Jackson was born into a scrap metal dealing family, and was working at 12 years of age while still at school. Firmly acknowledging that academic qualifications were not important for his family, he entered the family business full time and spent 16 years there.
However, Jackson had an entrepreneurial itch that needed a firm scratch. And it was rather surprisingly, giving his analogue-based work experience, that he first began in the internet space.
Looking back now it would do Jackson a disservice to call him anything other than an internet pioneer – so early to the game was he that there wasn’t even a big enough market to provide demand for what he first built.
“In 1995 I set up a company to provide internet connectivity in the UK. I thought that would be a big success, but didn’t realise it was too early for the internet in Britain,” he remembered.
“However, I decided to look laterally and thought that if I could’t get people online, I would control and influence what they saw when they browsed.”
By snapping up domain names as early as 1996, Jackson was able to get is hands on URLs such as car.co.uk, money.co.uk and england.co.uk with the intention of developing each into a tailored website.
Unfortunately, again Jackson was too early to the party and found himself homeless through a lack of profit from the domain trade. With his family ties under pressure at that time, he was unable to go home and so had to rely upon “tenacity and hard work” to pick himself back up and launch one of the UK’s first ecommerce sites trading and taking money.
With there still not being enough internet traffic to see his trailblazing efforts rewarded, the watermark moment came in 1999 when Dixons’ Freeserve offering managed to get 1.5m online by the end of of the year.
“I did a deal with Yahoo!, after it looked at the traffic being generated by my domain portfolio, whereby I kept three-quarters of the revenue from its PPC model. Ultimately that generated some wealth and I had a decent amount of money by the end of 1999.”
So what did a young Jackson do with his new-found wealth after finally getting the financial renumeration for his internet efforts? Well, he set about buying up all of his father’s recycling competitors around the Preston area and merged the interests. Leaving it in the hands of his brother, Jackson went off to develop alternative business ideas – demonstration of the permanent itch he never seems to be able to shake.
Ironically it was his internet experience that meant Jackson next missed out on the dot.com boom – as he didn’t think it made sense. “While I was proved right, the error I made is that it didn’t matter that I knew these companies were’t worth as much as they were, as the market thought they were,” he added.
Read about some of our other Growing Business Awards winners:
- Tangle Teezer: From startup to award-winning exporter
- The Digital Champion powering Netflix-like content for Spotify and Virgin
- Charlie Bigham’s: Cooking growth with principles, pleasure and premium prices
From there it was off into the world of professional football and work with his home-town team – Preston North End. Finding out that it was going trough a difficult period because funds dried up after TV money disappeared, he joined forces with friends and acquired enough shares to restructure it and ultimately become CEO in 2004.
“In my two years there we stabilised the company and only lost about £50-100,000 – which is not very much at all in the world of football,” Jackson explained.
At the end of a four-year cycle at the club, during which the team had made it to the play-off finals, Jackson decided he’d had enough and actually considered retirement. It’s probably a surprise after reading this far that Jackson for once didn’t follow through with an idea, and instead turned his attentions to charity.
“I knew all my businesses were relatively well managed and were comfortable financially. Not wanting to be the richest man in the world, I got involved in charity,” he said.
“If you think business is brutal, you should see charity. People don’t want to help other charities as they are frightened of losing funding.”
Jackson’s observations of homeless charities, a space that he resonates with personally having gone through the hardship, led him to conclude that there was something fundamentally wrong with the model currently in operation.
“The government supports charity by giving them money when beds were occupied. But people aren’t commodities. I thought, if we could come up with a model to use business to assist people who would otherwise be homeless then I’d have something to be proud of,” Jackson added.
The end result was his current business – Recycling Lives. It’s an operation that is primarily a recycling outfit, thinking about profit and employing people, but also has a charity as a separate legal entity. That offering’s function is to create new employment opportunities and not discriminate because people are homeless.
“Most people are homeless as they don’t have a job. But if you can give them accommodation and then a clear staged approach to up-skilling and identifying employment then thats what can make a difference.”
Jackson emphatically believes that if more businesses took on a greater charitable role, and embraced social enterprise, then it would actually improve the bottom line. “If you have a donation budget, there’s only a certain amount you can do with it. But businesses often have much larger marketing budgets, which could be transferred to charity and corporate social responsibility – getting more penetration and generating praise.
“In most businesses we have one common factor, and that is people. If you inspire people to support good social welfare causes, often local, then the plaudits received means they’ll end up doing it in both business and personal time.
“Then you get an individual who goes out there in the community to champion good causes in association with their company – and that business gets a lot for a little.”
So what is next in store for a man who constantly seems in need of a new challenge? Jackson has decided to stay in the charity space, but is building a new social media platform.
His Careicon business takes the form of badges based on showing what you care about. A Careicon is worn on people’s social media pages to demonstrate support for charitable causes close to their heart. Each time a Careicon is activated, the user raises money for charity and promotes awareness to other social media users.
Jackson believes it’s an offering with immense possibility. “If, say, Coca-Cola put a unique code in a cap that can be activated to make a donation, then the company could find out how many people who bought a product activated, where they were in the country, and what charity was picked,” he explained.
“That information is great as it provides a demographic, but also detail what Coca-Cola drinkers care about – and big data is the way forward.”
Our whirlwind journey through our Growing Business Awards winner’s career is probably evidence enough that Jackson will probably have a big impact with Careicon. He’s a man who can readily identify a gap or problem in the market, and produce a suitably apt solution.
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