Fulfilling a Dream: Zebra Style

‘Why not do what we love?’ they asked
By: Melissa Gasca
The Signal, Santa Clarita Valley

Stacey Burleson and Yerri Yamate-Ottengheime began working on their promotional-products company, Beyond Zebra, two days after they received a pink slip from their employer in 2000. (Courtesy Photo)

When Stacy Burleson and her business partner, Terri Yamate-Ottengheime were laid off from the Walt Disney Company in 2000, they didn’t let tribulation stand in the way of pursuing their dreams.

“Stacy and I made the decision that maybe it was in the stars for us to start our own promotional products company,” Yamate-Ottengheime said.

“Why not do what we love? This is what we’re passionate about and this is what we love. And we never looked back. It’s been eight years and I can’t even believe it,” Burleson said.

When Disney entered a period of downsizing and outsourcing in 2000, Yamate-Ottengheime and Burleson’s in-house promotional products positions were completely eliminated. The ladies wasted no time getting back to work.

“We were very careful; we went to Disney’s legal department and made sure there weren’t any conflicts of interest, said Yamate-Ottengheime, 47 of Pasadena. They were very generous; in fact, they were happy because they needed some T-shirts made.”

“We ended on Friday with Walt Disney, and started working on the following Monday with Disney as our first client,” said Burleson, 37 of Santa Clarita.

Though the company was nameless, Burleson and Yamate-Ottengheime can now look back on that day as the beginning of Beyond Zebra Inc.

Beyond Zebra offers clients a “deeply creative and thoughtful approach to the promotional products business,” according to the company’s Web site.

“When we left the Walt Disney Company, we were both young mothers,” Yamate-Ottengheime said. “I was five months pregnant and Stacy was just coming back from maternity leave. We started looking at kids books; there’s a Dr. Seuss book, “On Beyond Zebra.” So we thought, we have more products than the alphabet can handle. Everything from A to Z and beyond.”

The Signal, Santa Clarita Valley

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The entertainment industry and fortune 500 companies often buy Beyond Zebra products. Some of the company’s recent work was worn by High School Musical 3 fans and event staffers at the movie’s premiere on Oct. 16. Event staffers threw school spirit T-shirts designed by Beyond Zebra to excited fans in the audience.

“That was the first time my son ever turned around and said, ‘My mom designed those T-shirts!’” Burleson said, referring to her 9 year-old son, Gavin. “He announced it to the crowd behind us. That was the proudest moment of them all.”

Burleson, a 30-year Santa Clarita resident, said her success gives her the chance to serve. “I’m on the board of directors for Santa Clarita Little People, a nonprofit faith-based school in Canyon Country,” she said. “I am also a chair for Women’s Business Enterprise Council-West, the largest certifying agency for women-owned businesses.”

“It’s really given me the opportunity to give back to the community and schools, which I think is a great opportunity.”

The Beyond Zebra team is also socially involved.

The company donates time and effort to Los Angeles Mission and the Anne Douglas Center, environmental causes, and more.

Zebra closes its doors multiple times a year to donate time to charitable causes.

Posted on The Signal, Santa Clarita Valley, Friday, October 31, 2008

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