Magnate’s Sean Spooner speaks with Jamal Edwards, founder of the global entertainment platform SBTV, about his life in business so far, and what he plans to do next.
I met with Jamal at Soho House, at 7pm on a Saturday evening. Sat drinking water, the 22 year old media mogul was reading through his new series of eBooks, which are being published by Virgin this July. ‘I’ve been here since midday,’ he tells me, ‘and I’m only four books in’. On the table is his MacBook and two phones, both of which ring several times during the interview.
As the many clubs and bars of Soho were thriving out of the window, Jamal was alone, working. That’s what makes him different, and what has got him to where he is, he says. ‘It’s all about the graft. I was given a camera for Christmas and just started filming stuff on my estate, before uploading it to YouTube. I started off filming random things like foxes, but then decided that local MCs weren’t getting enough exposure, so I started filming them.
‘I always knew that to make SBTV big I’d have to expand outwards, so I never solely recorded grime and rap material. Because of that when it came to working on more commercial content it came quite naturally.’
For his first step into mainstream content, Jamal secured an interview with Kelly Rowland. He has since gone on to work with a huge range of artists, from Justin Bieber to Jessie J and Skepta to Sean Kingston.
One artist who has been associated with Jamal since the early days of SBTV is Ed Sheeran, who is now a triple-platinum selling artist. The first of many Ed Sheeran videos which SBTV published was in 2010, and has since stacked up almost 8,000,000 views.
The relationship which Jamal has built with Ed is a perfect example of his ability to spot talent before the record labels. This ability to find the stars of tomorrow has caused many to compare Jamal to Simon Cowell, who is one of his many inspirations, he admits. ‘There are a lot of people who I find inspirational, from people like my Mum – who has always worked really hard and never given up – to people like Richard Branson and even Simon Cowell.
‘It also inspires me that people like Ed Sheeran – who I’ve known for years – can go on and do really big things. Ed’s one of my best mates and he’s smashing it, so I’m really happy for him.’
When the topic turned to the workings of the business, Jamal was more than happy to discuss the current situation. I was curious to ask if he had taken investment, after growing the business from zero to £6million. ‘We haven’t taken any investment, but it’s something which is worth considering. I think to take the business to the next level and into other areas it might be a conversation worth having.
‘I’ve built the business on my own, so I don’t think that I’d ever sell the whole thing, as it’s a part of who I am, but I think it’s also a conversation worth having.’
‘There are quite a few areas which I want to move in to, including fashion. We already have a clothing department within SBTV, but I want to look at making more merchandise elsewhere.
‘I’m also working with a few companies, including a new frozen yoghurt brand called UGOT.’
As well as working with the next generation of entrepreneurs, Jamal is also aiming to inspire them, not least with his new series of eBooks, released later this year. I had the chance to read through a draft of the first book in the series, entitled ‘Self Belief The Vision: How To Be A Success In Your Own Terms’.
The book gives readers a step-by-step guide on how to make real progress, with the first release geared at getting readers into the right frame-of-mind for running a business, and giving practical tips on how to get going. The book shares ideas on how to overcome things like confidence issues, whilst building relevant contacts in the industry you want to work within.
‘I like the idea that people can read the new series of books and have all of the knowledge they need to go out there and get started in business.’
‘I hope that these books can inspire people to go out there and do something.’
Self Belief The Vision is released in July.