The Creative Class

Published on October 9, 2012

Bauer grads’ niche-marketing firm known for fresh, innovative approach

Josh and Tina Zulu

Josh and Tina Zulu harness the skills they learned in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at Bauer College with their business, Zulu Creative.

When Tina and Josh Zulu (’00 and ’02) finished the entrepreneurship program at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, they didn’t just earn a degree. They left with a foundation for a business and a network to support it.

“We really learned what it took,” says Tina, who with her husband, Josh, founded Houston’s culturally savvy niche-marketing firm Zulu Creative in 2006.

Apparently, this successful husband-and-wife team has done something right.

Zulu Creative was in the news recently when the Houston Arts Alliance cited Tina as one of the city’s brightest creative talents. At a press conference with Mayor Annise Parker, Tina and 10 other members of Houston’s creative elite were chosen as the faces of a new HAA-commissioned report analyzing Houston’s creative economy.

Tina, a sparky fashionista and self-described “people-and-idea connector,” decided to study entrepreneurship and marketing at Bauer after co-owning a vintage-clothing boutique and staging parties and events that helped transform downtown in the late ’90s. While at Bauer, she worked in reservations at Continental Airlines, but knew she wanted to be her own boss someday—in a way that melded her talents and passions.

Josh, an articulate Zambia native with a degree in mechanical engineering and a side gig as a DJ, met Tina while she was at Bauer. “I found out about the entrepreneurship program through her, and it looked really interesting,” he says. “I thought: ‘This is definitely something I think fits the direction I want to go.’ I didn’t see myself as an engineer forever and felt that this was a good opportunity to pursue a more entrepreneurial path.”

The couple’s complementary personalities are apparent at Zulu Creative, a boutique firm specializing in branding, buzz marketing and web development for clients in the fashion, hospitality and arts industries. Tina calls herself the “creative chieftess.” Josh is the chief of operations.

“I think Josh and I make a great team because our interests and skill sets balance and enhance each other like yin and yang,” Tina says. “Josh is more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy focusing on operations and growing our business, while I work more directly with clients on the creative side of things.”

After graduating UH, Tina moved to Continental’s interactive and marketing department. Realizing the potential of the Internet as a marketing tool, she saw how she could combine her entrepreneurial expertise and newly minted web skills to start a business. When the airline offered early retirement to employees with 10 or more years of service, she seized the moment and Zulu Creative was ready for takeoff.

Working out of a playfully appointed studio in Midtown, this stylish pair maintains that the relationships they formed at Bauer’s nationally ranked Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship helped get their business up and running.

Two of the first clients to come on board were Page Parkes Corporation and BB’s Café. Parkes, a Houston icon and co-owner of the largest modeling agency in the Southwest, was Tina’s mentor at Bauer. Brooks Bassler, the entrepreneur behind the three-restaurant BB’s chain, was a classmate of Josh’s.

“It’s fun to be around other entrepreneurs who are growing and developing their businesses at the same time,” Josh says of his time at Bauer. While attending UH, he worked at a Houston CPA firm and still pursues his love of music and DJing. Now he brings his diversity of experiences to the table as a Bauer student mentor.

“They’ve really developed the entrepreneurship program,” he says, “and it’s really cool to see people coming up with ideas and going through some of the same things I was going through — writing a business plan, working on financial statements.”
Tina gives Bauer high marks, too. “I felt the curriculum was really comprehensive. You cover marketing. You talk about sales, accounting, all aspects of the business.”

Six years later, these culture-preneurs have created a lifestyle in which work and play seem to dovetail almost seamlessly. As leaders in the creative community, they are ardent “cultural connectors.” They don’t just provide services to clients; they introduce people and ideas to form synergy.

“We love growing what’s good and helping others experience something bigger and beyond,” says Tina. “By identifying mutually beneficial opportunities, we help create truly meaningful connections.”

By Wendell Brock