20-Year-Old Connor Blakley Is Helping Brands Connect With His Own Generation
I’m good at a lot of things, but there’s just one thing that has never come naturally to me: following the rules.
As a little kid, I remember unpacking my first LEGO set and unfolding the black and white instruction manual that came with the little blocks. It gave step-by-step rules to assembling the perfect structure.
But perfect isn’t what I wanted.
I wanted to experience all the possibilities.
Therefore, I crumpled up the paper, fed it to my dog, and immersed myself in a new world for hours: a world where LEGO sets intended to construct houses became tracts for race cars to roam, where any tool was fair game, and where there were no limits except my own imagination.
Lucky for me, my parents were encouraging my out-of-the-box thinking. Instead of forcing me to think like “other kids”, they asked me to look within and combine my passion with an application that could help the real world.
So I did.
As early as 7 years old, my play became business. Sifting through the archaeological digs of neighbors’ backyards, I sourced out unique rocks and peddled them back to their doorsteps. Then, of course, there was the evolution of my Lemonade Stand, where I outsourced the operations and customer service sectors to my kind, supportive and highly-qualified little sisters.
Unfortunately, my creative tendencies weren’t encouraged by all. In fact, I faced a lot of criticism by administration in the public school system. Where children are asked to sit still and stay quiet, I was often considered a child of disruption and short attention span.Once a science teacher even went as far as to tell me that I would never amount to anything! As the object of intense chastisement, my disinterest in the basic lesson plans earned me the label of “ADHD.” And thus, this identification haunted me well-before I was diagnosed in the 8th grade. Yes, the labels hurt me deeply. But upon the medical diagnosis, I was mortified. “Am I stupid?” I wondered. “If so, what does that mean for my future?”
Thankfully, my doubts were soon put to rest. As fate and active seeking would have it, I stumbled upon a TedTalk by Cameron Herold entitled, “Let’s Raise Kids to be Entrepreneurs.” Where the medical and educational communities had fallen short, Herold provided me with a sense of worth and purpose. Arming me with a new lens at which to look at himself and a deeper consideration for his talents, I was inspired to think and act differently. To keep stepping farther outside the box… and to know with confidence that my identity is definitely not “stupid.” I was simply made to excel, exceed and transform.
With the support of this new team, I started to build a highly successful social media management company called Utpec: my first “real” business, founded at the age of 14 years old. One year later, at the age of 15, I was working with over 25 small-medium sized businesses across the United States, including Vineyeard Vines and Mark Cuban Companies. I learned to hone in on public speaking, and was rewarded with highly motivated panels and conference attendants all over the country.
Around this time, I was discovered something shocking about my own generation. Weeks after my 15th birthday, I was playing a game of basketball outside of my house with some friends. After a couple hours of rigorous play, we went inside the garage to hang out and drink water. Within milliseconds, my friends immediately tapped into their personal twitter feeds, their fingers swiping and tapping content at the speed of light. As usual, my own phone was dead… and for the first time, I stood back and objectively watched their behavior. The rate at which they scrolled through their feeds shocked and even frightened me. “Is this a generational problem or a social media problem?” I wondered, before realizing it was both.
At the time, I thought I was a “millennial” and sought to deeply understand this identity. But soon after reading more studies, I realized that I was apart of a completely different generation altogether: Generation Z. This discovery changed my entire worldview, especially after finding out that our current youth makes up the most influential, diverse, and unique generation to ever walk the face of the earth. We are a completely different breed of consumers. Brands have no idea how to capture our attention and affection because they have never encountered anything like us before.
Since that day, I decided that I needed to help brands understand, connect with, and engage with Gen Z. The culmination of these discoveries led me to start my second company, Youthlogic: a youth marketing consultancy that helps big brands create a message that resonates with the elusive Gen Z members.