Zena Burns Named to Bold Women of Business Class of 2022


When Zena Burns moved to Dowagiac from Chicago a couple of years ago, she came with the intent of helping put the city on the map through a collaborative she had formed with a couple of other property owners to craft the Stay Dowagiac Collective. Her huge success as co-proprietor of 1870 House in Dowagiac is, however, simply the latest in a long string of successes in a storied career launched when she dropped out of college to take a job working for an indie label owned by members of The Smashing Pumpkins and Fountains of Wayne. As her nominator writes, “It’s been a whirlwind ever since.” In 1999 at the age of 23, she moved to New York City and started in an editorial and digital role at Teen People Magazine, the teen version of People Magazine. It became instantly iconic and at that time was the fastest-growing launch in publishing history. Working her way up to Music Editor and Entertainment Director for the magazine, even as she ran TeenPeople.com, she gave early looks to current superstars including Beyonce, The Killers, Katy Perry, Kanye West, Rihanna and many more. By 2006 she was recruited to iHeartMedia as the radio industry’s first Digital Program Director for their NYC stations. After leaving iHeart, Zena launched her consultancy Moxie Coalition, working with clients as diverse as the Madison Square Garden Company, Bloomberg Media, and High Times Magazine. Eventually she went in-house with Futuri, a Cleveland-based tech firm that works with thousands of radio and TV broadcasters worldwide, working — to this day — remotely as Senior VP of Content & Special Projects. Her 1870 House is Dowagiac’s first high-end, short-term, rental. Read on for more of an amazing Bold Woman of Business in the Class of 2022.
Zena Burns
Where do you live?
Dowagiac, MI
Company or Organization
1870 House
What is your job or role there?
I own and operate this short-term vacation rental along with my husband, Richard.
How do you think that Bold Women of Business demonstrate being bold?
When a qualified woman steps into spaces in business historically dominated by men, that’s a bold move. Unfortunately, we’re still in a time where ideas of what women can and can’t do professionally are still painted with a broad brush, and while we’ve made great strides, there’s still a ways to go.
Bold women are often defined by a number of descriptors. Please choose from the following descriptors to produce the top three that you would say most exemplify your personality?
Please provide an example of when you feel you were at your very best in taking action on the job or in your role.
In my role at 1870 House, I think it was helping bring together the Stay Dowagiac collective. We were the first high-end short-term vacation rental in Dowagiac to open our doors, but we knew that two others, Shannon Lyons and Cathy McBride’s The Altus Apartment and Desmond Lathan’s The Hatch Street Manor, were in development. We came together, found we had a similar passion for Dowagiac’s growth, and, firmly believing that a rising tide lifts all boats, pooled our resources and expertise to create the Stay Dowagiac collective. We co-promote each other’s properties, present at events like wedding venue showcases together, and have developed unique capabilities for large parties to rent out all three of our properties in a coordinated fashion. That approach has been a great success, not only for us but for Dowagiac tourism in general.
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened on your road to success?
It’s probably the time Prince called me wanting to talk about the music business. Much of the hour we talked that day was him sort of yelling at me about various things happening in the business that he didn’t like. At one point, I voiced an opinion, and he got quiet and then said, sternly, “Zena, we’re gonna need to hold hands and pray.” But you know what? I listened to his side of things, stood my ground where I felt strongly, and by the end of that conversation, he was jokingly asking if I had office space for him. That reminded me that confidence is important, even if disagreeing with the greatest artist of all time!
Who most inspires your personal drive for success every day?
There’s a long list, but my mom, Eileen, is at the top. She’s a wise woman who worked very hard to raise my brother Tom and I well, and this included instilling a good work ethic in us.
What is your best advice to women in Southwest Michigan looking to succeed, as you have, in business?
For those that already know their fields well — speak and act with confidence. For those who are still growing in their fields — ask questions, seek mentors, and still speak and act with confidence.
What does your selection to the ranks of the Bold Women of Business from Moody on the Market mean to you?
I’m thrilled that Moody on the Market is highlighting the impressive work that women businesspeople and entrepreneurs are doing in Southwest Michigan and I’m honored to be named to the list.


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