Jenk Oz is a 17- year-old social entrepreneur, public speaker, social change activist, and DJ as well as the Founder & CEO of Thred Media, a social enterprise focused on Publishing, Consulting and Production aimed at Generation Z.
The central tenet of the business is the 100% social change-focused website Thred where the writing team covers all aspects of youth culture seen through the lens of social change. It reaches 100,000+ teens and young adults in 211+ countries a month and has won several awards including Digiday Future Leader in Publishing; Webby Anthem Award- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Vodafone Small Business Award 2022; Next Gen Media Company 2022, Start-Up Awards National Series; four W3 Awards, an International Davey Award, and an Amazon AWS Activator Award.
Jenk has been featured in 300+ articles including Forbes, Business Insider, Oracle for Startups and Great British Entrepreneur Society as well as having won several awards including the Diana Award Honour Role 2021, Tech London 25 Under 25 Entrepreneur, PMI Future 50 Leaders and Top 100 Digital Leaders 2021, and more.
Jenk received a column in London’s Time Out magazine entitled ‘Ask Jenk’, enabling young people to write in and ask questions on all things Gen Z.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Jenk Oz: Hi!
I’m a 17- year-old social entrepreneur, public speaker, social change activist, and DJ as well as the Founder & CEO of Thred Media, a social enterprise focused on Publishing, Consulting and Production aimed at Generation Z.
On the speaking circuit, I enjoy talking about the future of Generation Z, Young Entrepreneurship, Social Change and Youth Employment with the hope of helping other young people develop their impactful ideas. I have spoken at more than 85 conferences including three TEDx Talks entitled ‘Ideas Ink.’; ‘Breaking the Pattern’ and ‘Can a ‘Like’ change the world- the power of clicktivism’ as well as having spoken at 7 Model United Nation conferences including Oxford University: Model United Nations Conference- London. Others include Vox YMS NYC Marketing Conference- New York City; Knowledge Summit- Expo Dubai; Oxford Global: Summit for Young Leaders- Athens & London; Amazon AWS Summit- London; SES Student Employability Summit- London, NACUE Enterprise Conference and SME Beyond Borders Conference- Dubai.
I am member of the Google Z-Council, Oracle for Startups, Microsoft Surface young entrepreneur team and The Knowledge Society (TKS). I am currently taking part in two fellowships: Civics Unplugged and Preparing Global Leaders Forum – PGLF by Sam Potolicchio, US.
I also sit on the Marketing Board for Founders4Schools, WorkFinder App, UpNext Education, BeMe Health, and Prospect 100 as well as being an Ambassador for Global Citizen (poverty/climate), Climate Science (climate), Earth Day (climate), Force of Nature (climate), Youthtopia (climate), Bite Back 2030 (school food programs), Youthify (climate), Youth Climate Database (climate), Ivy House (education), Let’s Localise (education), BeMe Health (mental health), SoundMind (mental health), and The Song Academy (youth empowerment).
I have appeared in West End theatre, TV, commercials, music videos, short films, voice-overs and several commercial print campaigns. My hobbies include piano, gaming, rowing and rugby.
- I started a company called Thred Media, a publishing, consulting, media and production company aimed at Gen Z. In fact, we are Gen Z, from our Founder to our writers, production & graphic design team, client partners and of course our readers.
- Our goal is to inform, inspire and impact the most amount of like-minded people to take action locally to affect global change at scale.
We have 3 main pillars that triangulate to form Thred Media of which the first pillar is Thred Publishing:
- The Central tenet is the 100% social change focused website Thred.com, where we house daily coverage and analysis on all aspects of social change.
- The content on the website spans the spectrum from online education & clicktivism through to offline activism.
- Think of online activism as news, raising awareness, signing petitions, grants, scholarships, olympiads, and fundraising through to offline actionable initiatives such as field projects, protests, volunteering, leading social change organisations and pushing for ‘social change’ policy advocacy at government levels.
- We have full-time, in-house writers, alongside a global eco-system of remote writers bringing real-time issues to light in the most authentic and transparent way.
- The site is available in 17 languages. Why? because 89% of Gen Z live in emerging and developing countries
- The website reaches 100,000+ young people a month from 211+ countries and territories.
- The ones you would expect, US, UK, France, Germany etc… but less obvious is that it reaches people in Bhutan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Ukraine.
Second pillar: Thred Community
- 200k+ followers across all our social media channels- plus an amazing group of Ambassadors, Interns, Remote Writers and Discord members as part of our extended Thred team.
- The vision behind the Change Maker Network is to build out a global community of like-minded young people that can network together to bring about local change.
Third pillar: Thred Consulting
- We work with Brands to help them better understand Gen Z- essentially helping them understand their beliefs, behaviors and consumer trends.
- Unlike many traditional consulting companies who rely steadfastly on outsourced data and focus groups to provide insights targeting Gen Z, we are the focus group, and we generate the data.
- We work with companies like Ogilvy, Edelman, Microsoft, Snapchat, Google, Dunkin Donuts, Ford, and Epic Games.
We now have 11 full-time people in our London office, and close to 20 remote writers stationed all over the world.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Jenk Oz: Things are moving quickly, so we need to stay grounded, stay focused and stay the course.
- Focus on your unique selling points and double down
- Focus on peripheral costs that are unrelated to the core business and try to get them down as low as possible. Keep investing in the future but keep the costs to a bare minimum as the next two years will be difficult with rising prices and clients cutting budgets.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Jenk Oz: The media industry has been forced to evolve to keep up with the rapidly evolving transformational forces being felt globally across all industries and sectors resulting in rapid technological innovation, decentralization, and a booming creator economy that shows no signs of slowing down.
Here is my Gen Z Perspective on how the pandemic has changed us and accelerated several themes that were present before but accelerated meaningfully during:
To begin with, all major global events have a way of shaping the lifetime spending habits of the generations that come of age during them. 2.5 years after the virus began, the evidence is clear that the Coronavirus pandemic will be to Generation Z what the Great Recession that began in 2008 was to Millennials. We’ve learned to do less, spend less, and waste less and no cohort has been as profoundly influenced as Gen Z.
Young people have always embodied the zeitgeist of their societies, profoundly influencing trends and behavior alike. Today, technology has given young people an unprecedented degree of connectivity among themselves and with the rest of the population. That has allowed generational shifts, like sustainability, to permeate the Gen Z conversation via social media at unprecedented speed. We call it Clicktivism and you can find climate change and sustainability leading the charge. Looking ahead, there are three hugely transformational forces emerging in a powerful confluence of technology and sustainability that have resulted in big changes in consumer behavior and adoption:
The 1st transformational force theme is that ‘Consumption’ has been redefined. We are now moving away from ‘possession’ and toward ‘access’.
- We are a much more risk-averse and sustainably minded cohort and therefore a more pragmatic generation of consumers. We expect to access and evaluate a broad range of information before making any purchase.
- Gen Zers analyze not only what they buy but also the very act of consuming. Therefore, consumption has also gained a new meaning.
- For Gen Z, consumption means having access to products or services, not necessarily owning them. Let me repeat that…access not owning!
- As access becomes the new form of consumption, unlimited access to goods and services, such as car-riding services, desk sharing, video streaming, and subscriptions, creates value for Gen Z. Products become services, and services connect consumers.
The 2nd transformational force theme is ‘Singularity’. Meaning consumption as an expression of one’s individual identity.
- At the core of Gen Z is the idea of manifesting individual identity.
- Consumption, therefore, becomes a means of self-expression as opposed to buying or wearing brands to fit in with the norms of a particular group.
The 3rd transformational theme is consumption anchored on ‘Ethics’ and ‘Sustainability’.
- Consumers increasingly expect brands to take a stand on issues, especially something as uniformly accepted as sustainability.
- In a transparent world, younger consumers don’t distinguish between the ethics of a brand, the company that owns it, and its network of partners and suppliers. A company’s actions must match its ideals, and those ideals must permeate the entire stakeholder system.
- Gen Z consumers are mostly well educated about brands and the realities behind them. When they are not, they know how to access information and develop a point of view quickly.
- About 65 percent will try to learn the origins of anything they buy- where it’s made, what it’s made from, and how it’s made. No answers found could equate to no purchase made.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Jenk Oz: I wish I had known how fast innovation could keep moving, while the world appeared to be at a complete standstill.
I want to spend more time futurecasting trends and their short- and long-term effect on Gen Z, social change and the media industry as a whole.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Jenk Oz: Absolutism is out, hybrid and flexibility are here for the long term.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Jenk Oz: 8 hours between my PC and mobile.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Jenk Oz: Thred Media has a global ‘Change Maker Network’ of Ambassadors, Remote Writers, Discord Moderators and Interns that share their stories each and every day with our team. Shinning a light on their purpose and causes gives us the inspiration and motivation to move ahead with our mission to inform, inspire and impact the most amount of like-minded people to take action locally to affect global change at scale.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Jenk Oz: I see the challenges as being two-fold. The first is funding given markets are down, inflation is up, and VCs are pulling back after a few significant years of investing in new tech-oriented businesses especially given a lot of companies are now well below IPO levels and some companies are seeing new investment rounds with down valuations.
The second challenge is sorting through all the newest tech-oriented trends and investing in the one trend that will become commonplace versus dying out over the next year.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Jenk Oz: Community building is the toughest thing to do, and it is the most needed asset you will ever have, as they can help direct your business better than anyone one person on the inside.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Jenk Oz: As Simon Sinek says, it’s the ‘Tree of Monkeys’ problem. “Some in management positions operate as if they are in a tree of monkeys. They make sure that everyone at the top of the tree looking down sees only smiles. But all too often, those at the bottom looking up see only asses.” that’s the problem in a nutshell! They are not in touch with people at all levels.
360-degree reviews are a must implementation for every company and questions about culture must be included. You must be careful not to conflate trappings and culture- bean bags are trappings, and culture is felt deeply but unseen in most cases.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Jenk Oz: Create deep-rooted culture and give people purpose.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Jenk Oz: Personal: Do well in my upcoming lower sixth end of year exams as they are the predicted marks for university applications.
Business: Raise an 18mth run rate, open an NYC-based office and grow our London-based team.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jenk Oz for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jenk Oz or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.