Summer Workshops: Yi Zhang

Tian Liu, Photojournalist

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Businessman Yi Zhang has become the owner of three businesses in Iowa City at age 24. He has spent over two years working to get to where he is right now. The young entrepreneur has experienced many hardships in his journey, including an incomplete college degree, lack of management experience, and a shortage of money.

Being too young is one of his weaknesses, he said. It took him almost eight months to prepare, including working on interior design and going over legal documents. With the help of his contractor, lawyer, and landlord, he opened his first restaurant, JiangHu Asian Street Food in January 2018.

Unlike other Chinese restaurants, Zhang’s restaurant relies on social media and explores a broader market which includes both international students and the locals.

“Now, almost 80 percent of our sales come from the locals. That’s probably the reason I love this city. People here appreciate another culture, they respect that, and they understand it,” Zhang said.

JiangHu Asian Street Food succeeds in introducing different types of Chinese food to Iowa City, but it’s just the first step. Zhang spent most of the profit he earned recently and took over No.18 Karaoke and a new restaurant that is set to open next month.

Zhang decorated most of the new restaurant by himself, from changing the roof to install the lamps.

“Being the manager means there is no set timeline to do things. You go to wherever needs you to fill in the spot, ” Zhang said.

Besides the plan for launching a new restaurant in town, Zhang also wants to extend his business in other areas, such as Cedar Rapids and North Liberty. He said people there have been asking about chain restaurants for a while, and he wants to take opportunities to the new market soon.