Celebrating Black History Month – Matthew Southall
Name: Matthew Southall
Occupation: Fitness & Ecommerce Entrepreneur and Former Sports Agent
Ethnic Background: Mixed race – black/white
Family Origin: Britain/Nigeria
In what generation did your family come to the UK? I don’t know.
Fitness entrepreneur Matthew Southall was born in South London and moved to the North West with his mother at the age of 5. His father was of Nigerian descent, but left before he was born. Matthew graduated from school with all A’s and studied Art and design at college before moving to Leeds to study 3d Interior and Architectural design, graduating in 2006. One of his close friends growing up was a professional footballer for Manchester United and England so he managed to make several contacts within football and went straight from University into sports management, where he worked under renowned Iranian businessman, Kia Joorabchian, owner of football stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. He was very quickly involved in high profile deals, learnt a lot and then in 2010 set up his own Sports Agency and represented several high profile Premier League players. In the summer of 2014, he set up an online fitness wear brand which went onto launch in December 2014. Matthew currently lives in Manchester and has a two year old daughter, Arabella.
What inspired you to pursue your chosen career?
I had seen a lot being involved in football. There is a lot of corruption and deceit involved and as the years went on there were more and more agents appearing thinking they could make quick, easy money. I had always been interested in commerce and I believed selling online was the way shopping would go. Fitness was growing and becoming more popular not only in the UK, but worldwide and having been made aware of another UK company that had created a fitness wear brand, I was adamant I could do it better with higher quality clothing.
Do you feel there is a proportionate representation of minorities within your chosen field? If not, what do you think the government or society could/should be doing to encourage more people of minority backgrounds to pursue similar careers?
Not really, no. I don’t think the government or society could do anything to encourage more people of minority backgrounds to set up online businesses. Its a trait thats instilled into people from an early age and depends more upon your personality traits and upbringing – you’re either a creator or worker. Creators make opportunities for themselves; workers look for the stable 9-5 job.
Are there any aspects of your family’s culture that you feel were particularly prominent or evident in your upbringing, or that you are particularly fond of?
I grew up in a white family so I didn’t really get an understanding of what it meant to be mixed race until later in life.
How are you currently/or do you plan to preserve an awareness of their background and heritage in your children & future generations? Is this something that you consider important?
My daughter is 2 and a half and her mother is white but she does have a small proportion of ethnic origin in her. I plan on explaining about my father and his heritage at some point, but I think today its far more common to see mixed raced children than it was when I was growing up.
Who would you consider to be the most iconic, pivotal or inspirational figure in black history & why?
Floyd Mayweather or Will Smith. These are the new age black icons. Both from humble upbringings, they have become masters of their respected professions and been hugely successful in building their status and wealth, which I think is inspirational to younger generations.
Were you educated in black history growing up? Do you think, in light of and celebration of the UK’s diverse population, that black history should be taught in schools?
No I wasn’t. I was the only mixed raced child in my year at school and its not something that was taught about. I think it should be taught, however I don’t believe it should be outlined as ‘black’ history. That’s separating black from white, I think its all one. As long as it continues to be thought of as separate, I believe there will continue to be problems throughout the world between different ethnicities. Black history should be taught, but as part of history in general.