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Jim’s story

Current Role - Brightside founder

Joined Brightside - 2003

Years at Brightside - 17

The idea for Brightside first came about in 2000, when John, Angela and I were setting up a company together. We’d all had good breaks in life, lucky circumstances and a foot up from family and friends. We’d all been in a fortunate position going to uni and we wanted to do something to help people who hadn’t had the same advantages.  

When our company started paying dividends, we employed someone to work for the charity straight away. They started looking into what sort of things we could do to help and applied for funding from The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in 2003.  

That initial grant was to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds get into medicine. At that time, the barriers to getting into medical school were huge. That’s when we decided on mentoring. We wanted to help bright kids who didn’t know where to start with the application.  

That’s why we called the charity Brightside. That, and the Van Morrison song, Bright Side of the Road.  

After developing mentoring programmes for medical students, we went into STEM and broadened out from there. Brightside very quickly became self-sustaining and that was really satisfying. The core of it is still the same now, but the remit is so much wider.  

We chose online mentoring because it was so scalable. Young people liked interacting online, even back then, and we wanted to give them something that they’d want to do. It was a smart move. It worked for people in terms of time commitment and convenience, so they kept doing it. It worked well for universities and they started putting more and more people on the programmes.  

Universities have always had outreach programmes and this was a really effective way of helping them with the challenge of engaging young people who didn’t typically apply.  

Life was hard for young people back when we had the idea for this in 2000 and it’s even harder now. I’ve always had a huge respect for mentoring and understood its power, and I’ve always had roles where I’ve encouraged the next generation. It’s great that Brightside’s programmes are having such a positive impact on young people year-on-year.  

It’s humbling to see how brilliantly Brightside has done. It’s important to celebrate milestones like these because not all small charities survive and thrive. 

I was the treasurer on the board of trustees until a couple of years ago, when I took a step back. But I still keep an eye out for Brightside, reading the case studies about young people who Brightside have helped. It’s a privilege to watch the brilliant team members who’ve brought it forward, helping more than 150,000 young people make confident and informed decisions.  

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