On the up · 21 March 2017

Meet Britain’s youngest CEO – 11 year-old Jenk Oz

Youngest CEO Jenk Oz
Britain’s youngest CEO with actor Idris Elba

As the nation’s youngest CEO and brains behind iCoolKid, Jenk Oz has some worthwhile advice for fellow young entrepreneurs on running a growing business.

The company was set up by Oz after he decided there needed to be a way for he and other kids to share the interesting and exciting activities they’d taken part in.

From presenting the concept at a school show and tell three years ago, Oz built it into a newsletter and then a fully-functioning company with a YouTube channel, SoundCloud offering and an upcoming clothing line.

He’s also managed to bag interviews with well known actors,  singers and TV personalities including Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton and James Cordon. We wanted to find out how the UK’s youngest CEO had progressed so quickly with his business ambitions.

Why do you think iCoolKid has been popular?

It used to be the case that older teenagers were the “go to” cool kids for all things tech and things like that – but now all young people can get informed super quickly, even two year-olds are using iPads.

Like me, the iCoolKid audience knows how they want to spend their birthday and allowance money, and we are the ones older relatives will go to when they want to buy something. As we’re always online, we have more confidence offering our opinion because we have access to more information and can build up product knowledge very quickly.

IMG_0905cropHow do you balance being the UK’s youngest CEO with going to school?

I am really busy and sometimes it can be difficult, but they feed each other in a positive way. Everything I learn at school goes straight back into making iCoolKid better, not just in terms of writing skills, but I also get lots of great ideas from all my teachers and my classmates.

They love to share what they are doing and what they like or don’t like on the site. My school was also very kind and unblocked iCoolKid so now everyone can go on the site at lunch time to read the articles and then share their feedback.

What is it like being in business with your mum?

My mum and I are super close, and she spends lots of time helping me make my wild and crazy dreams come true. So far everything has been really fun and I have learned so much from both my parents, especially about setting up a business.

I call my mum at lunch time most days to chat through new stories, to tell her any new ideas I’ve had, and to talk to the team about what my peers have been talking about that day.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome with your business?

Getting the word out to young people everywhere. Social media helps but you need to think out of the box to reach people in more remote places.

You can build the best website in the world but if no one knows about it, you will struggle to keep it going. I really hope we can reach out to kids all over the world with our content and make them feel a part of iCoolKid.

How have you managed to get interviews with such big celebrities?

Each interview comes about in a different way and sometimes you have to be quite creative in the moment, as you may only get a split-second chance to approach someone. As long as you are really polite, and realise that the worst that can happen is that they will say no to you, then there is no downside.

Once, I had a split second to meet Adele in a restaurant, my dad ran over with me and she agreed to chat, so we filmed it. However, when we went to check the camera afterwards, nothing had recorded, not even one frame. I guess sometimes you win and sometimes you lose but at least I have a cool story to tell.

WEBSITEDo you think more school kids should be experimenting with business?

Absolutely, yes. Kids have great ideas and we aren’t afraid to think big.We have so much amazing technology at our finger tips which means we can learn and absorb more information than ever before to help our dreams become reality.

Sadly many people my age are too shy to chat about their dreams with parents or friends so these amazing ideas don’t always get heard. I think it’s really important to encourage others to speak out and talk through their ideas

Should schools be teaching entrepreneurial skills?

Yes, Yes, Yes! Every school should do it no matter where in the world they are located. There should be a special class that encourages young people to speak out about their ideas no matter how silly they think they are. Kids like me need a platform to discuss potential ideas and learn how to shape them into something which could, one day, be a business. The interns at iCoolKid are always saying how hard it will be to get a job when they finish university, so we need to make sure we master business skills as soon as we can to give ourselves a good chance.

What advice would you have for fellow young entrepreneurs?

My mum always says everyone needs a “career board of directors” to talk things through every month. Start by thinking of a group of people who are good listeners and who want to share their time and advice with you. For example, pick a friend maybe two or three years older than you, a couple teachers from school, your favourite relative, an older cousin or family friend – until you have four or five people you can count on to bounce your ideas off and give you honest advice.

Because these people won’t be involved every day, they may see things in a totally different light.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview with Britain’s youngest CEO then check out our look at ten of the most exciting young entrepreneurs to watch in 2017.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hunter Ruthven is the editor of Business Advice. He is also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs. Alongside this, he is part of the team that hosts the Growing Business Awards, First Women Awards and Future 50 initiative. Prior to his role at Real Business, he was editor at competitor website Growth Business and head reporter at M&A Deals. Throughout his career he has interviewed leading entrepreneurs including Alex Chesterman, Lopo Champalimaud, Sarah Wood, James Averdeick and Alex Saint.

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