Jenk: “Don’t fear failure but be terrified of regret.”
Issue XIII Cover Feature Empower
Interviewed Shwetha Rajesh
Edited by Aniruddha Khare
15th May, 2022
Jenk is a 16-year-old social entrepreneur, public speaker, social change activist, DJ, actor and presenter as well as the Founder & CMO of Thred Media, a 100% social enterprise focused on Publishing, Consulting and Production aimed at Generation Z.
Jenk has been featured in 250+ articles including Forbes, Business Insider, Oracle Star-up as well as having won several awards including the Diana Award 2021, and Jenk is a member of the Google Z-Council, Oracle Star-Ups, Microsoft Surface young entrepreneur team and The Knowledge Society (TKS). Jenk enjoys 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.
You founded iCoolKid when you were just eight years old, which then evolved to become Thred Media. What was your main source of inspiration for becoming an entrepreneur?
Jenk: I guess the best place to begin is at the beginning.
Speaking honestly, I did not even know what the word entrepreneur meant, so I definitely did not start out by saying that I want to be one. You begin by simply ideating; that’s pretty much it, thoughts in your head. So labelling it as being an entrepreneur is the last thing on your mind, but people start labelling you long before you label yourself.
My journey began when I was 8 yrs old. I did a Show and Tell at my school assembly, and then it took me 3 years to build my first website, iCoolKid.
There was definitely a ton of hesitation as I ended up hiring and firing 3 different website builders along the way. It was very frustrating and demoralising, but the positive mindset prevailed and we kept going. We hired our first employee in May 2016 who was in fact my guitar teacher at the time and a very long year later, my first website iCoolKid.com was launched.
Along the way, young people started to reach out and shared their real life personal situations with me. At first, it was just a couple of messages a week, but then grew to multiple messages a day over the next 2 years. Every single one of them gave me a better and more realistic understanding of what other Gen Zers were going through in every corner of the planet. It also made me realise that I was naively unaware of the plight of the Gen Z community itself which I was supposed to be representing, whether it was gay teenagers in Russia who were feeling suicidal because they were unable to come out to their parents, or young girls using litter from garbage bins as feminine hygiene products, or even very young teens digging out trenches near their schools in order to get clean water.
The topics spanned the entire spectrum of social issues, things I was so unaware of, having grown up in a safe, clean, and progressive household.
After hearing hundreds of heartfelt stories, each one more poignant than the next; I started to think a lot more about what I wanted to use my website and the platform for and what the longer term goals should be, when I decided that I wanted it to have a bigger meaning and strive for greater levels of education, ultimately leading to actionable steps to create change at a larger scale.
In 2019, I embarked on a new journey that involved 4 steps:
I Renamed iCoolKid to Thred- I liked the name Thred because there was a thread of continuity that connected all the stories I was hearing. That thread, was the need for change.
I Refocused the content so that it was 100% social change, not just part, but in fact the whole thing.
I Repositioned the demographic, moving from 8-13 year olds, upward to 16-24+.
Lastly, I Restructured the company to include consulting alongside the publishing vertical so we could talk to companies, give them insights and get their buy in on our movements.
Finally, in July 2020 we launched Thred.com – a whole new website that was 100% social change focused and as of now, Thred.com is 18 months old and has visitors from 180+ countries, 11 full time staff in our London office and 10 remote writers.
Thred Business Pillars
We have 3 main pillars that triangulate to form Thred Media.
1st pillar - Thred Publishing
Its central tenet is the 100% social change-focused website Thred.com
2nd pillar - Thred Community
There are 200k+ followers across all our social media channels- plus an amazing group of Ambassadors, Interns, Remote Writers and Discord members .
3rd pillar - Thred Consulting (funds all our other work)
Thred Media is all about Youth Culture and GenZ. Many people think that the kind of activism and change-making GenZ believes in, especially online activism is not enough. What are your views about Generation Z creating social change?
Jenk: Every bit of help is welcomed and appreciated, whether it is one post, 100 protests or 1000 meetings in the parliament, as every little bit helps and inspires others to start, which is extremely positive.
I don’t like it when people judge other people’s effort; it’s counterproductive and discourages people from making small efforts that lead to a big change. I also like the idea of having people start the process as small contributors and grow their contributions over time.
Watch our interview with Jenk Oz, Cover Feature of Issue XIII
You were once named Britain’s youngest CEO. Have people ever doubted your capacity simply because of your age? What helped you overcome such an obstacle?
Jenk: Speaking honestly, no one doubts your abilities because they have no expectations from you if you’re a kid. Therefore, being young is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity to try, fail, learn and try again.
You learn a lot more from failure than you do from success and at this age, it’s the perfect time to try as the cost is so low (no family to provide for, no food to put on the table etc).
What does being a “social entrepreneur” mean to you?
Jenk: The social part comes from your focus being on planet positive initiatives, and the entrepreneur part comes from being innovative and willing to drive planet positive results via a startup structure.
Public Speaking is a daunting task, regardless of how experienced one might be. You have spoken at TEDx 3 times, how do you prepare to give speeches? Has speaking in public always come naturally to you?
Jenk: Public speaking is daunting only if the narrative in your head tells you that there are huge negative life changing consequences if you mess up, which is never the case, no matter how bad you are. There are never life altering negative consequences in the true sense. I think everyone should take acting lessons if they can to get comfortable speaking in public because young people have a lot to say and are given opportunities to say it. Therefore, you want to make sure you are ready and able to meet the opportunities full on when they arise.
Apart from being an Entrepreneur and Speaker, you are also a DJ. What made you discover DJ-ing as a passion?
Jenk: I discovered music very early on because it was played throughout the house, all day, from jazz to classical to even house music. My mum was a DJ back in the 80s and she encouraged me to try it and once I did, I never looked back.
RAPID FIRE ROUND WITH JENK
Describe yourself in one word
The song I have on repeat right now
One thing I cannot live without
Kanya West (new) and Rachmaninoff (old)
Birthday Girl, Stormzy
Something I could eat forever
The book that impacted me a lot
The person who inspires me the most
Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
(wrote Freakonomics series of books)
Lastly, what would you say is the best way to start making social change as a young person?
Jenk: The most important thing is get involved with something you truly care about, something you want to support for the long term
Once you have done that-- there are 6 basic levels of activism:
1- Be an activist consumer from your sofa- spend with companies you align yourself with when shopping on line- let your wallet speak for your moral compass.
2- Lend your voice- chat to friends- use social media to express your views and share content
3- Lend your feet- find events where like-minded folks are going to protest and support them
4- Join an organisation- think about joining an actual movement, attend meetings
5- Lead a local chapter- become the leader of the meetings held in your area
6- Get involved in policy change at Government level- create petitions- meet with your local MPs
Every level is activism! Just get involved with something you care about.