How We Started a Marketing
and Advertising Agency for Gen Z
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Jay Richards and Cat Agostinho, Co-founders of Imagen. Our mission is to help Gen Z to shape their future. We enable agencies and brands to collaborate with our community of Gen Z consultants for brutally honest insights about branding, marketing and product.
No more guessing, we crowdsource the best feedback, ideas and insights from our community to enable agencies and brands to build all of the above… with Gen Z in the room! We’re a crowdsource engine for all things Gen Z.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
Jay: I came from an educated family but I just didn’t fit in with the educational system, I did what I needed to, to get my degree but I’m a visual learner, school was tough at times. I’m a salesman, that’s what I’m good at! I started selling at 14 years old and have not stopped since. I was an estate agent, a consultant in the city and now I lead the charge from a sales perspective for Imagen!
Cat: I was good in school, I came from an educated family but I wanted to travel and after that, I knew I wanted to work in media and advertising. I started my career at a media agency and then spent many years in various digital roles, but had a growing desire to start my own consultancy and so I took the leap 4 years ago. But I was searching for more, something else to feel passionate about, that could make a difference to people’s lives.
Then fast forward to the end of 2019 when I met Jay and the rest is history… after walking around London having long conversations, we realised we shared the same values/same passion for helping young people.
We also share a love of fitness, we are both fitness mad! We train all the time and it’s a huge part of who we are. Travel is big too and we are both incredibly social, our friends are a massive part of our lives.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Starting a business is always risky but you have to accept that you don’t know everything and need to lean on those around you that you can trust. Being open to feedback and advice really helped us. Luckily we both have strong networks but that has come from investing a lot of time into them over the years.
Cat: I’ve put time into networking both in-person and online for many years. I co-founded ‘dawn’ 10 years ago – community dedicated to inspiring and developing women through their professional and personal lives (a voluntary organisation). Jay and I always make time for people that ask for help or advice to pay it forward and this has definitely helped us to ask for help ourselves.
In addition to speaking to people and asking for advice, we did a lot of research before setting up the business. While there are companies offering some services that we now offer, we identified a gap in the market that we could operate in.
Gen Z are a throwback to the activist Gen X generation who are massive believers in shaping the world they live in, Imagen was born at the exact right time to empower this generation of co-creators. We’re in the participation economy! Gen Z are the future, we truly believe in helping younger generations and want them to succeed.
The biggest challenge we’ve faced is letting people know we exist, once a potential client finds out who we are and what we do, they instantly buy in. But as a startup, PR can be tough. We focus a lot of our time speaking at events and on podcasts as we know that’s the best way to get the word out.
Who is your target market?
Our customers are Brands and agencies – anyone that wants to work with Gen Z to help to shape their marketing, branding or products.
And our community is made up of thousands of 16-25 year olds across the country, no matter their background. We are truly diverse and our current stats show this:
- 10% LGBTQ+
- 70% British
- 58% London based
- 65% Female
- 0.7% non binary
- 38% White
- 34% Black
- 22% Asian
- 17% disadvantaged
- 4% disabled
- 73% state school
- 38% first to uni
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We are really vocal on our personal social channels as well as our company ones. At the moment we don’t set aside much marketing budget but this in our roadmap. LinkedIn for us is gold dust, the amount of client meetings we’ve booked off the back of our content on LinkedIn is unbelievable. We truly believe that if you add value to others then you’ll build trust and book meetings.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
We’ve been able to demonstrate that there is a need for our solutions and we’ve proved ourselves. We have case studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of our work and we’re so lucky to have amazing clients.
Again it’s all about adding value, we focus on adding value to every single client we work with and as long as we do that then they will come back to us.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We have an amazing culture, it’s something we believe has to be at the forefront otherwise you can’t truly succeed. Our values are
- Giving young people a voice enables them to shape their future
- Diversity is our strength – We believe in fairness and equality
- We are inclusive (gender, age, disability, background, ethnicity, sexual preference, parents/non-parents, social class, religious beliefs etc)
- We’ve got each other’s backs
- If one of us wins, we all win…
- We hustle together
We are open and honest, we share what’s happening with the business and we talk openly about challenges, frustrations, good stuff – we support each other no matter what. We also have heaps of fun, we laugh a lot!
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We are in the midst of building our web-app which will mean we can eliminate manual processes to free up time to concentrate on building our community and our client portfolio. We use Hubspot, Google, Trello and Slack religiously! We couldn’t operate without them. They ensure that our business runs smoothly.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Cat: Being less emotional and taking things too personally, I did this a lot when I was younger but I’ve learnt to control this now and it’s business at the end of the day. In my early career, those who shouted loudest often got ahead but I’ve realised that you can be great at your job, have opinions but also respect others and be nice to people.
Cat: I’ve always had a passion for helping others to succeed and made a conscious effort to help those that wanted to learn and work hard, I’ve mentored people for years. I also co-founder dawn, a network for women dedicated to supporting and inspiring women throughout their careers and in their personal lives. My motto is “Your success will come if you help others along the way.
Jay: Consistency is key, there are certain activities that I’ve been doing since week 1 of Imagen, they’re boring and monotonous but they add value to everyone we engage. These tasks have brought us in so much business that they’re pretty much the backbone of our business. If I had given up on these activities after I got then we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing today. Consistently pushing forward with these tasks has been game-changing.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The excitement – creating and building something is such a great feeling. Being able to see it adding value to our consultants and to our clients is game changing. We’re building a community that will be the backbone of all agencies and brands globally when engaging with Gen Z.
Seeing progress and truly believing in a business that you are completely passionate about is incredible. When you see the vision slowly manifesting itself it keeps you going. Our business is our world and we have a huge mission to tackle and we love the journey.
The constant change and development, challenges you daily. Progress can sometimes be slow but it’s worth it. Our constant commitment to daily progress has enabled us to keep winning. No day is ever the same so we are constantly on our toes.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
It can be tiring – always striving to be better and achieve more. You can’t switch off, you’re constantly thinking about how to improve and move forward. It’s a beautiful struggle.
There will be things that often don’t work out for example raising investment, applying for grants, new business – it’s all on your head. We can’t pass the buck, we’re the ones leading the charge so we have to grab the bull by the horns and do all we can to succeed.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Cat: I’ve been lucky enough to have mentors in my career that have given guidance and advice (sometimes harsh) but it’s helped me to be the person that I am today. I’ve learnt from experiences (some bad) that have made me stronger.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Our mission is to have a thriving global community operating in 30+ countries and to have grown our internal tribe to support our community. We’ll be operating across APAC, USA and EMEA adding value to thousands of brands.Next step after that is world domination.
Where can people go to find out more about your business?
- Imagen LinkedIn
- Cat Agostinho LinkedIn
- Jay Richards LinkedIn
- Founder Facts Profile