From humble beginnings in North London to overcoming mental health challenges, to running a successful Brighton-based marketing agency, Fox&Bear and employing over 20 people, James is certainly no stranger to imposter syndrome.
Born and raised in Wealdstone, a stone’s throw from Wembley Stadium, James lived on a council estate with his family up until the age of 17.
There were lots of reasons why James stood out during his time at nursery school and into primary school (and this wasn’t just because of his bright ginger hair), being an undiagnosed autistic child in challenging educational and home environments certainly ensured that James built resilience from an early age.
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel” Socrates
By this point James had been expelled twice and had fallen in with the wrong crowd and, by his own admission, from year 8 to year 10 James was not exactly an ideal pupil. Despite a number of distractions James managed to turn this around in year 11 and ended up with 11 GCSEs including a few As.
“Only the educated are free” Epictetus
With no idea what he wanted to study or where he wanted to go, James eventually ended up picking a university based on his favourite football team (Liverpool), a course that was close to the beginning of the UCAS prospectus (Archaeology) and halls based on proximity to bars.
James dropped out of university (later completing a history degree via the Open University), he then started working at Carphone Warehouse serving the great British public. This job taught him how to take things on the chin, make mistakes, own the mistakes and try to do it all with a smile.
The start of Cobb Digital.
Having moved to Brighton in 2010 after living in Liverpool and taking some time to travel, James worked for the legendary Pure360 and following this stint joined the Montefiore Hospital as Commercial Director. It was during his time at the hospital that he met his now business partner, Tim Cobb, and together they founded Cobb Digital, now Fox&Bear. The agency employs a team of over 20 digital specialists.
A passion for public speaking.
After a few local speaking slots, compering engagements and marketing workshops, James realised he really enjoyed public speaking. In 2018 he successfully applied as a TED speaker and, combining his passion for Ancient Greeks as well as his knowledge of all things marketing, delivered a talk on “What the Ancient Greeks can teach us about digital marketing.”
Football lover to football coach.
As a huge lover of football, James jumped at the chance to become a coach for his son’s football team, undertaking his FA coaching qualification alongside his co-coach, Alex. James now coaches Shoreham FC under 9s as well as under 6s, with Gary.
The only speaker to compere Brighton Summit three times.
Having worked closely with Brighton Chamber of Commerce for a number of years, 2019 James was invited to compere the organisation’s flagship event interviewing campaigner and activist Gina Miller, and broadcaster Kamal Ahmed live on stage. Then came covid and the Summit moved to an online platform which James presented. Complete with a banana hat. James would go on to compere the event in person again in April 2022, becoming the only speaker to compere the event three times.
James became Chair of Governors for Glebe Primary School in Southwick.
With a passion for ensuring that children are given the best possible start in life, James became Chair of Governors for Glebe Primary School in Southwick, a role which became particularly challenging as the pandemic hit in March 2020. However, the role is a hugely rewarding and fulfilling one.
After a lifetime of battling mental health issues James finally reached out for help.
Grateful for speaking with a series of compassionate and helpful people, James was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Bi-Polar. Part of the reason James waited over 30 years to seek medical advice was the stigma associated with a diagnosis. As a result, he is now passionate about sharing his story to empower others.
Two years ago, James began studying for an MBA.
Despite all of his other roles and responsibilities, he achieved a distinction and graduated this summer.