By Hadassah Penn.
Mission Magazine — “The idea is simple– if you want to understand a group of people, you should talk to and with that group of people.” That was Ziad Ahmed’s thought process when he co-founded JUV Consulting, a marketing agency that links Gen Z consultants with the companies that hope to target them. “We believe the popular current mechanisms of trying to understand our demographic are broken, insufficient, and exclusionary,” says Ahmed. “We think the world looks better when diverse young folks have a seat at the table – and we are a company that hopes to disrupt the marketplace with purpose.”
JUV Consulting acts as a go-between, connecting well-meaning brands with actual Gen-Zers. “We establish teams of folks that have varied interests – pairing them with clients that can learn from them on an on-going basis,” says Ahmed. “As young people, we know our trends because we are living them. We aren’t speculating about youth culture – we are setting it.”
Ahmed himself is a member of Gen Z, and JUV Consulting is only one of his notable projects. Back in 2013, he founded Redefy, a youth-run organization that calls for diversity and inclusion by starting conversations, it was through that journey that I started finding myself in rooms with industry leaders, politicians, and trend experts,” says Ahmed. “I was often the only teenager in many of these rooms – and I realized quickly how young people are usually talked about without actually being invited to the conversation.”
Ahmed has also received a commendation from President Obama and given multiple TED Talks. In 2017, he applied to Stanford University with an application that repeated “#BlackLivesMatter” 100 times – and was accepted – although he chose to attend Yale instead. All of his projects are united under one mission statement, that of inclusion. “Too often, I see companies claiming that it isn’t that they discriminate – it’s that the applicants just weren’t very diverse,” he says. “If that is the case, the company’s responsibility is to scrutinize itself to ask why qualified applicants from certain communities weren’t interested in applying or weren’t hearing about the opportunity. If we want to run responsible businesses, the onus is on us to do the work – and that looks like asking hard questions to ourselves, having diverse leadership that challenges us to be better, and being willing to admit that we might be the problem ourselves.”
According to Ahmed, this focus on diversity is characteristic of his generation. “Generation Z is sometimes dubbed ‘the plurals’ as we are thought to be the first generation that thinks in terms of ‘we’,” says Ahmed. “…I think our greatest strength is that we have access to primary sources in real-time constantly through social media and that we listen to them.”
Gen Z has a lot to say but isn’t always taken seriously, because older generations don’t always understand its practices. Ahmed is aware of this, “I think every young generation has been disruptive. What makes Generation Z different is that our access to social media means that our disruption has the capacity to become mainstream instantaneously.” (See the March for our Lives movement, for example, or Fridays for Future.) “We, Generation Z, are leaning into our expanded worldview, our digital fluency, and our trendsetting character to transform public discourse, popular culture, and perspectives — and JUV Consulting is proud of that,” says Ahmed.