Cat Agostinho on giving Gen Z a voice through ‘Brutally Honest Insights’
Cat Agostinho is one of the powerful minds behind Imagen Insights, an innovative company dedicated to helping brands and agencies understand what Gen Z thinks, straight from the source! Cat also founded the company dawn in 2009 and her list of awards and accolades is super impressive. We caught up with Cat to talk about the thought process behind Imagen Insights, the rewards that come with being your own boss, and why companies need to pay attention to Gen Z.
Tell us about how the idea for Imagen Insights came about?
Jay (my co-founder) and I met on LinkedIn, and when we met in person we ended up walking all over London just chatting about our values and how we wanted to help young people. We had the same vision for doing this, and although we are such different personalities, we clicked and could see the working partnership unfolding. We wanted to create a business that gave Gen Z a voice, a way for them to share their thoughts, opinions and insights in a way that would truly help brands and agencies shape their business challenges. We were adamant from the start that these young people needed to be paid!
Why do you think it's important for companies to understand a Gen Z demographic?
Gen Z is a different generation to other generations, of course, but they should be involved in conversations with companies as their opinion is so valuable. This is a generation that will change the workforce for the better, so how can a business adapt and change with the times if they don’t consult with Gen Z? I’m a millennial but we hire Gen Z into our team (four of them are via our actual community) so that we have a team that can educate us as much as anything or anyone else! If you want to target Gen Z in any way, how can you do this effectively without engaging with them first? Gen Z want to co-create with companies and this can be hugely powerful.
What was your route to starting your own company?
I co-founded a network called dawn in 2009 - a community dedicated to inspiring and developing women to fulfil their potential as people and professionals. We are still going to this day and not only have we managed to support so many women over the years but it's also given me huge support too. It was through dawn that I realised the real impact and importance of my professional network. After a long and positive career working in media agencies, I knew I wanted to create something else that I couldn't get for working for someone else, so I founded my consultancy in 2016. Developing my professional network helped me to have the confidence to start a business; it also meant that I had a wealth of people I could ask for advice, talk to about project work and turn to if I needed help. I then met Jay in 2019 and the rest is history. I still have that passion for creating, developing, and building my own thing, but I love doing it as a co-founder.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting your own company?
Seeing an idea build and develop is incredible. But for Imagen Insights specifically, it's seeing the number of young people that we have helped so far and can help in the future. We have thousands of young people all over the world, well, in fact, in 57 counties, and not only are these young people getting paid for providing their insights, but they are also using their experience to open doors to future employment. I also get to work with the most amazing team, we're growing and have just hired three new people and together we are creating something incredible.
Do you have any standout career highlights?
Starting my first business and co-founding two others are massive achievements for me, but also every time I get shortlisted for an award, it makes me so appreciative. I did experience a horrid work culture in one job and although that will never be a highlight, overcoming it is. Being able to talk about what happened and work with others to try and spot the signs of it happening in other workplaces is a real positive. I also completed my Level 3 PT qualification (through pregnancy and having a newborn during the lockdown) which makes me smile every day.
What are your hopes for the company's future?
We have internal North Stars that we aim for - increasing the number of Gen Z consultants in our community and adding value to many more brands. We've set out with our goal to help as many young people as possible and this will always remain. We want to grow our team although our aim is that it will never be too big. Being a startup means that we haven't had to recreate culture, our values are created with the team, decisions are created with the team, we are open and honest and in our eyes, a happy team = a successful business.
What piece of career advice would you give a young person just starting out in the world of work?
Think about your values and what you can bring into the work environment - don't be afraid to be you.
Words: Grace Goslin