James Sanders was born and bred just outside London. Although he won a financially assisted place at one of the UK’s oldest and best-known schools, this academic opportunity was largely wasted so while his friends attended top universities it was straight into full time work for James Sanders at 19 years old.
With fortuitous timing, the dot com boom coincided with his trading career, so by age 24 he was one of the top performing traders on a busy sales floor in London. This timing enabled James Sanders to set up what became one of the largest independent derivatives businesses in 2001.
As a result of short sightedness and sheer stupidity, this business closed in 2009 and James Sanders was forced to start again in every sense.
Realising how much he’d overpaid for his wife’s engagement ring; London Diamonds was born in 2017. A true start up, James Sanders built the website and Instagram account himself with no assistance and still dedicates 10 hours a day to the later London Diamonds page.
5 years and over 120,000 followers later, London Diamonds is one of the UK’s leading bespoke jewellers and diamond dealers, responsible for making over 1% of UK engagement rings. London Diamonds is a true industry disruptor, Instagram is its shop front, it has no need for a physical one. James is the Managing Director of London Diamonds.
Married with 2 children and 2 very small dogs, James Sanders still pinches himself that the business he created in 2017 makes so many people so happy.
James Sanders London Diamonds offices and workshop are in London, but we have clients in over 20 countries.
Where did the idea for London Diamonds come from?
It was when I realised how much I overpaid for my wife’s engagement diamond ring that I realised diamonds are one the few areas that remain opaque and retailers use client’s ignorance against them to cheat them out of a fair price. I decided there had to be a better way, especially with something as important as an engagement ring. The advertising and marketing of diamonds is misleading and outdated to this day. In many ways the diamond market needs a real shape up, especially in London city.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m embarrassed to say that I have little work / life balance. I reply to around 500 messages a day on London Diamonds Instagram and WhatsApp. An engagement ring is an important purchase and people need to have real time and expert advice. I am always there for the client from start to finish. I then still do up to 20 diamond ring handovers some days.
I find it hard to delegate to the London Diamonds team but I’m trying to. I guess that’s the responsibility you take on as Managing Director.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas too often remain just an idea. The execution of an idea is all that matters, and I’d rather make a mistake than make nothing at all.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Instagram is the way we shop now. It’s frightening and inspiring that we were so lucky to start on Insta in 2017. Lab diamonds are taking over the jewelry industry (and naturally mined diamonds) and luckily, we spotted this early also at London Diamonds.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Obsession and sacrifice. I’m prepared to work harder and sacrifice more than anyone else I’ve met. That isn’t necessarily a good thing mind you.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t take short cuts, there are none. Don’t look for the easy way, it doesn’t exist. Pick your friends carefully. Especially in a luxury market. All of this I have had to learn on my path with London Diamonds.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The last 2 minutes of the Guns and Roses song ‘Coma’ is the best art ever made.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Never forget what it felt like to have nothing. Use that feeling positively to work harder and smarter.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Have a laser focus on your clients’ experience. Without them you have no business, and their experience is all that matters. You don’t need to be the cheapest, but you need to deliver the best service. I don’t expect anything other than total focus on the customer and delighting them at London Diamonds. Someone’s engagement ring, by definition, should be remembered for life.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Losing everything with my trading business. It’s a lesson I had to learn and with hindsight, the best thing that could have happened to me. As a person, I thought James Sanders was invincible, a young entrepreneur in the city and I became lazy. Starting again from nothing was hard, but when there is no other option and you have a young family, it had to be done. Failure helped inform the success that London Diamonds has become today.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The premium watch business is a mess, causing an inflated price tag for the customer. A business that tracked a watch from owner to owner with all this information on the blockchain or similar would bring transparency to this murky market and probably lead to a fair price for the client. It’s on my mind right now…
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Every time I ride my scooter, I’m very thankful for the heated handlebars I had fitted.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
CAD design isn’t new, but it helps our clients visualise their new diamond ring and bring it to life, it’s vital to London Diamonds and our clients engagement rings.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
‘88 The Narrow Road’ by Felix Dennis
What is your favorite quote?
‘Always outnumbered, never outgunned’
- Work harder than anyone you know, be prepared for people to laugh at you.
- There are no shortcuts. It takes years of hard work to appear an ‘overnight success’.
London Diamonds was built on this. You have to be an active investor into yourself.
- Loyalty and family are everything, nothing is worth more.
- Be brave and risk failure. You learn little from success and everything from failure.
- Be kind.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.