend of mine, and a well-known person and I saw her closet full, I mean full of handbags. We’re talking, I mean a 100 of them at least. I think that amount of money that is in that’s been invested in them is crazy, isn’t it? Was that really an explosive area for you in terms of… was it an unusual thing, obviously, having a lot of women coming into focus because that might not be your demographic originally.

James Constantinou:

(28:39) You’re right, funnily enough. Actually, women in the early days didn’t really come in that often, I’d be honest with you. I think the handbags, we had someone come in and they bought a collection of Chanel in. It was an elderly lady and she brought in these Chanels. They were in beautiful condition and we were sort of looking around online thinking, what are we going to do? There was no one in the market offering to buy these bags at that time. We’re talking about 2009. There was not a market in the UK for second-hand luxury handbags. These days some of them are classics, I didn’t know that. They were Chanel’s, I didn’t know.

Since then, I have learned all about that brand and what it means. The thing is, there was no market and what the most sort after bags are. We’ve seen so many of them, it sinks in after a while after a while. The thing is, there was no market for these objects at that time. they were bringing them in, so we were buying them, but we were thinking “What are we going to do with them?”. We started contacting the auction houses and they weren’t really that interested in them at the time. They said, “We know they’re expensive new but there isn’t really a market for it.”.

The press came down, and we did an article and they put a question to me. They said, “What do you do that’s specifically aimed at women?”, and I thought well I’m going to talk about the bags. I said, “We deal in bags.”. Well, we didn’t really deal in bags. We had some bags here that we didn’t know what to do with, but we didn’t really deal in bags.

Anyway, that article, I won’t mention the publication but it’s a very well-known Sunday paper, and they came down, they took some images of me at my desk. Piled up some handbags, and we told them about the people that had been coming in with these bags. Anyway, that was it, to be quite honest with you. I had people phoning me up, asking me if I have any for sale. We had people collections wanting them and we had women that had some of these bags in the closet, that had been sitting there for 10, 15, 20 years and didn’t know what to do with them. We were buying them and instantly overnight we had a market for them, so it was great. That really did fuel in this country that market, to be honest with you, because it didn’t really exist.

When that got aired, when they started to promote that, we did a few articles since then from that original press article. About 2 or 3 other articles, we did You magazine and it featured the bags. But when they started to televise it, a few years later, that’s when it really went crazy and then you saw a lot of these other companies sort of spring up overnight and make them our competitors. Some of them only deal in bags.

There are people out there marketing specifically at that market, but I still think we are very strong in that field. We’re the best people to go and sell to if you want an instant decision on your handbag and you have a crocodile Hermes that is worth 30 grand or a Chanel that is worth 500 quid, I still think we are the best buyers in the country at the moment.

Adam Stott:

£30,000 James, for a crocodile Hermes? Wow.

James Constantinou:

We had a Hermes bag in not too long, it’s actually a very famous person I know, so I can’t say too much but it’s one of only ten. It’s solid silver, it’s a little Hermes carry bag. When I heard about it, it came into my store in Chelsea. When I heard about it, I said “A solid silver handbag? I didn’t even know that Hermes did a solid silver handbag.”. They told me it was one of ten in the 80s or 90s. They made 10 pieces, and I think we sold it for about 60 grand. 

Adam Stott:

Wow. Unbelievable, unbelievable, yeah one of ten.

James Constantinou:

We do see some really unusual, weird, and exotic items. That’s because I think it’s our ability to value them and sort of putting our arses on the line in respect to actually laying out some money for these things, because that bag, for example, we couldn’t really… because there was only 10 of them made, and only one would ever come up for sale. I think it was about 10 years ago in Hong Kong. It was very difficult for us to value that, but we had to take a bit of a punch. I mean, we did very well out of it, but it’s a sort of perfect example.

The rarer the item, the more difficult is. If you’ve got a roll of 1985/2005, BMW Z3s, and they’ve all done roughly the same sort of mileage, you could roughly know how much that car is worth. If you’ve got one bag, that’s only had 10 pieces made, and only one has ever been sold 10 years ago, in Hong Kong. It’s quite a difficult thing to value, and you’ve got to wing it a little bit to a certain degree. I think that’s what we pride ourselves in, and the guys in the stores love that aspect of the business because they’re not robots, and that’s what I like about what we do. 

Adam Stott:

I think it sounds very entrepreneurial, it’s a very entrepreneurial culture. From what you’re doing in terms of making decisions, taking risks, and taking opportunities. I think that that’s massive and I think that’s something definitely to be admired. From my perspective, there’s a personal question, I want to ask. Well not a personal question, but what kind of watches have you had in? because I love watches.

James Constantinou:

What watches do I have persoanlly?

Adam Stott:

What’s the most expensive one you’ve had through or something? What’s the coolest one?

James Constantinou:

You know why it’s really weird because watches aren’t really my thing but we’ve seen some vintage Rolexes. There was one couple of weeks ago, a vintage Rolex, it looked like it was battered. It was the one that was in the James Bond movie, the same model. I don’t know why it was so expensive but it had a leather strap on it. It looked like it had been through the wars, to be honest with you. A guy had found, it belonged to his grandfather, and he brought it in and we sold that watch for 60 grand.

We probably did have had more expensive watches but that one was particularly interesting. It was really weird because I’m not into watches, to be honest with you but that watch, looked like a lot of other Rolexes, but there were some very minute details all about the hands. The color I think it was red on one of the dials that made that particular watch the difference between a five grand watch and a 60 grand watch. 

If you didn’t know your stuff, you can easily let that slip and it just so happens that we’ve got a couple of guys in the office that spotted it and we were able to do a deal. So little things like that spring to mind, but we’ve had watches in before for 500 grand, but that was particularly nice because of the story associated with it. His grandad had had it since the sixties.

Adam Stott:

(35:59) It’s fascinating, those programs, I think it fascinating TV even on some of the other, it’s very different. When someone brings in an item and you’re valuing that item, and there’s some obscure reason that makes its value so much. I think it is about staying sharp, isn’t it?

So last questions in from the audience, but I think what we’ve been saying tonight, which is all about the entrepreneurial spirit. Taking opportunities, doing things differently, using innovation, not being afraid to take opportunities, promoting that entrepreneurship throughout your business and throughout your culture, and not being afraid to try new things. All of that is really entrepreneurial, something to be admired. I’ve got a couple of questions that have been asked in the comments. We’ll do these quickfire tonight. Helen is saying, “Did you approach the papers, or did they approach you?” was one of the questions that we had.

James Constantinou:

No, they approached us. They contact the organization and the National Pawnbrokers Association, and I think they asked the questions. They say to the organization; “We want to speak to an average pawnbroker about some gold.”. They’ll probably go and see someone else in the high street. If they want to cover a story that’s regarding selling art or cars, or a high-end asset loan, they will probably come to me because there are not that many people doing it in that arena.

Adam Stott:

(37:24) Last question, which I think is really interesting. How important has it been to build your personal brand for you? What would you say to entrepreneurs? There’s a lot of entrepreneurs out there, we trained 1000s of businesses, and that building of personal brands really and your story.

One of the things I’ve said for a long time is when you build that personal brand, you become the honey and the bees come to you. That’s exactly what you’re saying people picking up the phones here because you’ve been on TV because you’ve done things differently. You become known for that skill set. Where a lot of entrepreneurs don’t attract opportunities or are not attracting the opportunities because they haven’t built that personal brand. How important would you say that has been for you to go about building that? Has it been unexpected in some ways the kind of results that you had from it?

James Constantinou:

I think is really important. If you get the opportunity to expose your business, and you become respected in your field, it does open doors for you. It’s not only about what you’re doing currently, it’s about what you think you might do in the future. I don’t particularly go around saying I’m James from Posh Pawn because that’s not my makeup. If someone says “Oh I recognise you.”, it does 100%, open the doors for you and people trust you in what you do. If you run a reputable business and you’ve conducted your business honorably, then 100% of your opportunities will be far greater with that sort of exposure and than if you didn’t.

Adam Stott:

Some amazing kinds of advice and tips there. James just to finish up, you got a couple of quick tips you want to give the listeners tonight, any kind of last little tips you’d give them? How they can get prepared for the coming months?

James Constantinou:

Well just look for opportunities that are coming up. I’ve said before, but your desire for gain must be greater than your fear of loss if you want to succeed. There’s gonna be a lot of opportunities out there, but don’t be afraid to try it. 

Adam Stott:

Thanks so much for coming on tonight James you’ve been awesome. 

James Constantinou:

I really enjoyed.

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