For serial entrepreneur Steve Bennett, 46, life has a funny way of repeating itself. The founder of the Gemporia is no stranger to Fast Track or running fast-growing companies. In the late 1990s, he and brother John, 37, set up Software Warehouse, which featured in the first Fast Track 100 table in 1997, and then for another two consecutive years. In 2000 he merged part of Software Warehouse with Jungle.com, a music and PC retailing venture backed by 3i, and later that year sold out to Great Universal Stores for £37m. Steve, who was then just 34 years old, began exploring ideas for his next venture. His wife Sarah, a former pop singer, had begun studying jewellery design in 2004 and the two decided to launch Gems TV, a home-shopping channel dedicated to coloured gemstone jewellery. The pair brought in a Thai-based business partner to help source gems and produce jewellery, but a disagreement between the partners led to the departure of the Bennetts in 2006. They focused on other ventures, such as the home-shopping wine channel Vinappris, before returning to sell jewellery under the Genuine Gemstone Company, which by then included an online store. In the meantime, Gems TV had hit a rough patch. It was listed on the Singapore stock exchange, but profitability had suffered and it had become a cash drain on its parent company. Steve seized the opportunity and bought back the firm in 2010 for £3m. The acquisition added £13m in sales in 2011, almost doubling his group’s turnover that year. Gemporia now produces and broadcasts three 24-hour jewellery shopping shows – Gems TV in Britain and Germany and Rocks TV in America. In addition, the company has set up a charity to build schools and clinics in countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar, where it sources its gemstones from small-scale miners. Steve’s son, Matt, recently graduated from the Gemological Institute of America and has already joined the family business.
This profile reflects the company at time of publication and does not reflect any changes that may have subsequently occurred. Fast Track and its sponsors do not endorse, guarantee or recommend investment in any of the companies.