International Women’s Day Profile: Sofia Sayani Of Dahlia Restaurant/AZUR The Legacy Collection Hotel

March 5, 2024

To celebrate this International Women’s Day (and really, shouldn’t that simply be everyday?!), we’re profiling some incredible women in the lifestyle space. Meet Sofia Sayani, managing director at Dahlia Restaurant/AZUR The Legacy Collection Hotel—Noa Nichol

Tell us a bit about yourself to start.

I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My family started the Executive Hotels chain in 1986, and we opened their first hotel just before Expo 86. The chain has expanded significantly since then. I learned that nothing happens in your life unless you make it happen and that you are the key to your success. So, based on those principles, I knew I wanted to run my own business and be in charge of my destiny. Entrepreneurship is about recognizing opportunities and having faith in yourself to jump in and seize them. For me, the best part of being a business owner is the satisfaction of creating and providing something positive. Starting or opening a hotel (pub/lounge/restaurant) from scratch and developing it into something that people genuinely value and appreciate is incredibly fulfilling. Establishing a place where others want to be and enjoy life is also rewarding. It involves having a team of people working towards the same goal and inspiring each other to do their best. My true passion lies in having a creative outlet where design, style, tastes, and trends converge and flourish.

What’s a day in the life like for you?

To be honest, no two days of mine are exactly alike, but I have certain habits I follow. I begin my day by waking up and enjoying coffee and breakfast with my two daughters, followed by a refreshing 30-minute walk. Afterward, I head to the office, where I check in, respond to emails, follow up with staff, and connect with key people. Evenings are less scheduled and more impromptu, so I highly value my morning “family time.” I also make time to step out of the office, catching up with others in my industry and gaining insights into trends. Beyond managing the hotel, I am actively involved in a real estate investment company, concentrating on renovating, remodeling, and flipping condominiums in the city. Vancouver, with its charm, is a beautiful and desirable location, offering numerous condos in need of a fix-up. I oversee the design and style aspects of these projects.

How does your company empower women?

There are absolutely no barriers to growth for women in my organization. If you are good at what you do, you will move upwards. You have to be willing and able to succeed and put in the time, effort, and energy. Many women hold top management positions at AZUR hotel, and women contribute greatly to the construction stage as well because both the designer and architect are incredibly talented women.

What are the current challenges for women in your industry? How do you overcome them?

There are no overall challenges for women in the Hotel Industry in general. Each person’s success is dependent on their efforts. Having said that, Hotel development/building/construction and real estate development is not typically a field many women are in. I am fortunate I started learning the ins and outs of this at a young age and have put them into practice by being involved in the hotel pre-construction and development/construction/completion and opening new hotels from zero to success. It’s satisfying but oh so consuming to go through this process, which I have done numerous times throughout my career. I also enter every situation with an open mind and a willingness to learn something.

How do you create a supportive environment for yourself and your team?

Having a strong support base is essential, so yes, I take the time to cultivate my friendships and offer my support to others. I have my core group of people – my kids and parents – and my “extended family,” which is my work family. I spend so many hours of my day and so many years of my life with my work team that they have become an integral part of my extended family, and I rely on them for support. I also make time for my girlfriends, ensuring I engage in activities like shopping and spa outings for relaxation and enjoyment. Maintaining a robust friend network is important to me. Finally, I actively work on developing professional contacts and garnering support from individuals relevant to my industry, whom I can call upon for advice, assistance, and general industry updates. Staying in the loop of what’s going on around you is crucial.

Who has been your greatest influence/mentor in your life?

I don’t have one singular mentor. I have had a number of people who have influenced and advised me throughout my life. Each one of those people offered unique advice and assistance that helped me to evolve and grow. Not all of it is business-related… sometimes it’s just as simple as “Relax it will all get done”… and it does. I gravitate towards spiritual and insightful people who think outside the box and have an independent spirit much like myself. My biggest teacher of life has been Travel and opening my mind up to different cultures/lifestyles/experiences.

What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing?

I am strongly committed to being active in my community, both through my business and personally. My family and I have donated $500,000 to BC Women’s Hospital, and our management team and staff organized an employee-driven campaign to raise funds, for which I am immensely proud.

After a long day, what’s your favorite thing to make/eat?

I’m really on a “hearty soup” roll right now. I love watching IG stories for inspiration and tips. My favorite right now is a coconut curry-based soup with noodles and shredded chicken. It’s light yet filling and satisfying.


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