Peter Jones' Biography
I was born in 1966 and raised in Berkshire. When I was seven, I often went to my father's office in Windsor because I loved sitting in his big chair and pretending to be in charge of a big company, even though it was a small office and just him. My parents wanted the best for me and sent me for a couple of terms to private school. It was financially crippling for them to send me there - and, moreover, I didn't like it, finding it very different from what I was used to. So at the age of eight I left, spending the rest of my school years in state schools. Both my parents worked full-time for over 50 years to provide the family with as much as they could. We never went without, but I always yearned for more. I wanted to do the best I could, knowing that one day I was going to be a multi-millionaire.
I remember sitting for hours in the leather chair at my father's office, dreaming of running a multi-million pound business. It was a big dream for a schoolboy, but it was one that, eventually, came true for me. I first got a sense of my business acumen and strong head for figures while still at school, as a teenager. I was pretty good at tennis, so I spoke to my English teacher at the time, John Woodward, who also ran a summer tennis school. I thought a job there would be brilliant as it would be for the whole summer and every half term. Over a few years of doing this I watched how John ran his academy and learnt the mechanics of the business behind it. Eventually, I got to the point where I thought I could do it myself, so that's what I did. After completing the Lawn Tennis Association's coaching exams, I set up my own tennis coaching school. This allowed me to combine the two subjects I loved the most: sport and economics. It was the start of my entrepreneurial journey, driven by my passion for the sport and, fortunately for me, I had the perfect mentor in John, who I visited a couple of years ago for a special "Dragon's Den Revisited" show.
During my twenties, I ran a thriving computer business which allowed me to own a nice house, a BMW, a Porsche, and plenty of money to spend. However, through a combination of circumstances, personal mistakes and learning the hard way when a few major customers went out of business themselves, I lost the business. Later, I set up a computer support business and then a restaurant, the latter ended up being a fun if costly mistake. At 28, I decided to join a large corporate because I didn't have any money, was without a car or a house - a tough position to be in. Within 12 months, I ended up running the business in the UK.
I founded Phones International Group in 1998, providing mobile cellular solutions to a broad range of clients. The core of the business was a distribution model I created called Single Brand Distribution. These days, this business operates under the brand name of Data Select. The company is a major factor in our growth, accounting for £14 million of sales in the first year of trading and £44 million by the end of the second. Other related companies have also grown within the group, including Generation Telecom, which was sold to one of the world's largest companies for millions of pounds within two years of starting up. The Times/Ernst & Young recognized me as Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year in 2002. My telecoms group was identified as the 13th fastest growing business in The Sunday Times/Virgin Atlantic UK Fast Track League Table in 2003.
Today, I have interests in a wide range of companies and a variety of markets that collectively generate sales of more than £250 million and employ more than 1,000 people. I have personally invested in more than 40 businesses spanning publishing, new media, television, entertainment, food products, the environment and product design in a varied and growing portfolio, which nurtures and develops emerging entrepreneurs and innovative products and services in the UK and internationally. Beyond my own direct business interests, I have also developed a public role focused on nurturing Britain's entrepreneurial talent, especially working to help young people and young enterprise flourish in the UK.
In 2009, following a successful Pathfinder activity, my Peter Jones Enterprise Academy opened its doors to students aged 16 to 19 in Amersham in Bucks and Manchester in the North West. I have big plans for scaling it up so that it rolls-out nationwide and offers thousands of courses to students all over Britain. Indeed, from this coming September (2011) we will have a network of 17 colleges around the UK offering our course, with more colleges to follow. I love my work with the Academy and it gives me huge pleasure to use the profile that I have achieved through television to try and make a difference where I can be encouraging, nurturing and supporting entrepreneurial activity.
My TV life really began in 2005 when I was invited to join the panel of the hit BBC Two show, Dragons' Den. In 2006, I worked with Simon Cowell to create a new business reality format show for America's largest network, ABC - The American Inventor. It first went on air in early 2006 and was re-commissioned for a second series, which aired in 2007. It has been sold elsewhere in the world and has aired on Virgin 1 in the UK.
In April 2006, I signed a deal with ITV to produce and star in business show Tycoon, which aired in the summer of 2007. This ground-breaking idea saw me and my team searching the UK for the next big business Tycoon, mentoring 6 entrepreneurs, helping them to turn their business dreams into reality. For the first time, members of the public were able to own shares in the winning business. From ITV's Tycoon, I added Be-Eco, Hair Rehab and the winner Bladez Toyz to my investment portfolio of companies.
My book Tycoon was published in 2007 by Hodder & Stoughton.
Finally, in January 2009, I was delighted and very proud to be made a CBE in the New Year's Honours list.
Looming on the horizon for me is a lot more work with the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, and the charity I founded, the Peter Jones Foundation. My mission here is to continue to raise awareness of the need for much more enterprise education in schools from a young age, right through to adulthood. Our aim is to educate, encourage and support and the time is definitely now to be teaching our young people how to excel at business and, in time, help lead the UK to economic recovery and success.
Following a ninth series of Dragons Den, I am looking at one or two other TV projects where I can shine a spotlight on business and successful companies and the people behind them. I am currently working on two new shows, one in the UK and one in the US, which are both in the early stages of production. Watch this space to find out more details.