Nicolas Jovenceau turned his passion for precious stones into his business.

What’s your story?
I was educated as an engineer with a major in Energy and Environment. As a student, I excelled in everything but not in languages. I could not pass my TOEIC and my university required me to do a 6 month internship and 8 month exchange in a foreign country. I found an opportunity to go to China in the textile industry within a Chinese startup. That was in 1999, I jumped on it. My mission was to develop their international market. From this experience, I developed a keen interest in international business.

I then went to Sweden to finish my studies but at that time, after 6 months in China, the only thing I could think about was heading back to China. As soon as I graduated, I took a job as a Technical Director in a French company in Shanghai designing and selling industrial technology for indoor air quality. I lost my job because of economic reasons. Then I met a musical instrument manufacturer. He was looking for a sales manager and I wanted to be more on the commercial side rather than the technical side. It was a pretty big jump for me, far from my education but I went for it. Within 6 months I was managing the whole subsidiary in China. I was importing and distributing in China, manufacturing and exporting musical instruments and related products all over the world. Through this experience, I gained a sharp commercial instinct.

On the side, I was nurturing a passion for gemstones, which started early as a kind of passion for minerals. I started to study to become a gemologist at the Gemological Institute of America and within 2 years I was certified as a graduate gemologist. I was not even thinking of entering that business until friends started to ask me for advice about stones and to source some for them.

My passion for gems was always about colours and diamonds were not very appealing to me as they were colourless. Coloured diamonds were still extremely rare and I did not have many chances to see them. Then I met a coloured diamonds cutter. I immediately fell in love with the gems. They had unique and varied colours, were extremely rare and special and they sparkled like no other gems. I started to collect them and quickly bought my first stones which I sold really fast. From that point, I realised what I had to do. I left my job and created PINK Diamonds Co. We now are a diamond dealer specialising in the most rare coloured diamonds. We create bespoke jewelry for the stones and sell them as well as investment products. We have a wide collection of very rare gems, unmatched passion and expertise and pride ourselves on making premium quality jewelry as well as providing full services for investors.

What excites you most about your industry?
I have the privilege of being the temporary guardian of some of the most precious gems in the world. I work everyday with wonders of nature crafted by the skills of man. Seeing the smile of a client when she or he receives the final piece we created for him or her and receiving thanks for it, is a priceless enjoyment and really gratifying.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been now in China for 17 years, that’s nearly half of my life. I think in some way, I am half Asian.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Shanghai. Because everything happens so fast and is evolving so quickly. Also, everything is more and more convenient; banking, commuting and logistics. People work 24/7 in a highly reactive environment.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Follow your passion.” That’s what I did and I ended up being successful with something I am passionate about.

Who inspires you?
I don’t have a specific person who inspires me, instead, I have several. For example, one of my friends, who, after being an entrepreneur in China had the energy and will to pursue a crazy, new venture in Africa. My wife for being the best sales woman I have ever met.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
A friend of mine acquired a deep violet diamond. Quite a large stone at that for it’s colour. I have never seen anything like it before. As a collector, I am always blown away by some new marvel coming out.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing much. I went through some difficult times like a lot of people but I have no regrets. Maybe one thing would be, to have had the guts to start the business earlier.

How do you unwind?
Good friends, good wine and good food. The perfect combination to relax. My French side, I guess.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali. The people, the food, the island, everything is calm and beautiful and peaceful.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Contagious. I just read it and was blown away by the content. How to turn an idea viral? What ideas transmit and what doesn’t and why? Very insightful.

Shameless plug for your business:
PINK Diamonds Co supply the most amazing and rare coloured diamonds. Our utter passion only matches our expertise in these fine gems. We pride ourselves on designing and creating unique dazzling jewelry pieces.

How can people connect with you?
Wechat! It s my favourite mean of communication, add my wechat “NicoPINK”, alternatively by email [email protected]

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

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Callum Laing
Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is a partner in the Private Equity firm Unity-Group. Co-founder and non-exec director of The Marketing Group PLC and is CEO of Key Person of Influence (Asia). He is author of 'Progressive Partnerships'.

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