Gen Z college students build business based on knowing what’s cool


Photo Credit: Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Maddie Driggers, Lifestyles Editor

Keeping up with trends and appealing to social media users in order to build a brand or sell products can be difficult for businesses in this day and age, especially if they don’t know what is and isn’t cool anymore. That’s where companies like JÜV Consulting step in.

A group of Generation Z college students saw that there was an opportunity to educate these businesses and help them succeed in the digital age while also profiting off of a demand that no one else was taking advantage of yet. Co-founders Ziad Ahmed, 19, and Nick Jain, 19, started JÜV in 2016 with a simple principle in mind.

“Don’t talk about teenagers, talk to teenagers,” Ahmed told the New York Times in an interview from August 2018.

JÜV Consulting takes on clients who want to boost their brand and appeal to more younger generations, especially online. All of their employees are from a younger generation themselves, Generation Z, and range in age from 14 to 22.

“The benefit of being a young person marketing to another young person is that you intrinsically know what works and what doesn’t,” says Rhian Horton, a senior partner at JÜV and Duke University economics major. “Gen Zers use social media to not just share, but perform, and many companies don’t understand how to tailor their marketing to that.”

JÜV believes that knowing and understanding a generation is where a business’s power lies. The company provides this knowledge and employs strategies to capitalize on it.

“We provide quick, reliable insight into what is trending in our generation, give advice on marketing campaigns, execute promotional activities on college campuses and much more,” Horton says. “Companies need a way to gauge a fast-paced generation, and we provide the network and resources to do that.”

The company had humble beginnings, and getting a foot in the door proved to be the hardest part of the process for a while.

“There are definitely skeptics,” Horton says. “Explaining it to adults who group our generation in with Millennials can be difficult because they don’t initially see a need for us.”

However, the young minds had statistics to back up their credibility. Horton says Gen Zers are in control of roughly $44 billion dollars through various avenues, make up 20% of the population and have an average attention span of around eight seconds. With this knowledge, Horton says JÜV employees can feel confident pitching ideas in clients’ boardrooms and executive offices.

“We walk into meetings with the poise and professionalism of consultants from traditional firms because we truly know what we’re talking about,” she says. “Sitting down at the table with JÜV members opens a conversation that is often overlooked by many companies, but provides valuable intel to their future success.”

Ahmed and Horton met in high school and have kept in touch ever since. When the senior partner position opened at JÜV, Horton knew it would be a great opportunity for her to do something she was passionate about.

In addition to assisting companies through social media consulting, JÜV also provides its employees with a crash course in professionalism. Allowing college students to gain hands-on experience with a company before they graduate is a mission of JÜV. Horton says it matches up with core beliefs she’s held in her collegiate career so far.

“At Duke, I launched an after-school Finance and STEM program in low-income Durham elementary schools,” she says. “I am motivated to use my role at JÜV to continue this thread of empowerment. I am deeply rooted in the belief that education is power, and investing in it is our biggest and brightest opportunity to change the world. I was eager to join JÜV because it embodies just that.”

For students at UNCW who are planning on going on to careers in marketing and social media management, Horton says many of the essential strategies and tools needed in the workplace are already engrained in the current generation.

“I’d say just trust your gut, keep up with social media trends, talk with your friends and take your daily interactions, whether in-person or on Twitter, and let them influence your work,” she says. “Companies want that natural insight.”

Overall, confidence is key. As a company that prides themselves on being armed with knowledge, JÜV knows that being a smart, hard-working employee will make you stand out to colleagues and clients alike.

“Whether it be sharing an opinion on a public platform, contacting companies directly about something you think they can do better or taking lead on a stereotypically ‘adult’ task, placing power in the voices of you, your friends, and your classmates will encourage more confidence and respect in the abilities of Gen Zers,” Horton says. “Social media has a stigma of being a place for bullying and ‘fake news,’ but using it as a platform to voice our thoughts, generate movements and encourage positivity is one of our greatest tools in reclaiming the Generation Z narrative.”