Jamal Edwards: 'don't Start A Business To Make Money; Start It With A Passion'

Age belies experience for 25-year-old Jamal Edwards. The digital entrepreneur has 10 years of business lessons to share since he launched his YouTube channel, SBTV (the SB comes from Edwards' rapping name SmokeyBarz), in 2006, which led to him being awarded an MBE for services to music. His venture grew from a hobby - after his parents gave him a video camera as a 15th birthday present that he began recording friends singing and rapping.
Edwards' videos of mostly grime artists (a musical genre that derived from east London in the early 2000s), such as Dizzie Rascal and Wiley and, later, the pop singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, quickly found an enthusiastic audience. With thousands and thousands of hits on his YouTube channel, he saw a money-making opportunity. That he contacted the video-sharing website to see if he was entitled to a share of advertising revenue. He was rejected three times for a YouTube partnership, but persistence paid. "The fourth time I acquired it - that's when I started making a bit of money quietly. "
This slice of success urged him on. Edwards was still in education at this point and also working in a part-time retail job. "I knew once I started filming more I could make more money and leave my job at Topman to spotlight it full-time. " But his commitment had to keep out a little longer. It took around five years for SBTV's advertising revenues to be sufficient to provide him an income.

When I was at school and said I wanted to be an entrepreneur people viewed me like 'you can't do that'

Since Edwards' business grew from his keen fascination with music, that was enough to help keep him motivated. He references that experience when giving advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. "I always say to people don't start [a business] to make money, you are not going to earn money straight away, start it because you're passionate about it. Then hopefully it will start to make money in the long run. "
He recently became an ambassador for Creative Entrepreneurs - an online resource funded by Arts Council England. He says: "I really do think that creativity has been a great liberator for people from the [musical] community that I assist. It's so important for the us government, and bigger companies, to embrace creativity and entrepreneurialism. When I was at school and said I needed to be an entrepreneur people looked at me like 'you can't do that'. "
Tenacity has been vital to Edwards' success. He built a rapport with Richard Branson after entering a competition to meet the Virgin founder - four years later the pair continue to be friends and Branson is an advocate of Edwards' business. Meanwhile, Google (which owns YouTube) picked Edwards and SBTV to feature within their Google Chrome launch advertisements.
Aside from his friendship with Branson, with regards to confidants, Edwards seeks out all they can. "The best ideas and advice originate from unlikely places. If it hadn't been for my mum and dad's advice, I might not need branched into filming singers, because it was once pretty much all rappers. "
Despite collecting a broad array of advice, maybe not everything went to plan for Edwards. Something he says he would've done differently is to become well-versed in finance from the beginning of SBTV. As his YouTube channel grew, and he took on more freelance film-makers, Edwards explains he was not savvy on cost management. He was paying per video, rather than a day rate, which was a lot more expensive. "I was building up a big bill - I was paying a lot of freelancer costs when I should have scheduled several videos to be filmed in the space of eight hours. "
However , Edwards takes a philosophical view. "Making mistakes and learning along the way isn't the end of the entire world. The biggest thing I've learned is not to be scared of failure. "
This mindset paid off, in 2013 SBTV won private equity backing (of an undisclosed sum) from Miroma Ventures, in a deal that valued the business at? m. In exchange, Miroma took a minority stake.
Finding investment is a challenge for small businesses, what are Edwards' tips? "Try and meet as many each person as possible, " But, he adds, once those contacts are made, entrepreneurs should be discerning about the investors they choose. "Sometimes people just get the money after which they're left doing anything else themselves. And so i would say make sure that [the investor] has the skills and the contacts, along with the cash. "
Edwards' partnerships have paid off, in January SBTV launched a youth-focused news service with the Press Association (PA). The articles sit on the SB. TELEVISION website and cover sport, politics, technology, showbusiness and entertainment. The site is run by a mix of SBTV and PA reporters. Edwards says: "This is something I've been very keen to do for some time. " He says dealing with the PA has made setting up and running the service better. "I'd want to see SBTV News become one of the key news destinations for young people, encouraging them to simply take an interest in social problems and politics. "
While foraying into news, Edwards has other plans to cultivate, and diversify, his business. He and another young entrepreneur, Joe Carnell, are building up a sideline in healthy eating outlets, called Ugot, in the north of England.
Meanwhile, Edwards is dealing with the States. "I really want to get into [feature] film next five years. I've also got the beginnings of a team in LA, so I'll start to do SBTV USA. I'm going to venture out there and discover great new acts. "
And thus Edwards continues his original ambition of giving under-represented artists a platform. "Now I say it was a nearby boy, worldwide voice thing: when you put your stuff on the internet it goes out to a global audience straight away. "
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