It was a huge honor to be invited out as a Guest Speaker.The back story is that a portion of Downtown Vegas is being rejuvenated by Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos. He has invested $350 million of his own money - $200 million in real estate, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in education and $50 million in tech startups. So amongst the revitalization are businesses like unique restaurants, bars and housing, co-working spaces and retail. The entire area is made up of some seriously cool spots - it doesn't even feel like you're in the typical Las Vegas scene, but rather a really diverse and unique place. And not to mention the Zappos headquarters in right there in the midst of it all.
It's hard for me to describe the vibe of the fresh Downtown but basically it's filled with creative people doing what they're passionate about and supporting each other. Which sort of leads me to Stitch Factory. Located next door to Zappos, it's a collaborative workspace created for fashion designers filled with sewing machines, dressforms and pattern-making tables. Sure we've all seen our fair share of co-working spaces but this one, so specific to the fashion industry, is pretty awesome. I've never seen any other city or community with something like this.
Anyway, every month Stitch Factory has a Speaker Series - I was asked to come out and was put up in one of Tony's crash pads at the Ogden residences across the street from Zappos. I ended up speaking about how I started Hanger Shortage, my production company and my clothing line, 16th Colony. All of these things I've started from scratch and worked so incredibly hard to get them where they're currently at. I'm by no means exactly where I want to be, but I have learned a lot along the way and really enjoyed telling my story and sharing some advice straight from my personal experiences.
Besides the talks, the week was full of events for the entire group of guest speakers. We spent our days touring the Downtown area, having dinner in Tony's apartment, meeting with local business owners, eating amazing food at the unique new restaurants and also roaming around the Zappos headquarters. Before all this, I was well aware of the laid back culture that Zappos had but seeing it firsthand and being immersed in it was awesome. First of all, there was a water balloon fight happening when I arrived - not joking. The amenities available to employees was almost endless. Free bottled water/drinks and snacks of all kinds - but get this, Tony wants everyone in the HQ to get to know each other and connect, even people from different departments, so instead of having one of everything on each floor he devised a plan for drinks to only be on every other floor and snacks on the opposite. So in order to go get your mid-afternoon snack, you'd have to go mosey on down to another floor which creates a greater opportunity for you to meet someone new. I just thought this type of thinking is interesting. Also, there are literally lounging areas with beanbags and hammocks all around - naps are encouraged.
Anyway, overall such a fun experience. For those of you who live in Vegas, I highly recommend attending the Speaker Series at some point. I met a lot of great entrepreneurs and designers who were all so inspiring. Secondly, if don't live in Vegas, I know you're at least visiting from time to time, so check out The Downtown Project. Personally, I don't like going to the clubs and all that nonsense - I rather enjoy a low-key night with some friends, cocktails, good music and conversation. Some of my fave places were:
The Park - a small bar and super cute outdoor area. P.S. There's a secret sitting area.
Bin 702 - wine's on tap!
Coterie - eclectic apparel
Eat - amazing brunch spot, yum.
Grass Roots - juice bar. This place pretty much saved my life when I started to get rundown at the end of my trip.