How This 17-Year-Old Badass is Helping Companies Understand Gen-Z

Hello readers!  Long time no write.  School and other activities came in like a wrecking ball this semester, but I am almost done with the semester and have more time now.

I wanted to introduce a new series of upcoming posts called Meet the Badasses.  These posts will have a Q and A with the featured badass with topics covering business, entrepreneur, professional and personal growth, female empowerment, and life.  Sincerely hope you enjoy and if you have any suggestions on who I can talk to, please feel a free to reach out to me.

Entrepreneurs.  Female empowerment.  Two of the buzziest words that are being thrown around these days, but that deserves much-needed attention.  Thankfully, my school, University of Southern California (USC), sees that.  Earlier this month, the first annual ATHENA: Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit was held on campus.  I had the opportunity to attend this amazing and inspiring event, gaining more knowledge and connections along the way.

One of these new connections is Maxine Marcus.  Though not a household name yet, I predict she will be in the near future.  A senior in high school up in the San Francisco area, she started and currently serves as CEO of her company, The Ambassadors Company.  The main goal is to help provide companies with teen insights into their products.

Photo courtesy of Maxine Marcus

What attracted me to Maxine was her determination, focus, and what her company does.  I’ve heard of another similar company called Trendera (funny enough, Maxine knows the CEO/founder Jane Buckingham).  It is no secret the Gen-Z market is one of the top market that companies focus on.  I wanted to learn more about her company and lessons she learned along the way.

What inspired you to start Ambassco?

I was inspired based off of a series of events that took place in my life. I was detecting a trend in how startups/businesses were not able to connect/understand the teen perspective. It started with my dad. He is a VC [venture capitalist], and would constantly come home asking me questions about the different companies that had pitched him that day. I then interned at SoundHound Inc., and while I was there, I re-vamped their social media and marketing strategies. I was shocked at how much insight I was able to bring to the table just by explaining the Gen-Z perspective. After that experience, I worked for BounceChat, a social media startup. I proposed to them to have an in-house teen feedback group to give a constant flow of teen feedback on their product. After running that program for a couple of months, I was brought onto their product and marketing teams. I was able to see the effects on the feedback on the actual product and strategies. It became increasingly clear to me how valuable what we were doing was. Taking my experience from BounceChat, I founded my own company!

Where do you see the company going in the next 5 years?

I want to sell it eventually! I want to scale it as much as I can. I’m looking to continue to expand my client numbers as well as ambassador numbers. Ultimately, I want to make this a sustainable company that has enough value to sell to a large market research firm.

What does your day-to-day look like?

This is a tough one. I’m still in high school so a lot of it is super boring. A lot of my life is school,  homework, and seeing friends. Every day is different. Some are stacked back-to-back with meetings, some days I get to miss school for work events! But, Ambassco is a key part of my day-to-day. I usually have 5-7 things to get done for the company every day, so I get to those usually before my homework. I also am constantly on the phone haha.

What’s your plan with the company as you get past your teenage years, along with your ambassadors?

Great question!  My plan is to have representatives in high school to essentially act as my ear piece. This way, I will  be able to use them to keep me connected when I’m not in high school anymore. I plan to continue building trust and maintaining strong relationships with high school friends!

At a young age, you’re already in contact with higher executives and need to behave with professionalism.  One of the complaints I have read about is our millennial generation approaches work in a more casual tone since we are spending so much screen time (i.e. phone, laptop, etc).  How did you convince potential clients and investors that you are just as professional as someone with 10 years of work experience?

It’s all about how you carry yourself and what kind of confidence you give off. Being respectful is super important. Since I often work with startups, after I have worked with them for a certain amount of time, it is usually casual while still remaining professional.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as an entrepreneur?  Greatest moment of success?

Biggest mistake I have made thus far is probably just letting myself get down about rejections. I did this a lot before. When things wouldn’t go my way, I would go into a state of feeling helpless. The second I started not caring about rejection, a lot of things changed for me. I have a lot to learn, but I am always focused on trying to look at the future and next steps rather than getting hung up on things I missed out on. My greatest moment of success thus far has been working closely with Stanford StartX companies!

As a female entrepreneur, what is your advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

Just go for it. Also, you have to put blinders on. You will most definitely hear people judging you, calling you “bossy” or attributing any success you have to someone else. Do not respond to that ever or let it get you down. Just do what makes you happy!

This interview was edited for clarity.

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