Zulene Adams is the Most Involved CEO You’ll Ever Know

Zulene Adams
Zulene Adams

Photo by LaJuana Taylor / CityPulse Columbus

Interview by Hannah Sprouse

Z Promotions continues to thrive and keep the pulse of Columbus beating with energy – thanks to its courageous and versatile founder, Zulene Adams. Knowing that her clients are achieving their goals and inspiring others to follow keeps Zulene motivated to continue to bridge the gap between business and fun. She accomplishes this through creative events, support for local nonprofits, and her extensive involvement with more than a dozen organizations across the Columbus Region (read the full list below). In order to become the best version of yourself, Zulene says: “Learn to do the not-so-fun things. Your success depends on it.”

Name: K. Zulene Adams
Age: 46
Occupation: CEO, Z Promotions
Education/Certifications: NMSDC and WBENC
Neighborhood: Pickerington (formerly Dublin for 20 years)
Connect: LinkedIn | LinkedIn (Z Promotions) | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

What led you to start your business?
Z Promotions was founded in 2006 by my business partner, Andrew Gehring, and myself. We fill a large pothole in the industry by offering consultative services to our clients. Z Promotions strives to know the clients and find ways to help them succeed. We take the time to really listen to what they need for their events, promotions, retention programs and overall company goals. This was a novel idea in the past, and we found that we couldn’t always rely on an employer to implement this way of thinking, so I ended up becoming an entrepreneur by necessity. Today, Z Promotions thrives on having our fingers on the pulse of this industry and I’m so excited to see where we are headed in the future!

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in Columbus?
Have a plan! Most people have a great idea and think they can figure it out as they go, but you do have to map out important parts strategically before you take that leap. When things seem to be going awry, look back at the plan and regroup. Take the time to review the plan and update it as your goals for the company evolve over time. It is not set in stone – it can be revised! Maybe you need to look at the plan annually, or every 5 years. That is up to you, your business, your goals and your overall vision.

You’ve got a lot going on! Tell us more about Z Promotions. What should we know about your company?
We have a set of core values we follow: Be kind, be transparent, have fun, listen, learn, and be involved. There are reasons we have those values and hire the people we do. They align with our values and allow us to achieve great things for our clients. And our clients align with these values as well, so it creates a harmonious balance in the business relationship. We also work as a team and make a positive impact in the community – both the business community and the areas where we live. It is vital to support the community we serve to ensure it is growing and thriving. We have worked with Ronald McDonald House, Lifecare Alliance, local cancer support groups, and many others.

What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
Honestly, it is God. He has given me these opportunities and I am appreciative. I am looking forward to every single day. I don’t dread going to work as I love what I do. And that is essential to keeping the motivation and creative juices flowing. As for the workweek, it is the team. I feed off the positive energy of the staff at Z Promotions and the positive feedback from our clients. Knowing our people are happy and our clients are achieving their goals with our products makes me ecstatic!

What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
I haven’t had an official mentor, but I surround myself with people I admire or people who have positive energy and exhibit our core values. I don’t want to have a circle of people that just talk the talk, I want them to talk, walk, and live it every day – and it will show in their life and in their success.

I also believe you need to always evolve. Continue to educate yourself. Always push yourself to do challenging things. You don’t want to be complacent. Do the uncomfortable things – it makes you reach out of your comfort zone. Albert E. Gray has a great quote: “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do.” Learn to do those not-so-fun things – your success depends on it.

What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
I can unwind anywhere, honestly, because I meditate. I practice Transcendental Meditation. It gives me that “me time” that I desperately need to become refocused and refreshed. Self-care is so important these days. You fill your schedule to the max taking care of your business and your clients, but you forget to take care of yourself. You are no good to others if you are not running at 100%.

What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
My schedule has not afforded to me much time to read lately, but I have been listening to a great podcast by Betty Collins called “Inspiring Women.” It helps empower and advance women toward economic, social, and political achievement in their workplace and at home.

If you could have been the inventor of something, what would it be?
Wow – this is a good one! I would love to invent a teleportation machine. I am a Star Trek fan, and always loved the idea of teleporting back and forth. From what I remember, when you teleported it also killed any odd microbes and whatnot, so this would be beneficial in my industry. With the worldwide Coronavirus concern, many items being manufactured in China are delayed. Factories were closed as their employees were told to stay home to avoid spreading this illness. As they start to reopen, production is starting to resume but it will still be a while before they are complete and shipped over here. If we could teleport, we could pop over, pick up the items, and bring them back to our customers in the blink of an eye – and deliver them germ-free!

What’s the most exciting thing about Columbus right now?
The diversity – and I am not just referring to the people in this case. There are so many fun things going on with restaurants, new industries, new companies, new construction and infrastructure, and new opportunities. People are being drawn into the Columbus area from all around this great state because of the new growth and changes to our area. The possibilities are endless!

What organizations are you involved with?
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Women’s Business Enterprise Council Ohio River Valley (WBEC ORV) – Regional, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council (OMSDC) – State, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), NAWBO Columbus (Regional board member; VP of Communications; Co-Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee), Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce (Board member; Vice-Chair of Executive Board), Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce, American Marketing Association, Columbus Chapter (Former Board member), Central Ohio African American Chamber of Commerce (COAACC) (Membership and Marketing Committee member), Asian American Commerce Group (AACG), Diversity Chamber of Central Ohio (Board member), The Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), COMTO Columbus, Greater Dublin Realty Association, Pickerington High Schools DECA Chapter (Advisory Board member), and Aspire, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education (Board member).

If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
If you were to put your fingertips on the pulse of Columbus, you would feel it beating strong and fast. This city is really the heart of this fantastic state; it is the lifeblood. Columbus has a strong sense of community. It celebrates diversity and welcomes newcomers with open arms. You can feel the city pulsating with life and racing into the future. When Columbus received the Smart City award in 2016, it gave the city the fuel needed to jump-start our drive into the next decade with plans and goals for a more connected city offering open mobility to all residents, all while protecting the environment.



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