Ipswich man's journey from courier to diamond merchant
WHEN former Ipswich man Ashley Portas got a job as a courier driver at the age of 17, he had no idea it would take him down a route where streets were lined with gold, diamond and gem merchants.
"My main patch was Elizabeth Street Brisbane, where all the gem, gold and diamond merchants were. I was introduced to this world that I didn't know existed, because I was a simple kid from Ipswich,” the 34-year-old said.
Over time, he became friendly with the diamond merchants. He built up a close relationship with one business in particular. Ashley realised he did not just want to be a courier driver. He asked the diamond business that he had established a relationship with for a job.
The business hired Ashley to be an office boy. He had to change his work attire from casual shorts and a t-shirt to corporate, business suits.
Ashley sat next to a woman who had 30 years of experience in the diamond industry. Throughout the next four years she taught Ashley how to select diamonds, grade and sell diamonds.
"I started picking out diamond orders for jewellers - say choosing 20 or so diamonds for a wedding ring,” he said.
"Eventually I started quoting on bigger stones, buying stones and importing from overseas. I learnt the whole diamond business; ordering, paying the bills, grading goods, selling goods.”
Ashley listened to his colleague talk on the phone, he absorbed all of her expertise and knowledge. Suppliers got to know Ashley and trusted him.
"I ended up leaving that business; things were happening that didn't fit my values. I followed another passion and became a personal trainer.”
"After a few months as a personal trainer I had a friend ask me to make their engagement ring, and then a few more. It inspired me to launch MAP Diamonds, my diamond wholesaling business.”
Ashley went to India to buy diamonds. While he was gone, his employee called up all the clients and cancelled the deals.
Ashley returned with diamonds and no one to sell them to. He decided to forget about the wholesale business and decided he would go into diamonds as his main business. Diamond Port was born.
"Selling diamonds as a merchant just to jewellers, all you're doing is importing and selling a commodity; there's no love. I made engagement rings on the side for friends, and friends of friends, which I loved, and I made the conscious decision to do more of what I love,” he said.
Ashley is passionate about helping couples select engagement rings depending on their budget. He gets to know each client's love story and builds up a relationship with each couple.
"I love getting to know their story, helping craft an engagement ring and proposal plans. As soon as he picks up the finished ring from my studio I'm waiting for the call or text telling me all about how she said yes!”
"Making engagement rings I get to see the whole happy picture, it's a joy getting the photo from the engagement and staying in touch with clients over the years.”
Most of Ashley's clients come to him through referrals and word of mouth. His ethics, morals, loyalty and relationships with his clients ensure that clients return for anniversaries, births and special occasion purchases. Ashley becomes part of the engaged couples extended family.
"I care. A guy will tell me about his engagement plans and I get emotionally invested, I get teary about how he's going to propose,” he said.