Multifaceted isn’t nearly broad enough to describe the diverse interests that drive 26-year-old entrepreneur Corey Zinn.
And passion doesn’t come close to defining the intensity of his confidence in the future of the Mountain State.
He admits he may have far too many irons in his promotional fire, but with so many choices out there, it’s tough to settle on one.
A millennial wunderkind bent on fulfilling the state’s potential as a small business mecca, he built a reputation for fresh, offbeat thinking on an early love of nontraditional music and electronic composing.
A marketing major at WVU, he loved the challenge of enticement. In college, he went to DJ school and minored in electronic music and composition.
It was in college that he hatched the idea of Wheel Decide, a personal spinning wheel app to make such everyday decisions as which movie to see or where to eat that night. The concept took off.
Back in Charleston, He cut his marketing teeth during a year-long stint for the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
He also started a media consulting firm, Falling Tree Media.
Then, through Rebecca Kimmons, he got involved with Create West Virginia, a nonprofit group devoted to mentoring state entrepreneurs. He’s the organization’s president.
His dream now is opening a nonalcoholic cafe.
No dream means more than the vision he harbors of a vibrant Charleston bustling with shops and other small businesses. Oh, the possibilities! That’s why he stays.
“I grew up in South Hills.
“The music is linked with my family. My mom being from Scotland, there were a lot of ties with British music, and I seem to like British music better.
“My older brother, Garreth, showed me how to download music and how to burn CDs. It opened a whole world. We were downloading things illegally. It was important to me to have access to whatever I wanted. Now it’s all streaming and open source.
“I would come home after school and download stuff and organize it and find new artists.
“I went to Fort Hill after-school day care and they did lessons there. I did piano for two or three years and switched to snare drums. Then I went to Paul Moore at Gorby’s, my drum teacher.
“At John Adams [Middle School], I was in the marching band and the jazz band. I wasn’t super inspired by marching band music. I really like things that are different.
“I’ve never been into pop music and what’s on the radio. Growing up, I was always finding things that were more interesting to listen to, more thought-provoking.
“I’ve always loved education in general and learning new things. I was a good student and got into the gifted program at an early age.
“I wanted to go into music in some way. Once I started drumming, I wanted to be the best drummer and make good music, not just play technically well.
“In middle school, I made movies with friends — spoofs of horror movies and random things. I liked video-game movies.
“I started writing music on my computer, and that graduated into composing music electronically.
“I took guitar in high school. I wasn’t in the band. I should have kept up with it. The director starts really drilling things into you. I didn’t want to be this real rigid player. Looking back, that’s how you play well. You learn how to play tight and you can loosen it up. I regret not being more disciplined early on about music.
“I majored in marketing at WVU. I was interested in business, like starting a music label.
“I ended up doing business management. Then I took a marketing class and realized that the world revolves around marketing. I hated ads and all that cheesy stuff, but it’s all around, ads in your face.
“I never wanted to be deceitful or manipulative, but I liked the idea of that power to influence people. So I started doing marketing. It seemed I was learning more about business by learning more about marketing. I was more interested in how you sell a product and target a market.
“There were electronic music classes. Dr. Taddie was teaching electronic music and I was writing music. The associate dean said I would be perfect for the music technology minor they were trying to build and I should take all the classes, and they would have this minor in existence by the time I graduated. Two years later it was a real minor in recording technology and electronic composition.
“I was production director at the WVU radio station. You had to learn to DJ there, but I couldn’t get by the censorship. I could not play my favorite music. But I did enjoy creating things for the radio.
“I came back to Charleston and lived with my parents to save some money. There was a new president at the [West Virginia] Symphony and they were looking for a marketing director. I was there for a year. I wrote the $50,000 budget. We organized TV and radio spots and billboards promoting the concerts, and we did a YouTube series on [former conductor] Grant Cooper.
“In college, I was trying to decide what I wanted to eat. I was on the meal plan and you could only eat in a certain places. I told my brother it would be cool if there was an app where you could put all your choices on a wheel and spin it and it would decide where you were going to eat. He cranked out a prototype real quick. I’d done some web design early on. We kept refining and it came to be wheeldecide.com.
“Fast forward, we started seeing money come in. The traffic steadily increased. Businesses wanted to pay for extra features.
“It’s a simple spinner tool. You can put in a number of choices if you are trying decide between something like where you are going to go that night or where you are going to travel this summer.
“It could be anything, the kind of situation where you flip a coin. But a coin only has two sides and there are a lot of choices in life. When you don’t really care between the options, it decides for you.
“Businesses wanted custom wheels for their sites and price wheels for their trade shows. We never realized all these uses for it.
“I was working on Wheel Decide, talking to clients, and doing some independent marketing and graphic design — logos and websites. I struggled early on.
“That’s when I got linked up with Rebecca Kimmons and Create West Virginia, and they opened my eyes to the network of entrepreneurs. I’m president of the organization. Sarah Halstead wanted to hand it over to me. Everyone agreed it was time to have somebody young.
“We’ve been trying to focus our plans a little. We’ve always been pretty wild thinkers, which I love, but that is probably our downfall. We need more focus.
“I had a big project with Rebecca going around West Virginia interviewing people with interesting lifestyles. We didn’t end up raising enough money to make the project work, but I met some amazing people and I hope I can go back and revisit that project.
“It was kind of a yes year, saying yes to everything. That really gets you into trouble. You start doing what other people want you to do instead of what you want to do.
“I needed a more stable income than Wheel Decide. I talked to Brad Gritt at Gritt’s Farm about working there and learning farming. He was interested in my marketing services. I worked on their website and did a lot of photography for them and recipes for their chef and event promotion.
“After almost two years, I told Brad this fall I was getting too sucked in. I wanted the flexibility of being an entrepreneur. I suggested we work on a contract basis.
“I’m trying to get back to music production. That’s one of the hardest things to make money on, but I’m trying to pursue that a little more.
“Falling Tree Media is the media consulting business — video and web design — that I started after I left the symphony.
“I’m passionate about a lot of different things, probably too many things. It makes me a little crazy sometimes. But in West Virginia, it’s like you shoot yourself in the foot if you don’t do everything. I’m learning how to focus a little better.
“I want to make a difference here. I made a pitch to Strong Mountain Communities Network for a non-alcoholic bar. Everyone goes to the bar and drinks and carries on.
“I like to work at random hours of the night, hopping between coffee shops, and eventually you have to go to bars and can’t get any work done. I thought it would be cool if there was a soda bar where they had all these import sodas and kids could hang out and drink there and adults could work there and not be distracted by the bar scene. And the recovery community needs something like that.
“I’m looking at spaces and talking to somebody about a partnership. I want to create a cool environment where people can get away from alcohol and focus on what a bar is really there for — a place to hang out and talk and work and mingle and listen to music and have events.
“You could take any number of businesses and plop them here, and if you run them right, it’s super easy to be a gem in West Virginia. It’s ripe for opportunity.
“We have the internet, an international market at our fingertips. We have low cost of living. The market might be better in other places, but it’s a lot easier to stand out here. People are extremely supportive of new ideas. They’re friendly and welcoming.
“Politicians are still saying, ‘Oh, we’ve got to save coal and we have jobs for you.’ To me, this is the place for small business. If you can’t start a business in West Virginia, you can’t start one anywhere.
“I’m working on Wheel Decide to refine it, and I’m working on my non-alcoholic bar. I’ve been calling it a non-beverage cafe. Sober people wouldn’t want it to be called a bar.
“And I never want the music to die. I always put music on the back burner because it is the hardest thing to make profitable, but in the end, that’s what drives me.
“Create West Virginia is how I’m trying to give back to the community. I want to create this network of entrepreneurs and mentors because I think this is the place to be. It’s got its challenges, but together we can knock all those barriers down.
“It’s hard to leave West Virginia behind. People tell me they need me. That’s part of why I’m here.”