This article was written by John Frierson for Georgiadogs.com. To view the original article, click here.
Carrie Zimmerman had made her dreams come true. From competing on gymnastics’ biggest stage to co-founding a global marketing company that became elite in its field, she has had the focus and put in the work to turn those dreams into reality.
Name an iconic American brand — Coke, Citi, Ford, Marriott among them — and they’ve likely been clients of The Zimmerman Agency, co-founded by Carrie and her husband Curtis in 1987. They sold the company to Omnicom Group less than 20 years later but continue to run it, with Zimmerman serving as CEO.
Zimmerman has even addressed the United Nations twice on the topic of “the powerful synergy” between athletic excellence and global entrepreneurship.
“I really believe my athletic background really fed the idea that we can make anything happen,” she said.
On Saturday, Zimmerman will be back in Athens, back on campus, when the top-ranked Georgia football team hosts Missouri at Sanford Stadium. Along with Randall Godfrey (football), Brandi Hunter-Lewis (basketball) and Will Witherspoon (football), Zimmerman will be recognized as one of the four inaugural recipients of the Piedmont Bank Arch Award. Presented by the UGA Athletic Association and Piedmont Bank, the award honors former Bulldogs for their success and contributions as business leaders.
And “business leader” is very much what Zimmerman is. She not only co-founded The Zimmerman Agency, she is its CEO. It’s a global marketing company with more than 1,000 employees that’s based out of Tallahassee, Fla. While Tallahassee isn’t the hub of the American business world, it was home to Zimmerman and she wanted to be near family as she and her husband raised three sons and ran their company.
“I think the hungry, aggressive, competitive side really comes out strong,” Zimmerman said of starting their business, “and we decided early on that it wasn’t ever about being big, it was about being great.”
Before the U.N., before building a hugely successful business in a very competitive field, Carrie Englert was a girl participating in the Tallahassee Tumbling Tots program at the local parks and recreation department. They practiced tumbling on the wooden floors of the Leon County Armory. It was a humble beginning from which a star was born.
Elite gymnastics training was hard to come by in Tallahassee, so she moved across the country to Eugene, Ore., to get the coaching and training she needed, under Dick Mulvihill. For three years leading up to Montreal, Zimmerman trained like a professional athlete.
The long hours were a challenge, but making your dreams come true seldom comes easy. She was a national champion in the balance beam and floor exercise, and then competed for the U.S. Olympic team. And she later became the first U.S. woman to score a 10.0 in the floor exercise.
After the Olympics came college and a year (1977) competing for Clarion University in Pennsylvania. Soon after, she transferred to Georgia, which had a fledgling gymnastics program. She didn’t compete for the Gymdogs while she was in school working on her degree in Public Relations and Journalism — her completion days were done by then — instead she served as a student assistant coach under Elizabeth Long, passing along what she’s gleaned from countless hours of training and performing.
When we think of Georgia gymnastics now, we think of the juggernaut that Suzanne Yoculan Leebern built, winning 10 NCAA championships, dozens of individual NCAA titles, and producing some of the greatest collegiate gymnasts ever, like current head coach Courtney Kupets Carter. But in the late 1970s, several years after Title IX changed women’s sports forever, that was all a decade away.
“We were coaching in the P.E. building — I don’t even know if the P.E. building’s there anymore — and that’s where the gymnastics meets were,” Zimmerman said with a laugh. “She brought me in as an Olympic gymnast that had traveled the world, been the national champion in balance beam and floor exercise, the first woman to get a perfect 10 — to really add credibility to the program. ….
“(The program) has never looked back since then and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
After graduating, the Zimmermans moved to Atlanta to begin their business careers. They were young, ambitious and fearless.
The Zimmerman Agency was born, began to flourish, relocated to Tallahassee to be closer to family and to raise a family, and a lot of hard work has been followed by a tremendous amount of success.
So what’s the secret? From sports to business, the ingredients are the same.
“Always staying ahead of the game, always being passionate, and more than anything else, always having amazing people,” Zimmerman said.