Trendsetter to Know: James Rowe of OTOjOY

Name:  James Rowe

Twitter:  Yep, it’s probably about time I joined!




Age:  44

Title:  CEO

Married/Single:  Married

Kids:  Just the one fur baby – a beautiful ‘red’ Boston Terrier called Lucy. 

City you live in:  Fountain Hills, AZ 

A typical day in my life includes… mostly doing different things than the day before. Running a small business means wearing lots of hats, so any two days are rarely the same. Lucy usually wakes me up at about 6:30 a.m. and wants to be let outside before she eats. I find that it’s much easier doing that in Arizona than it was in the flats of East Anglia, UK. At least I’m not having to wrap up in a hat and scarf to let her out! ☺  

We’re fortunate to have incredible views of the Four Peaks mountain from our home, So I usually make some coffee and take 30 minutes to myself enjoying the sunrise while I drink it. I’ll check my phone and make sure nothing urgent came in overnight and remind myself of what’s on the schedule for the day. I usually arrive at the office around 8:30 a.m. 

Most mornings I like to check in with either our project manager or our advocacy specialists and make sure they have the support they need for that day, and then I might be writing content for the website, running admin errands close to our North Scottsdale office, planning the quarterly budget with my business partner, or sitting on zoom calls with potential customers. I love the variety, but usually wish I had an extra hour or two in the day! 

I was born…. 11 days late and in the middle of a huge snowstorm in Enfield, North London. My Dad only just made it in time to support my Mum, who was most grateful to finally not be craving suet pudding anymore. 

My favorite thing about Arizona… is that it’s really easy to spend time every single day outside. We only moved here a few months ago though, and people keep warning us that the summer can be brutal! For right now though, Lucy and I both enjoy our early evening walks around the Fountain Hills park, and lazy Sundays can be spent on one of a thousand gorgeous restaurant patios. It feels like our overall quality of life is better here, and I’m pretty sure it’s the sunshine that is responsible for that in the most part! 

I’m listening to… LBC radio on my way to work (a talk radio station based out of London), or one of a handful of podcasts. I’m particularly enjoying James O’Brien at the moment, something called “As Told By Nomads” about the vagaries of running businesses with remote teams in the 21st Century and anything TED. If I’m meeting with a client, I usually listen to old school Trance for 20 minutes before I arrive, and after particularly long days, The Beautiful South is my go-to relaxer.  

My family… is split between the UK and the US. I married an American, and as one of 22 cousins, her family is spread all over the country. I’m writing this from North Carolina where we’ve finally been able to visit her parents after an 18-month Covid hiatus. My parents and my sister and her family are back in the UK, in leafy Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. Having lived a transatlantic life for 14 years, it’s easier than it sounds managing the distance! 

If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be… Can I pick those who’ve passed? I’d like Robin Williams at my dinner table (the only Actor who made me realize that being ‘starstruck’ wasn’t just something that happens to 13-year-old teenage girls), Gary Vaynerchuk (who’d do a great job choosing the wine, I’m sure!), Judi Dench, Simon Sinek and Alan Bennett (the playwright). Is five too many? It seems kinda greedy. 

One thing I cannot live without… I’m not sure there is really anyone ‘thing’ I couldn’t live without. I’m not particularly materialistic, and I don’t put much value on objects. When my first grandfather passed, I was a teenager, and I chose to keep a couple of his ties as a way of remembering him. I’d be sad if I were ever to lose those. Grandad Brooks always wore a tie! 

When I was younger, I wanted to be… Crikey – lots of things. A fireman I think, a chef (before it was trendy to be a chef), but really from the age of 14 all I wanted to be was a speech pathologist, which I know, is weird for a 14-year-old. Either that, or a stage actor, but becoming an SLP seemed considerably more likely. I did end up working as a speech path for a few years, before moving into the commercial side of augmentative communication, so there you go. Dreams can come true, kids. 

I’m inspired by… Anyone who really understands their passion and is able to act on it. I get to work with a lot of advocates for hearing accessibility in my role at OTOjOY for example, and their relentless pursuit of equal access to sound, something that the majority of us take completely for granted, inspires me every day. Being able to hear clearly in large venues shouldn’t be a luxury but for people living with hearing loss, but it still is. And it’s 2021. And that’s just wrong, isn’t it? 

The one person who motivates me is… my wife, Dana. Every day. She’s one of those people who knows what her passion is and most certainly acts on it. As a Jazzercise franchisee she’s able to share her passion for a healthy, fun, active lifestyle with hundreds of local people in our community and seeing her so motivated to build a working life around her passion keeps me motivated to do the same around mine. 

If I could change anything in the world, it would be… our reliance on plastic. I watched a documentary a few years ago on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and it made me feel physically sick. Human beings have to be better than clogging up the planet with our waste, and with so much of the waste – plastic – there surely has to be a better way for us to ‘contain’ stuff. The sooner we’re able to live in a world where everything is biodegradable, the better that has to be for all of us. 

My first job was… delivering football pool coupons in the town I grew up in. Every Saturday morning, for a couple hours, I would deliver the coupons and collect the money from about 100 of our neighbors who played the football pools. Is that a British thing? It’s like a lottery where the winners are determined by the football results. Which I guess you call soccer here. I also worked in a Bakery which is much easier to explain! 

My favorite escape… is playing tournament poker. I’ve played for 20 years, and for those few hours that I’m sitting at the felt, I feel like I can completely switch off. Poker is my Golf, I guess. 

I’m currently working on… scaling OTOjOY. I’m grateful for the amazing team we have at OTOjOY who have spent the last few years perfecting the craft of installing hearing loops into venues where people struggle to hear – places of worship, senior care facilities, performing arts theaters, grocery store checkouts…. The list is endless. Now my job is to figure out how we do a better job at sharing our technology with the thousands of places yet to benefit from it, so that people with hearing loss no longer feel like they need to exclude themselves from visiting places they’ve enjoyed going to all of their lives. Because unfortunately, that’s what happens. When we can’t hear well at the bingo hall, or the movie theater, or even at the bank, most of us just stop going to those places. OTOjOY can stop that from happening and figuring out how to reach as many venues as possible is what keeps me up at night. 

Always… remember to be kind. It’s too easy to forget that we have no idea what other people are dealing with at any given moment, and so making the simple choice to be kind guarantees you’re not making it worse. 

Never… go to bed on an argument. Waking up isn’t a given and you don’t want to leave the other person to deal with that. 

Favorite Quote… “You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all.” Not so much a quote, as a line from a movie. Bonus points if you know which one. 

Biggest Dream… That one day we won’t have to fight tooth and nail for accessibility and inclusion. If you can’t see or hear or walk or talk, you have enough to live with without having to find the fight in you just to make it easier to be included. 

My Pet Peeve(s)… People talking or texting (!) on their cell phones while they’re driving. Athletes (soccer players in particular) who spit on the pitch during a game. How did that get to be so commonplace? People who don’t finish their sen.

More About James Rowe:
Our company name is OTOjOY. We are an assistive listening company. We install hearing loop infrastructure into venues of all sizes so that people who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants can hear in crystal clear audio quality. 

Our customers love us because we install hearing loop infrastructure that works! Our loops are always designed to fit the unique space of the customer and deliver outstanding audio quality for their own hearing-impaired customers. People living with hearing loss love us because our technology means that they can once again feel included at all of those places they don’t want to stop visiting just because they can’t hear. 

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