LDC Top 50 2023
James Hacking and Majid Bahi
Founder and CEO
Socially Powerful Media
James Hacking’s entrepreneurial journey started when he was just 16. He suffered an injury that meant he couldn’t play contact sports for 12 months, “I started teaching myself ball tricks to pass the time and put them on YouTube.” Within a couple of years, he was starring in ads from Nike and Adidas, and body doubling for superstar players.
Now 34, he is the founder of Socially Powerful, a marketing agency with real social clout. “We cut our teeth creating viral campaigns,” he says. Hacking runs the company with CEO Majid Bahi and together they have created a £13 million turnover business that employs 80 people across the UK, US, Qatar and Macedonia.
There may be people out there who are more talented or have better ideas, but no one can beat my grit and determination to succeed.”
What are you ambitions for this business?
James: If I told the chairman of WPP, “I’m going to be bigger than you some day”, he would laugh me out of the room, but I believe there’s room at the table for another big player and we are here to disrupt. There may be people out there who are more talented or have better ideas but no one can beat my grit and determination to succeed.
Majid: The UK is our biggest market, but we want our US presence to overtake this over the next 12 months. We already work with global brands such as Amazon, L’Oréal and TikTok, and we want to help the challengers too. When we started working with TikTok, no one knew what that platform was.
What’s your biggest challenge?
James: Convincing global brands to switch their marketing budget from established players in the agency landscape to something new and exciting in us. It’s a challenge, but we’re showing it can be done.
Majid: We operate in a really competitive market for talent, so we need to make sure Socially Powerful is a great place to work. We started hiring our first interns in 2017 so we could develop talent within the business – two are now shareholders. That’s something I’m really proud of.
Tell me about the biggest mistake you have made
James: My last business was called Viral Media House. It created social content and seeded it out on behalf of brands. I bought loads of equipment, hired a bunch of people, and the company flopped. That taught me never to run before I can walk, so when I started Socially Powerful, I took it slow and made sure I was generating revenue before spending any money.