Glamour Editor-in-Chief Deborah Joseph goes one on one with Jamal Edwards.
The online broadcast company Jamal established is a major industry force and its founder is one of Britain’s hottest young entrepreneurs.”
“I was impressed by his confidence the first time I met him… I saw first hand how keen young people were to look to him for inspiration.”
Richard Branson (as told to Time Magazine)
There aren’t many men of 27 with a CV as flowered with accidental triumph as that of Jamal Edwards. Having received an MBE for his services to music – and one of the few who can boast an A-List-filled photo collection including a selfie spudding Prince William and Harry, an image that went from Jamal’s Twitter to the pages of Vanity Fair and Vogue – it’s fair to call him the millennial’s hero of DIY entrepreneurialism.
But he’s still very much the boy next door – just with a slightly nicer front door now. Having gone from creating his own YouTube channel to curating stages at Bestival and Wireless, from filming on British housing estates to recording interviews from 10 Downing Street to the Bermuda Triangle, Edwards can now boast an expanding business portfolio and a solid reputation that sees him inspiring a new wave of digital entrepreneurialism.
Hard work has always been the ethic, his many followers on social media adopting his #SelfBelief tactics. Heck, according to one youth agency there’s already a marketing term in his namesake; ‘The Jamal Edwards effect’, a newly adopted ideology that anything’s possible in the digital age.
Considering a career in sport or music, it was while at college that Edwards edged closer to his actual beginnings in the big wide world. Juggling filming foxes and his mates on his £20 NEC phone with a part-time job at Topman (where you can now buy Edwards’ first foray into menswear, a collaborative range with American Freshman), it was the Panasonic camera he got as a Christmas present from his mum and dad that really sealed his direction. And since 2006, Jamal has grown his youth broadcasting channel, SBTV, from the inner confines of his bedroom into a renowned brand with global reach.
Encapsulating the DIY ethos of the underground music scene that inspired the teen to pick up a camera in the first place, Jamal Edwards was – and still is – responsible for documenting the rise of a new breed of previously ignored video stars. Early nods of approval came from Richard Branson and Simon Cowell, but now SBTV, the first new media business on YouTube, can boast a subscriber base of over 950,000 & 600 million+ views.
Rest assured this is no here today gone tomorrow story either; Edwards can now be found on The Times Young Power List. He’s fronted a Google Chrome advert alongside Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, and can claim to be the first YouTuber to release an e-book and interactive game, ‘Self Belief: The Vision, which subsequently became a no.1 best seller with demand leading to a unintended print version. SBTV itself was the subject of a prime time fly-on-the-wall documentary series aired on T4, and trended worldwide on Twitter when it was first aired. Further demonstrating his skills set, Edwards has worked with Burberry as part of Creative Lives, fronted a Puma campaign (which saw a rise in suede sales), presented at the BAFTA Children’s Awards, and delivered talks for Cannes Lions, TedXHollywood and TedXHousesOfParliament. In a nod to his grandparents, he was equally heartened to receive an St Vincent Business Award last year.
Having previously acted as an ambassador for MTV’s Staying Alive, working towards eliminating the stigma of HIV, and the Spirit of London Awards, that secured Edwards his first interview with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, volunteering remains a passion. The Prince’s Trust a firm favourite of his, it’s also led to SBTV further expanding its broadcasting remit; among those who’ve been quizzed in recent times are HRH Prince Charles, Ed Miliband and Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube & has even curated music for Bill Clinton & his foundation.
Becoming something of a regular in royal circles, Jamal was honoured when he became one of the Queen’s Young Leaders, after being called upon to run the first ever social media hub at Buckingham Palace. Achievements like this saw Jamal placed at no. 2 in The Guardian’s top 30 young people in digital media 2014. He’s graced the covers of Intelligent Life, Wired and the Emirates Airline in-flight magazine while also frequenting the pages of publications from GQ, Dazed and Q to Forbes and Time. Not bad for a boy whose content is primarily consumed by teenagers around the world.
Attempting to take a ‘less is more’ approach to SBTV and with further aspirations to expand his personal goals while seeing the world, there’s no telling what to expect next.
THAT’s the Jamal Edwards effect.