Interview : James Constantinou of Prestige Pawnbrokers talks business, a strong passion for motoring and luxury
Breaking into the world of pawnbroking is serial entrepreneur, James Constantinou, who combines a passion for business, motoring and luxury products in his latest venture Prestige Pawnbrokers. James has seen his business, go from strength to strength specialising in luxury goods, so much so that Channel 4 took up the opportunity to take us into their world with TV hit ‘Posh Pawn’ .
Building his business on his ‘ability and willingness to say yes when others would say no‘, Prestige see ‘the weird and wonderful‘ on a daily basis and James took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us a little more about the business and how he fuels his passion for motoring and luxury goods.
James, coming from a varied career history including property development, corporate sales and marketing, where did the inspiration come from leading to the creation of Prestige Pawnbrokers?
The inspiration came from reading an article in 2008 in one of the well-known Sunday tabloids, the piece referenced the credit crunch and assets that had been purchased by wealthy individuals during the good times.
I began scratching my head for a vehicle to enable me to offer loans secured against luxury assets and that’s how it developed….Prestige was born.
It’s no secret, especially to viewers of Posh Pawn (Channel 4), that you have a strong passion for classic and unique motoring items that come into Prestige, where has your passion for motoring developed from and which models do you own yourself?
I developed a passion for anything with an engine and tinkered around with motorcycles from age of 12. My parents would often pull their hair out when they discovered my motorbike was missing from the shed and I was out on it causing havoc in the neighbourhood. I think I had seen one too many episodes of “The Fonz”and fancied myself as a bit of a dude.
My parents finally wised up and confiscated anything with an engine from me but it wasn’t long before I had got hold of another machine that I hid in the bushes at the end of the road…I was addicted.
This passion was not confined to two wheels and I would often jump into my parents cars and take them for a spin if I felt it would go unnoticed. It wasn’t long before my parents cottoned onto this too as they had bumped into some friends of theirs that said they had seen them doing the school run last week in the Jaguar ….But unfortunately for me they were in Spain at the time, the game was up.
Once I had finally come of age I couldn’t wait to get hold of anything that the roof would come off on, and I could often be seen cruising the streets or doing the odd wheel spin outside the Kentucky with an icicle hanging off the end of my nose and a severe case of frost bite setting in.
I owned my first Porsche 911 at the age of 19 and I thought I was “The Don”, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I have a number of classic bikes that have been in my possession for many years and I have all the cars I want to play with at my disposal should I feel the urge.
For once in my life I don’t even have to put my hands in my own pockets as all of these wonderful machines are in a warehouse under the control of Prestige.
Has there been a particular model that has been offered to Prestige that has been a particular favorite or one that you hope to one day see come through to you?
I have a passion for classic vehicles and the thought of an undiscovered collection being offered to me would be a dream, low mileage Aston Martins and Jaguars would get me aroused.
In the Posh Pawn series you have the knack of getting the full experience of the high-end vehicles, a particular viewers highlight being the classic Porsche model in which it’s fair to say Jo had an interesting ride. It looked like an exhilarating ride and must be one of the most exciting parts of your role at Prestige?
We see some amazing items through the door and I must confess the try outs are often exhilarating. Getting to put super cars through their paces on a race track is not a bad job to have. The Porsche was no exception and having Jo by my side as a co-pilot guiding me through any difficult chicanes was a god send.
It must be difficult sometimes to separate the emotions that must stir when you see a vehicle that is to your particular appreciation when looking at the items from a business perspective?
Obviously when as an individual you are passionate about something then you`re putting yourself in a precarious position when valuing it. To be frank I would probably be better off sending a member of the team with absolutely no passion in respect of these machines in order to get a fair market appraisal, but unfortunately like others with passion I have a weakness.
Taking that into account have there been any occasions where you have, in hindsight, thought that maybe you made the wrong decision on a product?
There has been a few and I won’t bore you with the details but on the whole I think that in any business you need to make mistakes in order to grow and develop your brand especially if you are pushing the boundaries or exploring new territory.
It’s not just vintage cars that caught our eye at Luxury Lifestyle Magazine, in the show you have had a variety of unique vehicles come through the doors from the inventive double-decker purple house/bus to the Second World War Tiger Moth biplane. How, as a business, do you look at these products and find a realistic cost when they are truly unique?
We have been going for 7 years and are well known globally for what we do and as such experts magnetize to us.
Yes our range is wide in respect of items we will consider but we have built up a good reputation and work in a way that people respect, this applies not only to our clients but to our colleagues’ associates valuers and experts.
Can we look to expect any, now characteristic of the programme, unique items to appear in the new series that viewers may never have seen before?
Now that would be telling….all I can say is to expect the unexpected and you won’t be disappointed.
Apart from the continuation of Posh Pawn, what does the future hold for Prestige Pawnbrokers and for you as an entrepreneur?
The brand is going from strength to strength and we have just opened our new flagship store on Deansgate in Manchester. We will be growing as a brand and undoubtably taking on new challenges.
As for me, one of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that almost anything can happen.
Posh Pawn will return to Channel 4 later in 2016 whilst further information on Prestige Pawnbrokers and their locations can be found via their website.