Peter Jones: My First Computer Business
After making his fortune through a combination of running his own businesses since the age of 16 and a series of shrewd investments in everything from cooking sauces to mobile communications, British entrepreneur Peter Jones is worth an estimated £485 million.
The 53-year-old Dragons’ Den star always had big dreams. He attributes his desire for success to accompanying his father to the office when he was a child. Born in Maidenhead in 1966, Jones recalls going to his dad’s office, in Windsor, at the age of seven.
“I loved sitting in his big chair and pretending to be in charge of a big company,” he admitted, even though his father’s office was small and the company was just him.
© Matthew Horwood / Alamy Stock Photo
Jones’ parents wanted the best for him and scrimped and saved to send him to private school. Describing the move as “financially crippling” for his parents, Jones didn’t even like private school and found it hard to adjust. He lasted only two terms before his parents agreed to send him to state schools again when he was eight.
He truly appreciates the sacrifices his mother and father made to give him the best start in life. They both worked full-time for more than 50 years to provide the family with everything they needed, but Jones was always striving for more. Even as a child, he insisted that one day, he would be a multimillionaire.
He completed his education at Desborough School, followed by The Windsor Boys’ School. His entrepreneurial journey began at the tender age of 16.
A keen tennis player in his youth, Jones was inspired by the likes of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. At 13, he practiced for hours with his tennis coach, John Woodward, at his summer training camp.
Jones’ business brain was already ticking over and he quickly became more interested in the management side of tennis. Picking up tips from Woodward on managing an academy, he launched his own three years later. He trained youngsters at first, but then began training adults too.
By the age of 18, Jones had earned enough to buy himself his first car. He ran the tennis academy until he had finished studying for his A-levels but then decided to launch his own computer business. The academy became a part-time venture, which he gradually ran down.
By the age of 20, his computer business was taking up most of his time, so he closed down his tennis academy. Initially, the computer business was thriving. According to Jones’ biography, it enabled him to own a “nice house, a BMW and a Porsche”. He also had “plenty of money to spend”, but in his mid to late-20s, it began to go wrong.
He described the downturn in business as being caused by a combination of personal mistakes, circumstances and “learning the hard way”. After a few of his major customers went out of business, Jones ended up losing his own computer business as a result.
He then set up a computer support business, followed by a restaurant, later describing his restaurant as a “fun if costly mistake”. Unfortunately, his failed ventures left him without any money at the age of 28. He joined a large corporate business to recover financially, as he also lost his house and cars.
Within 12 months, he had turned his life around again, as a result of his entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and dogged determination. He ended up founding Phones International Group in 1998. It was this venture that earned him his first million. He described it as his “most prudent investment”, as he initially invested only £1,000.
Creating a distribution model called Single Brand Distribution, which he cites as being a “major factor” in the company’s growth, it accounted for £14 million sales in the first year and £44 million by the end of the second year’s trading. He has never looked back!
Jones’ has always lived and worked by his motto, “For a dream to become reality, make it real enough to believe in,” – meaning he is realistic in his goals and doesn’t dream up unworkable schemes. He believes in creating a strong brand identity and says passion and commitment are the vital ingredients of a winning pitch to gain investment.
Looking to the future, Jones says he’s planning a lot more work with his Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and the Peter Jones Foundation. He says his mission is to raise awareness of the need for more enterprise education in schools.
He’s also looking into a number of television projects where he can “shine a spotlight” on business and successful companies.
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