Over the last few years, the Las Vegas Arts District has grown in popularity among both locals and tourists alike. There are new restaurants, bars, and art galleries bringing a different vibe and energy to this once-run-down neighborhood. And at the heart of it all is a boutique hotel that is the pride and joy of one woman who has been at the center of this project from the very beginning.
"As a long-time Vegas resident, I knew we wanted to work in the Arts District because it has so much potential," said Weina Zhang, the Founder and CEO of Z Life Co, the real estate development company behind the English Hotel along with its anchor restaurant, the Pepper Club by four-time James Beard award-winning celebrity Chef Todd English. "As a developer, we look for opportunities that are going to serve the next generation user. This area is different than anywhere else in Las Vegas and holds a unique value to a growing market that is searching for an authentic experience."
To help create that experience, Zhang is backed by a team at the English Hotel that includes many executive-level women. This includes her partner at Z Life, Anna Olin. This team, according to Zhang, has been instrumental in the ground-up construction of this property that opened its doors to the public in February of 2022.
"This is the Arts District's first Boutique Hotel, what I see as our ‘proof of concept,’ said Zhang. "When I first moved to Las Vegas nearly 20 years ago, I never went downtown. Then I moved away to San Francisco and New York, and I brought a lot of what I learned and saw back here to this city. I want to create a different kind of community in the Arts District, and I have had the best team to help launch this project with me," said Zhang.
Zhang, who was born and raised in China, said it's not always easy being a woman working in a field dominated by men. But she said what she had to do to succeed was not focus on being a "woman" but instead on being the "hardest working person” in the room.
"You have to show your work. You have to work harder than everyone else so that people will take you seriously," said Zhang. "Men, especially, can underestimate you. When people underestimate you, you have to fight harder because then they are not prepared to see what you can do."
As a women-owned development company, Zhang said Z Life has provided a collaborative and open environment for women at all levels and business positions. Zhang said her partner Anna Olin had been with the company since she was 21. That's when Zhang started her first facade contracting company in Las Vegas to import unitized curtain walls from China. Today Olin is Zhang's right-hand "woman" as their company continues to expand and take on new projects.
"Anna supports my drive and vision, and we are great at challenging each other to keep growing and evolving the business," said Zhang. "We have a number of women in management roles in the operation of the hotel, and they are incredible leaders, not because they are women but because they are excellent at their jobs."
The 74-room English Hotel is just a part of Zhang's vision for the Arts District. She sees the hotel and the surrounding area continuing to facilitate the tourism growth in the Arts District. She said her investment in this neighborhood is long-term in this city where she now calls home.
"I want a place where people can work, play, and have fun. Most importantly, a community that is safe with everything from a co-working space to a farmers market to all kinds of amenities. A place where you can get to everything in less than 15 minutes. What better city to start this than Las Vegas?"
Along with building a company that supports female entrepreneurs, Zhang has invested her time, energy, and money into the young generation in the city where she grew up in China. In 2007, she set up the Zetian Children's Foundation with the goal of helping girls get an education and change the dynamics of their future.
"When it comes to advice for young women, wherever they are in the world, I would say, never wait for tomorrow," said Zhang. "Never wait for the perfect opportunity or the perfect relationship. That will never work out. One thing I love about working in Las Vegas is how accessible the city is and how they support businesses. We need to be more assertive in our relationships. All it takes is the first step of reaching out."
Red Rock City Lifestyle Magazine is hosting a Women’s Luncheon at the Pepper Club on May 11th. The event is called “Rise, Empower, Dream.” Tickets are on sale now. For more information, go to http://www.riseempowerdream.com.
"You have to show your work. You have to work harder than everyone else so that people will take you seriously. When people underestimate you, you have to fight harder because then they are not prepared to see what you can do." Weina Zhang