JUV Consulting CEO Ziad Ahmed on Giving Gen Z a Seat at the Table

Taylor Masket
Taylor Masket
Jun 27, 2023

In Ep. 86 of Earned, Conor has the privilege of sitting down with 24 year-old wunderkind and entrepreneur Ziad Ahmed, founder and CEO of Gen Z agency JUV Consulting. Ziad’s achievements are beyond noteworthy: in 2016, as a junior in high school, he launched JUV, which has since worked with over 25 Fortune 500 companies and earned Ziad a spot in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 at just 19 years old. He is also an in-demand public speaker, with multiple TEDx talks and keynote speeches under his belt. As if all that wasn’t enough, he’s the founder and chairman of Redefy, an award-winning non-profit committed to furthering social equality, which has been personally commended by President Barack Obama. 

So suffice it to say, Ziad is the real deal. 


We start the episode by learning how Ziad unintentionally became an entrepreneur while launching JUV Consulting seven years ago, before hearing his aspirations for the next decade. We dive into the story behind JUV, and Ziad explains that he started the company because he was tired of people talking about Gen Z but not to Gen Z, and how JUV’s mission is to give diverse young people a seat at the table. We then hear the challenges of being taken seriously as a young entrepreneur, and how the company has more than proved itself through its impressive campaign results and word-of-mouth praise. Next, we get Ziad’s thoughts on Gen Alpha, and why he’s sensitive to not speak for them, but is looking forward to welcoming members of the younger generation to his team in order to serve that demographic. Conor and Ziad share their experiences scaling up younger companies, and Ziad emphasizes the importance of “emotional labor.” To close the show, we explore the pandemic’s impact on different generations, particularly Gen Z, and Ziad shares his best advice for effective public speaking.

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts!

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The following interview has been lightly edited for concision. 

“The world looks better when diverse young people have a seat at the table”: Ziad Ahmed on Why he Started Gen Z Agency JUV Consulting

Conor Begley: Tell me a little bit about JUV: what it is, why you started it, and what it's evolved into. 

Ziad Ahmed: So JUV Consulting is what Refinery29 calls the largest and most popular Gen Z agency. And while we don't always necessarily refer to ourselves as an agency, it's a pretty apt description of who we are and where we sit in the market. 

Long story short, I started a nonprofit called Redefy at the end of eighth grade that was built around social equality and social acceptance. And through that, I very quickly found myself in rooms that I didn't know existed with industry leaders, decision makers, politicians, where I realized how often young people were being spoken about, but not spoken to, and that didn't sit right with me. So in my junior year of high school, I founded JUV Consulting with this basic belief that the world looks better when diverse young people have a seat at the table. I believe that folks should be talking with us and building with us, rather than just talking about us.

So JUV is a manifestation of that, where we work with clients to do everything from market research to strategy consulting and ideation to execution, whether that's through influencers or experientially through social media, through content, through community. We actually execute on the big ideas that hopefully co-create the very things that will resonate with our cohort from a place of community and from a place of authenticity, because folks are actually building with the communities that they're trying to reach. 

So we as a company exist to empower diverse Gen Z'ers with more of a seat at the table, and to empower diverse Gen Z'ers in all ways that we can. That is what guides us in our decision-making philosophies as a company. We're really proud of the working community that we've been able to build over the last seven years. 

I worked full-time while going to school full-time, and we've now worked with over 25 Fortune 500 companies, we’re headquartered in New York, but we also have a house and space and team out in Los Angeles. It's been an incredible rollercoaster of finding ourselves in spaces and places that we never even knew existed, let alone be invited into. We’ve found ourselves with a legitimate microphone and a seat at the table to actually solve problems that young people are grappling with day in and day out. 

So we certainly are reckoning every day with the gravity of the role that we have found ourselves in as voices amongst our generation, who are privileged enough to have a seat at that table and hopefully getting to use it to push the envelope and push our generation forward wherever we can, and to get to do some really creative things as we do it. That's really who and what JUV is. 

And “juv” is a word in Latin for youth, so juvenile, and our tagline is “reJUVenate your brand.” So that's where the name comes from.

“If someone wants to target your community, they should talk to you to do that”: JUV Consulting’s Ethos and Thoughts on Gen Alpha

Conor Begley: As you think about the next generation, Gen Alpha, how do you think about that organizationally? Are you guys only a Gen Z agency? Or is it about tapping into the youth? 

Ziad Ahmed: We're definitely having conversations around Gen Alpha. But I’m sensitive about becoming the reason that I started my company. I started my company because I was pissed off that people were speaking for me, that people were speaking for us. I have no interest in being a company or being a person that speaks for others. It's not just about Gen Z. It's about any group, any community that you're part of. If someone wants to target your community or cohort, they should talk to you to do that and talk to your community to do that. That's always been the ethos, that's always been the ethic of JUV Consulting. 

As we've evolved, a lot more of our work is not necessarily Gen Z-focused. It's because we understand digital, because we understand purpose. It's because we understand culture. It's because we understand the creator economy. We don't just do influencer marketing to reach Gen Z audiences—we do influencer marketing because we're good at influencer marketing, because we know the creator, we know the platforms, we know how to do it well. We don't just do experiential marketing because we know Gen Z. It's because we have this great house in LA and we know the creators and we know how to leverage it and create social content out of it. 

So now more of our work is more broadly mainstream, digital first, future-forward marketing. And the way that we think of ourselves as differentiated within the market is we are a digital first, community-first translation shop, translating between Gen Z and adults, influencers and brands, activists and businesses, parents and their kids. We really operate on this belief that the business world pivoted to a consumer-first mindset rather than a creative-first mindset. Now it has pivoted to a community-first mindset, and we've always been based in the community-first mindset of how do you not just create relationships with the audience, but how do you create relationships with the community and really cultivate relationships between your consumers. So actually not just talk to them, but build with them in order to create products that actually serve them. And so those are a lot of our differentiating factors. 

However, to the meat of your question, we've always historically thought of ourselves as a Gen Z company. That said, three years ago I hired my first millennial, and now some of her work touches that demo, but not me. I'm going to make sure that my millennials on my team are talking about that demo. 

And so on the Gen Alpha question, I can't legally pay anyone under the age of 14, and I pay my people. So as Gen Alpha ages into 14 years old, am I going to have my eyes peeled for a Gen Alpha that I can amplify, that I can invest in, that I can compensate to speak on their own reality and their own truth? Absolutely. 

The practice of our company is if you want to talk to somebody, we're going to find you the right person to talk to from a first-person perspective. And if we can be a mechanism to platform Gen Alpha voices, by all means. That doesn't then necessarily make us a Gen Alpha company. We are decidedly a company that is born out of Gen Z culture and born out of a certain moment in time when short-form video and purpose-driven marketing and all of these things came into the zeitgeist in a big way. But if our clients have questions, we want to find them the people to talk to. 

Keep up with new episodes of Earned by following the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, or subscribing to our YouTube channel. To catch up on our previous episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Revolve, K18, Instagram, and Roblox, visit our Earned Podcast page.