Jamal Edwards, 23-year-old entrepreneur, Acton High School 2001-2005, London
As a teenager, what did you want to be when you were older?
I wanted to be successful. My main goal was to achieve success in the music sector. I understood music because I was a rapper, so I wanted to be something to do with the music. I used to watch a lot of MTV, especially the behind the scenes videos of music videos and one day I just thought, ‘oh I could be a director.’
How did you get into the career you’re in now?
Persistence and passion. I didn’t start out thinking I was going to be an entrepreneur, I just provided a service. And people have grown with the story. It grew organically and I grew with it. I did that by putting things on YouTube. I uploaded anything from music videos to me messing about with my mum. I uploaded anything and everything in my life.
Is there anything you wish you’d known when you were younger?
I wish I has known YouTube was going to be this influential. I knew I had found a niche when I was uploading because no one else was doing it. It’s taken me to places I could never have imagined. I’ve done interviews with Richard Branson and Prince Charles. I would never have dreamed of doing that. But I also like taking things as they come, so maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to know how successful it was going to be!
What advice would you give to young people starting out?
It’s important to understand that providing a service is what a good business does. Young entrepreneurs need to find a target market. I knew my service was to provide grime and rap videos to my friends. Whatever a person wants to do, it’s important to do it.
What was the best/worst careers advice you received at school?
BEST: To make sure I got an education. It always helps.
WORST: To have fun while I’m young. Being young is the most important part of everyone’s life. Young people should be more serious about their youth because it’s when they can make magic happen. Learn when you’re young, make the most of it. I was learning about my business when I was young, stuff that should be taught in schools. It wasn’t taught when I went to school and that wasn’t so long ago.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that every morning when I wake up I realise I’m in charge of my fate, which is such an empowering feeling for a young man in Britain today. It’s overwhelming sometimes, I get anxiety. I’ve actually been told to go to Yoga! It’s all about staying focussed.
What turned out to be the biggest advantage for you of a state education rather than private?
I think the biggest advantage is mixing with all sorts of people. At a state school you can network with lots of different people, whereas in private education students only stay in one social circle. I have private schools, friends from state school, PlayStation friends, football friends! I have really mixed friends and I like that. There’s more variety. Also at a state school it’s not so segregated. At a private school you might be looked upon differently if you’re from a different area.