Business | 24 Feb 2022

Meet the 16-year-old CEO who won Steven Bartlett as a mentor

We caught up with Vodafone Shout Out for Small Business competition winner, Jenk Oz, as he sat down for a mentoring session with BBC Dragons' Den star Steven Bartlett.

What would you ask a Dragon? It’s a moment that would freeze many a fan of the author, podcaster and multi-millionaire, But Jenk Oz is fast becoming a young dragon himself.

Aged just 16, Jenk is the Founder of Thred Media, a social enterprise focused on publishing, consulting, and media production for Generation Z (those aged 16-25).

It was this vision and early success that won him the Shout Out for Small Business competition and a mentoring session with Steven, held in the recording studio that hosts his popular ‘Diary of a CEO’ podcast.

“Our website is all about positive social change,” Jenk explains. “Today, Gen-Z makes up about 40% of consumers worldwide, but brands struggle to access, engage or retrain them. We want to help them break down that wall.”

The Thred website is a daily news and insights hub featuring stories of social change in 17 languages, with 11 full-time staff and a global roster of 20 writers who bring an authentic, on-the-scene style of reporting.

The young business leader quizzed Steven about securing capital investment and building a team, but it was the Dragon’s personal branding tips that resonated.

Create a glass-box philosophy in the company to share whatever you do

(Steven Bartlett)

“He started talking about my Instagram and how it’s not shareable,” Jenk laughs. “He pointed out that the less slick and designed it looks, the better it performs. Steven’s posts and shares are a great example of this – often just a screenshot. The polished content just isn’t as shareable.”

Bartlett, the brand

It’s little surprise that online presence was a key focus of the mentoring discussion. Steven founded The Social Chain agency aged 21, acquiring a slew of big brand customers and taking the company public on the German DAX stock exchange just six years later.

Now his company is estimated to have a market valuation of about $600m (£445m).

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Steven Bartlett was recently announced as an ambassador for Vodafone’s small business support programme. The social media mogul, investor, and author explains why he temporarily downed tools to write a book, the importance of learning, and why start-ups should focus on the moment.

Steven attracted mainstream media attention long before starring on Dragons’ Den – he had already amassed tens of millions of followers, with his podcast one of the most popular in Europe.

When it comes to monetising your services, particularly those aimed at a Gen-Z audience, the more you share the better, Steven advises.

“Show off what you know and customers will come,” he says. “Create a glass-box philosophy in the company to share whatever you do and you will establish yourself as a leader in your space.

“At that point brands don’t want to steal your ideas, they want you to do it for them.”

But while a high profile is important, it won’t run a business for you. Steven stressed that every entrepreneur needs many mentors – a mix of experts and people who’ve done it before – to help them succeed.

Finding a balance

The mentoring session was a whirlwind of ideas, challenges and motivational tips that would have been a lot for anyone to take on. But how does a teenage entrepreneur balance all this advice with the demands of everyday life?

“A lot of scheduling,” Jenk jokes, although he emphasises the need for downtime. “The key is to schedule in your hobbies, too, some free time, a day to chill and watch Netflix. It helps you to keep your energy, drive and passion.

“Know what you’re going to do in a day before you do it, and don’t over-commit.”

After spending a short time with Jenk Oz, it seems likely that this is just the beginning for Thred Media, just as it is for Generation Z.

And it probably won’t be the last time he talks to a Dragon, either.

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