BIV is recognizing Jennifer Zhang, founder, owner and principal of Concrete Cashmere Designs, and 39 other exceptional business leaders as part of the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards cohort.
Longer Q&As with each recipient are included in BIV's annual Forty Under 40 Magazine (out in print Dec. 11). Award winners will be celebrated at an awards gala Feb. 7, 2024.
This profile may have been edited for length and clarity.
What career highlight are you most proud of?
Helping to successfully lead two young businesses – Concrete Cashmere Designs and Hello Nori – through the pandemic. The businesses are in the construction and restaurant industries, which were hit hard by the pandemic. Yet, we were able to weather this difficult period and even launch Hello Nori. Both businesses are now profitable and growing.
What was your toughest business or professional decision?
To launch a new design business in the largely male-dominated construction industry when I was just 26 years old. I took a calculated risk, but it was still daunting.
How do you lead?
I try to inspire by example. I hold high standards and strive to walk the talk and motivate others to do the same.
What is the biggest lesson you've learned in business?
As a young woman working in competitive industries, I have had to develop a disciplined and intentional approach to succeed. I am not rash, and I do not go with my gut. I take time to reflect and review my options before I act or take risks.
Best piece of advice ever received?
Listen before you speak.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Find good mentors and surround yourself with successful people. As a member of EO Vancouver, I have learned a lot from my fellow entrepreneurs and made what I am sure will be lifelong friendships.
What's left to accomplish?
Quite a bit. In the near term, grow Concrete Cashmere Design beyond $10 million in revenue and open five more locations over the next year at Hello Nori. In the longer term, expand my leadership and mentorship role in entrepreneurship. I enjoy mentoring at EO Vancouver and speaking to young entrepreneurs at B.C. colleges and universities. But I’d like to do more, because I enjoy working with motivated and creative people, and I think entrepreneurship can be the backbone of B.C.’s economy.
Is there anyone you would like to thank or acknowledge?
Jean, my life partner, fellow entrepreneur and co-founder at Hello Nori. He’s always there to discuss ideas, and share successes and disappointments. My parents, who have been supportive and are entrepreneurial in their own right. Darren Millard and John Peccia. Both have been mentors and friends for years. My EO forum group members. They have helped inspire and guide me. And my team, for their support and dedication. I could not have achieved this award recognition without them.