Buckeyes on the Frontlines

Former synchronized swimmer works as the vice president of marketing and ecommerce for Zanotto’s Markets

by Candace Johnson

Khadija Zanotto, a former member of the Ohio State synchronized swimming team, is among the many essential workers that have stepped up to the challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zanotto is the vice president of marketing and ecommerce for Zanotto’s Markets in San Jose, Calif., and the third generation to work in her family’s grocery stores. Many would assume her role keeps her away from the day-to-day bustle but COVID-19 has put her on the front line in the fight to meet the needs of her Silicon Valley neighborhood.

Parallels in experience

“As a former team captain, my daily responsibility was to be a connection between the coach on deck and swimmers in the water,” Zanotto said. “Today, I once again find myself a bridge between two important groups of people. I am the connection between our family business and the customers we serve. With a lot of new government regulations and standards, it’s important to communicate clearly and lead by example.”

Leading by example has been instrumental in Zanotto’s approach to dealing with ramifications of COVID-19, from creating marketing plans to manning the register. And it all goes back to her time as a student-athlete in Columbus.

Leading by example

“Competing and training at a high level daily instilled many important qualities that have allowed me to lead my family’s business during this uncertain time,” Zanotto said. “I’ve been able to showcase my resourcefulness, creativity, determination, communication and the ability to execute under pressure. Being able to plan out and hone in on important tasks has allowed my staff and I to successfully add new cleaning protocols and to innovate and execute new ways of creatively sourcing products during shortages. There is a lot of pressure when competing at a collegiate level and student-athletes are great at keeping a steady and calm mind. During the many stresses of COVID-19 on both the business and me personally, I have been able to maintain clarity and calmly guide our business, employees and customers through the unknown. Being a student-athlete at Ohio State has prepared me for this. It is amazing to think that all the training I did then, has given me the confidence to perform now.”

Be Kind

No day is the same when it comes to fighting against COVID-19 but Zanotto finds strength in those closest to her.

“It has felt like a marathon, each day I am ready to run and endure the day,” Zanotto said. “It’s exhausting, exhilarating and physically challenging. I am thankful to have my supportive husband, family and staff around me. Their health motivates me to keep implementing protocol and making our stores a safe place to shop during this pandemic.”

As the world looks to move past the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zanotto’s advice is easy to follow – wear a mask in public spaces, limit your time in public spaces, practice social distancing and be kind to those on the front lines.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Khadija Zanotto – Back then as a Buckeye

Khadija was a four-year letterwinner with the synchronized swimming team between 2012 and 2015 … helped the Buckeyes win two U.S. Collegiate National Championships … four-time All-American … earned a bronze medal at the 2013 World University Games … three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree … graduated in 2015 with a degree in hospitality and business management … originally from Los Gatos, Calif.


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