New columnist: Jamal Edwards MBE!
Jamal Edwards MBE
We are thrilled to announce Jamal is joining us as a columnist. The filmmaker and entrepreneur behind SBTV will be writing about inspiration, youth culture and the business of self‐belief. But first, the story of his success…
The Urge to Achieve
I used to watch a lot of films when I was a kid. I’d watch a lot of films and then dream that I could be in the films or make the films. Like Dunston Checks in! When I was a little kid I
loved that film. They lived in a hotel, that was the best, how do you live in a hotel? I must get there!
Then there was Ritchie Rich who used to have a Macdonald’s in his house, and a rollercoaster. That got me thinking: I must get the life I’m seeing on these films. But then it turned into, how can I make these films. When I was 8 or 9, I used to ask my mum if I could go to Hollywood. When I saw ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ where cartoons and real life mixed, that blew my mind. I started researching into Hollywood and films, and finding out about people like Steven Spielberg, and how they started from humble beginnings. That allowed me to get that little push over the hurdle of thinking I could achieve.
I started filming wildlife in my back garden, foxes and things, because I was a massive Steve Irwin fan. But I realised I couldn’t always carry that on, and it so happened that a lot of my friends were artists who weren’t on mainstream platforms. So I switched to filming new music talent – that became my major driving force.
I thought I’d look for online platforms to show the films. YouTube seemed to be the easiest one to get on, but I was a bit sceptical because at the time all there was on it was ‘Charlie bit my finger’, cat videos, just funny videos, or people who’d filmed their TVs. There wasn’t really original music content, so I questioned if my videos could live there. Then I thought, well, I’ll be the one to pioneer original music content on YouTube, with SBTV.
No Such Thing As A Dead End Job
When you trying to make something of yourself, nothing is a dead end job ‐ you’re making money. You just have to know how to money manage it. I worked in Top Man, but all the money I made, I put into buying better camera stuff. People used to come in and go, “What are you working on the shop floor for? Forget that, what a waste….” But you can use the money from working in a fast food restaurant or a clothing store, or whatever, to put into what you actually want to do. You have to make money somehow.
My mum was on X‐Factor and I was always Jamal, Brenda from X‐Factor’s son ‐ now she’s
Jamal from SBTV’s mum! ‐ but she came fourth that year, and it was mad. We went to buy Christmas presents and there were families queuing up to take photos of my mum, we couldn’t go to restaurants to eat. My mum’s a very bubbly character, so she went with it all, but when I saw it, I was like, “I don’t want that.”
After the Google Chrome advert came out, suddenly people started coming up and taking photos of me, and that’s when I thought “Woah, what’s this?”
It made me anxious at first, I was like, “Why do you want to take photos of me? I don’t understand, I just want to make videos.” I didn’t know how to react to it, at that precise moment in time.
My mum said, “Jamal, you have to get used to it, people respect what you’re doing.” But it took me a while to understand why they wanted to take a photo of me.
When The Business Got Serious
I was getting tired. I was juggling working in TopMan, college, and filming amongst many other things. I burnt out a few times, and I realised I was doing too much, and it was time to start delegating.
But I found it very difficult to delegate! I didn’t want to give other people the opportunity to upload, because SBTV was something I built from scratch, with blood, sweat and tears, so having to give other people the passwords to upload…bloody hell. People were like, “Can I have the password?” and I say, “Nah, nah, nah, you ain’t getting the password.” But as it grew I got over that and gave people different roles. That was very important otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to scale the business.
VAT! Tax! Receipts! I should have kept them. Oh my days. How much stuff could I have claimed back over the years? It’s just mad.
Anyone starting out needs to remember that. And also write down everything you don’t like doing and find someone who does. Otherwise you’ll palm it off. I don’t like dealing with the finances, so I palmed it off at first and it came back to bite me later on. Those little things are really important.
Young Entrepreneur Problems
When I started employing people, I was so young that I thought I couldn’t tell anyone what to do. I was very timid. These people essentially worked for me but I’d never really taken that boss role. If I had to deal with problems, I wouldn’t tell them to their face, I’d do it in emails. It was very daunting because I’ve always been taught to respect my elders. I was 18, and some people were 25, so it was hard.
I wasn’t born into this, I just learnt how to do it. That’s that thing of: ‘Are entrepreneurs born or made? I had had to make it happen.
What Kind of Boss Am I?
I’m chilled, laid back. I dress in a tracksuit sometimes to work. Even if I’m in a board meeting I’ll dress in a relaxed fashion. We should ask Duncan and Isaac who I work with:
‘He’s the type of boss that allows us to be ourselves at work. He’s are funny, caring and loves to share. Definitely chilled and laid back until it’s crunch time’ – Isaac
‘Jamal is a modern leader, he is not constrained by the traditional ways of managing and brings his unique, relaxed but focused style to the business. A touch nut to crack at times but always balanced and progressive in his decision making’ – Duncan.
The Guardian got in touch to ask me to make a film about mental health. I hadn’t really done anything like it, so I said yes. It was surprising the people I got to talk about it who you wouldn’t expect – like one of my good mates Stevie, who looks like Jason Statham and his image is quite the tough man persona, but he ended up dropping gems and showcasing his feelings about the issue, which research showed many men don’t feel that they can do – talk about their feelings.
Then the Wellcome Trust got in touch with some research that they conducted and I said I wanted to do something about mental health in the music industry. It was more difficult to get musicians to talk about it, but it was really well received.
The reason I did it all was because of those issues going around my area, and I don’t really see content like it. I want to build on it, and will be working soon with Simon Gunning who’s the CEO from CALM.
I get a lot of people who message me all the time about mental health. They feel I’m not a person to judge anyone and it’s like talking to their friends. I’m like an agony uncle sometimes.
But I like to be able to tell other people stories that might not necessarily get told. I find that interesting.
Dealing With Emotions
I feel like as I get older, I’m handling things better. When I was younger I was very hotheaded – in school it was bad, I used to lose my temper and mad stuff happened.
Little things still get to me ‐ at the weekend with my friends I got angry but was then able to step back and apologise. Now I recognise if I get a bit agitated.
At work it’s the same. This morning we were sorting out a party and I hadn’t been updated on one part of it. Instead of saying, “What the fuck? Aaarrgh!”, I was like, “Right cool, just keep me updated please.” That’s the difference between old me and new me…
Dreams of Escape
Every time I leave my house, it’s mad. I always get recognised on my journeys about, and some people will say hello and some will just stare me out and then others will message me on social media and I’ll always say, ‘next time say hello, I’m not a monster’ haha. It’s always positive and I love the appreciation but I’ve been out here since I was like 15, and I was thinking the other day…I want to go on a gap year.
I have not travelled. I have lived in this social media world and I like the idea of removing myself from it completely.
Sometimes I haven’t posted for seven days, and people message me saying, “why have you not posted? Where are you?”
I worry that my life is going past without me even realising it. Sometimes I just want a break. I had a meeting the other day about Project Zero with some of the team behind it, which included Pixie Geldof. Her dad Bob Geldof raised I think around 250 million before the internet, with no social media. People had to dial in to give money using their house phones. It made me think about how much interactions have changed, and connecting with people in a real way, and if that is lost now because of social media.
So what if I left social media? Could I still live life? I read Professor Green’s piece about the amount of screen time he was using, which got me thinking – could I live without my phone?
But obviously, so much depends on social media for me…Don’t worry everyone I work with, I’m not going to delete social media!
I love gamification. People probably think I’m mad, but do you know what’s fun? Rating places on Google maps? I basically go around places, and rate them. I don’t know if that’s sad, but I find that’s one of the things I find therapeutic. I’m local level guide level 3, which is a novice reviewer, and I need to improve that.
I don’t get anything from it, it’s just fun. And people read it. I rated my barber, 10 out of 10, look what he texted me:
It’s my secret guilty pleasure. I got 3000 reviewer points, and I’m trying to get 100,000 points, level ten. I’m going to work it.
That’s what I’ll do in my gap year: I’m going to Google review the world! It’s going to go mad.
Staying True To Your Ideals
Diversifying into putting out content that’s not necessarily underground, and covering mainstream artists was difficult to overcome at first. But I love music, and anything I believe in, I put up. It’s what I’ve always stood for, and I’ll keep doing it. No one can pay me to put something up online, I have to genuinely believe in it.
My self‐belief wasn’t there at the start, I had to learn it along the way. People need to know this: I didn’t believe in myself at the beginning, my self‐belief has been built over the years. When I created SB I wanted to be the Banksy of content. People would never know who did the videos, they’d just see the videos. But when the Google Chrome advert came out the cat was out the bag, and I was like, “ah man. I might as well go with it.”
But moments like that ad, where I was with people like Richard Branson, helped me build the self‐belief.
Suddenly I was looking at Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, and the way their personal brands helped the companies they set up, so I began to brand myself as Jamal Edwards from SBTV.
Staying Socially Conscious
Working with CALM is important to me and the Prince’s Trust. My heritage is St Vincent in the Caribbean and there’s places there that are under‐developed, and I want to build my profile globally, so I can then use my resources and contacts to help develop the country.
One of my main things is helping the communities where I grew up, being the bridge between the people on the estate and politicians.
In the next five years I really want to make my mark. The first ten years were just showing people who I am, and I’m still here, still relevant and people are still excited about what I do. My lips are sealed at the moment, but I have a load of exciting projects in the pipeline. I can’t wait to start sharing them with everyone.
Inspiring the next generation is still my biggest goal. If I can help influence and shape youth culture I know I’m achieving what I set out to do.
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