I sat down with local entrepreneur and creator of Zone6ix Justin Wimberly, on an April evening via zoom, to learn about how he turned his love for football and sports into his own media company.
Justin has always had a passion for sports since he was a young child. Growing up as the son of Paterson Catholic Head football coach Benjie Wimberly, (who also is the 35th District Assemblyman and Director of Paterson Recreation) gave Justin an interest in football. He would play at Paterson Catholic in his freshman year until the school closed down in 2010. Then he played at New Jersey powerhouse Don Bosco Prep before playing at Hackensack his senior year under his dad who became the new head coach.
He graduated from Hampton University and then went on to the University of Arkansas for graduate school majoring in Sports management. During his time at Hampton, he walked onto the football team as a freshman and was on the practice squad. Shortly after, he realized it was time to hang up the cleats, describing it as “you get to the point where you know your time is done with the game.”
While he was in college he interned with the Washington Redskins public relations department freshman year. Sophomore year he was an intern on Capitol Hill trying out the political route but it “wasn’t for me” as he put it. His final internship was at the Boo Williams Sports Complex apart of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.
At Arkansas he got the opportunity to be the Grad assistant video coordinator for the football team and later, the assistant to all of the athletic directors in his second year of graduate school. He became a paid coach with Hackensack High School and started Zone6ix while he was finishing up his last year of graduate school.
Zone6ix is a media platform that allows athletes to show their personalities on and off the field. He first got the idea for Zone6ix with his friend and now business partner Jordan Coleman. He met Jordan Coleman at a basketball camp in Hackensack when the two were just growing up. Jordan at the time was the voice of “Tyrone” from the Nickelodeon show Backyardigans. Fast forward to 2019 they decided “Let’s create an experience that athletes only usually get when they get to college or to the pros” Justin said.”
“During Spring Break we started taking some test photo shoots with some All-Americans and some underrated players who needed more exposure. Within the first 48 hours we had 1,500 followers on our Instagram page. Every athlete saw that they could be a part of it whether they were highly ranked or underrated. We brought everyone together and it worked.”
They exceeded all expectations originally in their “five year business plan.”
“We were only going to do a football lineman camp with New Jersey native Al-Quadin Muhammed of the Indianapolis Colts. Three weeks after our first photoshoot we had our first invitational only camp and had 75 kids.” Some of the big name players he has worked with include Jordan Morant (Michigan) Jamier Wright-Collins (Rutgers), Kyle Monangai (Rutgers), Nahree Biggins, Mike Alaimo (Purdue).
His goals for the future include branching more into basketball, lacrosse, and baseball. “Become a national household name in youth and high school sports, to host more camps out of the state and travel around the country hosting Zone6ix events.” The main thing that keeps him motivated is all the people who told him “no.”
“In 2019 when we had our first event I tagged Body armor on Instagram in the post last month we were fortunate to finally catch their attention and they sponsored our last event. The things that motivate me are all the ‘no’s I received. Anytime I receive a no for something that I’m striving to get, that really keeps me going.”
Justin has a heart for the community. Last December he held a “12 Days of Christmas Giveaway.”
“Leading up to Christmas we gave our followers the opportunity to win different prizes such as NBA 2K Video game, a new pair of sneakers, or a free invite to camp throughout the 12 days leading up to Christmas.” In 2019, Justin alongside his friend and business partner Jordan Coleman, his dad, and Paterson singer/artist Ivy Jay visited children at Hackensack Children’s Hospital and brought them presents on Christmas Eve. “We just wanted to brighten a kid’s day by letting them know that someone is there for them to come out and spend some time with them and spread some joy into their lives while they are battling whatever they may be going through.”
Previously in 2018, he held a Holiday community dinner event at Eastside High School in Paterson with rapper Remy Boy Monty, comedian/actor Travque and House of Experts Barbershop. He explained “I was really inspired by Drake’s ‘God’s Plan’ music video where he gives back to the students at The University of Miami Student Union, the fire department, and random people on the street. I saw the video and said to myself, ‘what can I do for my community’ even on the smaller side like giving out meals and turkeys.”
This year he held his second annual ‘Kickin it with Wimbo’ event as he continues to show his heart in the community. “This year I had my second annual ‘Kickin It with Wimbo’ event where we were able to give shopping sprees of $350 to eleven kids this year. Our first year we were able to do six to seven, just brightening kids days who do not have as much as others or are not as fortunate as others throughout the Holiday season.”