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Peter Jones, a name synonymous with ambition and perseverance

A British entrepreneur and television personality, making his fortune in the telecoms industry and made a household name for paneling the BBC2 hit show ‘Dragons Den’. Having built, lost, and then rebuilt his empire – and in using his entrepreneurial acumen to aid others in their business pursuits – Jones is the very epitome of determination.

 

A British entrepreneur and television personality, making his fortune in the telecoms industry and made a household name for panelling the BBC2 hit show ‘Dragons Den’. Having built, lost, and then rebuilt his empire – and in using his entrepreneurial acumen to aid others in their business pursuits – Jones is the very epitome of determination.

Peter’s childhood years

Peter was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire, on the 18th of March 1966. The Jones’ were not a wealthy family, but they made do in any way possible for their children. Making it so that the family would never want for anything, both parents worked full time for over fifty years. Peter’s father worked in a small office in Windsor, where he often let his son visit and sit in the large office chair behind a desk. These were fun little visits and neither of them knew how this professional interaction was to mould Peter into wanting the same life for himself. Peter wanted to be his own boss, and to own the seat behind the desk.

Though his parents scraped and saved to send Peter to a private school when he was younger, the standards held there did not appeal to his educational sensibilities. Seeing how his enrolment caused financial tensions on his parents – and that his case became that of a little fish in a big pond – Peter left after only a few terms, to spend the rest of his school life at state run schools. Easing the strain on the Jones’ and providing Peter with the room to grow as a learner.

Passionate about economics and tennis

Having left private school at the age of eight, Peter attended Desborough School and completed his higher education as the Windsor Boys’ School. A facility where he found an interest in Economics and a passion for tennis – a combination of which came in very handy for the budding businessman.

An English teacher at the Windsor School, John Woodward, taught a tennis summer camp that also ran on the half-term breaks from classes. Whilst Peter’s friends took up paper and milk rounds, he sought out a job at Woodwards camp. Having a love of tennis and wanting to improve upon his skills, he thought that a job at the summer camp would better suit his time and talents. Peter was taken on for the summer and the half term breaks, his first job.  Woodward became Jones’ finest teacher in all aspects of business. Keeping the Saturday boy close, making sure that he knew all that he needed to train others. The importance of practice and the consonance of Woodward’s’ demonstrations of different techniques help skyrocket Peters confidence, telling him that “this is how good you could be”.

Developing a business sense

As well as improving Peter’s tennis sets, the years that he spent with Woodward were spent developing a business sense. Learning all about customer service, marketing strategies used for the camp, and other practices of that nature, Peter got to the point where he felt that he could handle an academy of his own. So, at the age of sixteen and still attending high school, Peter organised with a local club to let him use one of their courts after school hours and sat the Lawn Tennis Association exam for coaching, passing with flying colours. Peter Jones had opened a tennis academy of his own, starting his journey into the world of business.

Slowly but surely, the academy grew from other students around Peters age, to adults wanting to take lessons. Some offering upwards of £25 an hour to improve their tennis skills under Jones’ tutoring. Thanks to the influx of clients willing to pay a tuition fee, by the time Peter was eighteen he had enough money to buy his first car and still have an ample amount left in his bank account. Now that Tennis became a source of income, Peter took an inquisitive look at computers of the time. Fixing the machines in his spare time, in the late 1980’s, had become a new hobby for the budding entrepreneur.

Expanding horizons away from tennis

Continuing his tennis tuition all the way through to A-levels, Peter lost a love for the academy. Now twenty and on the lookout for new and exciting things to do, teaching Tennis stopped becoming a priority. Having tasted minor business success with coaching and running his own academy, Peter wanted to expand his horizons away from tennis, and he found that expansion in his hobby; computer repair.

So he went with his gut instinct, using the money he made coaching, and started a company that made and sold computers. By the time Peter was twenty two, he owned a house in Bray, Berkshire, with plenty of money to spend. As a petrol head, some of that money went to him purchasing a BMW and a Porsche.

During this time, Peter also opened a cocktail bar in Windsor loosely based on the famous 1988 Tom Cruise film, Cocktail. Though the investment eventually fell through when he came to sell it, costing him a loss of £200,000. Unfortunately, due to the recession of the 1990’s, the computer company saw a drastic fall  in customers. Either due to them going out of business or to the lack of funds to choose Jones’ company for their computer needs. This caused Peter to sadly lose his home, his cars, and his business. Having nowhere else to go, he returned home to Maidenhead to stay with his parents to give himself some time to get back on his feet.

Working for corporate giant Siemens Nixdorf

With the fortune that he once had drained – and with no other options available – Peter went to work for a giant corporate, Siemens Nixdorf. At the age of twenty eight, Peter Jones had formed a small business empire and lost it due to investment mistakes and a strained global economy. Now he had to go and work for someone else’s business, though it did not last long as within twelve months of taking a position at Siemens, Peter had ran up the corporate ladder so much that he was managing the company’s U.K. branch.

Founding the Phones International Group

Having regained the confidence lost from his previous entrepreneurial dealings, in 1998 Peter founded the Phones International Group. A step back in the right direction for the entrepreneur and one that he will never have to look on, as this business was the focal point of what made Peter Jones the household name we know him as today.

The company works on the model of single brand distribution, providing each client with a separate team at the company that is allocated to their distribution needs, across the UK and all throughout Europe. Having the rights to deliver mobile phones, vouchers, and accessories, from the manufacturers straight to the retailers. This simple idea to personalise the distribution networks of those in the telecom industry, became a multi-million pound idea.

In its first year of trading, Phones International amounted £14million worth of sales. In its second year, the company amounted £44million worth of sales. This shot Peter back to the fortune that he had lost less than a decade previous. The Times/Ernst & Young recognised Peter as the Emerging Entrepreneur of 2002 . The year that followed, The Sunday Times and the Virgin Atlantic UK Fast Track League Table, named Phones International as the thirteenth fastest growing businesses of 2003.

Now firmly placed back into the world of business, where he belonged and felt most comfortable, Peter Jones used the wealth that he had accumulated through Phones International to keep himself moving, achieving new feats in other industries and companies to help run. The entrepreneurial spirit well and truly alive in all his dealing from there on. Expanding the business with the subsidiary firm ‘Generation Telecom’, a recruitment consultancy agency, ‘Celsius’, and an online wine and champagne retail company specialising in corporate events, ‘Wines4Business.com’.

Dragons’ Den Show

At the beginning of 2005, Peter started in a venture that shot him to mass popularity in the public eye. He began starring as one of the venture capitalists whom panelled the reality show, ‘Dragons’ Den’. The show’s format is based on that of the Japanese reality television series, ‘Money Tigers’ – a show that started the popular formula of a panel of entrepreneurs, being pitched business ideas by the contestants, that has since been applied in many different countries. Birthing shows like America’s ‘Shark Tank’, and Germany’s ‘Lion’s Den’.

Since the reality shows invent, Peter has amassed a total of fifty nine deals with start-up contestants, most successful of which have included those of Levi Root’s condiment Reggae Reggae Sauce, Huw Gwyther’s fashion and style publication Wonderland Magazine, and Ross Mendham’s low-carb food company Bare Naked Foods.

Though the faces of the Dragons have changed throughout the years the show has been running, the format, Jones’ residency, and the shows’ host Evan Davis, have helped turn Dragons’ Den into a cult viewing hit.

With the launch of his television career, Peter seems to thoroughly enjoy being on the small screen; remaining the longest running panellist on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, American Broadcasting Company’s competition show for inventors ‘American Inventor’ based in the states, and an ITV equivalent show named ‘Tycoon’. Outside of competition based television shows, Peter also hosted a popular series titled ‘Peter Jones Meets…’, in which he meets with successful and prominent British entrepreneurs to discuss details of their lives and accomplishments. All the shows were produced by Peter through his production company, Peter Jones TV.

In the same year as Dragons’ Den being first broadcast, Peter was given the chance to make an investment with fellow Dragon, Theo Paphitis, in the British voucher gifting company, Red Letter Days. The two bought out the company from another Dragon entrepreneur, Rachel Elnaugh, from the first two series’. This joint venture’s current turnover is estimated at £21.8million.

Wanting to offer young adults and students the skills to survive in the entrepreneurial world of business, Peter founded the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy in 2009. A non-profit teaching organisation. The academy operates out of many college campuses located in Amersham, Oxford, and Sheffield. The courses try to bring the “boardroom into the classroom” in an effort to teach students ages 16 to 19 the basics of enterprise practices, preparing them for the world of business.

In the same year as the non-profit was founded, Peter Jones was awarded the title of ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ in the New Year’s Honours List, among the nine hundred and six honourees, such as; singer Robert Plant, organisational director and radio host Indarjit Singh, and cyclist Bradley Wiggins. In response to the honour, Peter said: “I have been an entrepreneur for over 25 years now and been lucky enough to receive various awards, but nothing compares to being honoured in the New Year’s Honours List with a CBE.”

More recent and notable investments in the entrepreneur’s portfolio are those his selling off ‘Wireless Logic’, a Phones International subsidiary, back in 2011 and becoming the CEO of the photography retail chain ‘Jessops Group Limited’ in 2013.

After Jessops entered administration and ceased trading in all of the stores at the beginning of the year, Peter then invested millions of pounds into the company to make ‘Jessops Europe Limited’. Jones made sure that six stores reopened in March, and aimed to add a new location on average a day during April 2013. Now the retail company operates out of fifty two locations, with several branches opened in some of the larger Sainsbury’s stores.

Following his business success, Peter has been able to update his previous housing portfolio to a 220-acre estate in Buckinghamshire, as well as seven other properties that span the globe. He lives in his Beaconsfield home with Tara, his partner; their three children, Natalia, Isabella, and Tallulah; along with two dogs, two guinea pigs, a pig, twelve chickens, and a field of cows. Annabelle and William, the children from his first marriage, live with their mother, Caroline.

With a story of company loss, redemption that brought back all previous fortunes and more, and the ambition to give the chance of investment to others in countless industries, Peter Jones is seen as the face of determination in the entrepreneurial world. His spirit and humour have never been dampened, or separated from every aspect of his life. As evident by how quick he is with a cheesy joke, and how is never seen with his signature colourfully striped socks showing above his oxford business attire shoe-wear.