Imagen's Jay Richards on empowering Gen Z

The Imagen Insights co-founder on why diversity of thought is essential

Imagen Insights gives brands valuable feedback from their thriving community of over 14,000 Gen Zers. Imagen are firm believers that Gen Z are not just valuable consumers, but thinkers and problem solvers that should be empowered! We caught up with Jay ahead of his guest appearance at hundo's SXSW Panel on Gen Z, Metaverse and the Future of Work to find out more about his journey so far.

Jay, tell us about how you and co-founder Cat started Imagen Insights? 
Cat and I started Imagen Insights after walking together, pretty much all around London, just bouncing ideas off of each other. We had similar interests and the same drive and passions for wanting to give back to, and empower, young people. I had initially started an incubator where I helped students fund business ideas and a few months later, after being invited to speak at Facebook, I was contacted by the National Football League (NFL) who wanted to work with me to use my network with university and secondary school students to help them with marketing. I knew we would need something great to equip us for this scale of the project and as a result, my co-founder Cat Agostinho and I started Imagen Insights! 

What was your career experience pre-Imagen? 
When I was in secondary school, I was pretty good at being bad. I was always getting into trouble and leading others astray. Nonetheless, my business head and flair for entrepreneurship were encouraging. At one point, my mum actually told me I should pursue a career in sales because I liked talking. I did just that and started out selling security systems door-to-door following getting my business studies degree.

Why do you think that Gen Z is valuable to the business world? 
Brands have the power and ability to shape society and culture like governments only wish they could. Gen Z is so valuable because their insights can really help those brands devise their marketing strategies, campaigns, product developments and so much more! Gen Z are digital natives, activists, tastemakers, entrepreneurs and co-creators and their opinions count. It is vital to make sure brands are ahead of the curve and driving trends when targeting this demographic, as their purchasing power is set to increase to a monumental 4.4 trillion dollars by 2030. 

Are there any Gen Z related trends that you would predict for the near future? 
There are a few trends I see right around the corner. Many Gen Z people have been living at home because the pandemic has meant they haven’t been able to move out. This means their spending power has increased, 2022 will see a massive jump in spending from Gen Z. They will be the first to begin international travelling once the pandemic begins to slow, research we conducted recently found that they want to travel to at least three places abroad in the new year. And on the topic of experiences, I also predict Gen Z will be the largest demographic of event-goers globally…many of them have never experienced an over 18's/ 21's event before, as they were too young before the pandemic started! 

What does a day to day look like for you? 
In short, varied! And that’s just the way I like it. I make sure I either go to the gym or start my day doing jiu-jitsu as that sets me up nicely for success. Then I'll typically be in with my team in our co-working space bouncing ideas off of one another. Most days I'll have a few meetings - I love getting out and about meeting people and chatting to new and existing clients. Quite often I might go to a networking event in the evening and we’re quite often invited to speak on panels or at events. I love the variety.

What's your favourite part of your job? 
The unknown. It might sound strange but that is what excites me most (and keeps me awake sometimes). I just love being able to be excited about what is around the next corner as opposed to being nervous about what the future holds for me, for our business, and for our growth. We’ve grown so quickly in such a short space of time and I’m proud of that. Also people, I’m definitely a people person and I get a kick out of watching people grow, working with amazing talent and essentially providing tons of young people with opportunities. 

How can other companies do better to champion young people's opinions? 
It’s about having them in the room, listening to their voices and ensuring they come from all walks of life and backgrounds. Diversity of thought is essential in ensuring that organisations are representative of society. And pay them, I'm such a big advocate of this, if you’re partnering with a young person or asking them for insights make sure you’re giving them something back too!

Jay will be speaking at our SXSW panel: Gen Z, Metaverse and the Future of Work in March 2022. You can find out about the panel and SXSW here! 

Words: Grace Goslin

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