Devon MacKenzie

Devon MacKenzie

Founder and Director

AGE: 29

COMPANY: The Chinatown Experiment

“Anyone who had an idea who wanted to try it out could rent the space, and we would provide the support to get people in the door to test their idea”

Devon MacKenzie is the bootstrapping entrepreneur behind The Chinatown Experiment. He launched his venture in June 2012 with a $750 budget; doing nearly all of the work himself, he transformed a formerly boarded-up Chinatown storefront into a permanent home for revolving pop-up shops that feature anything from clothing to artwork to food.

What sparked the idea for The Chinatown Experiment?
I was running a contracting company when I found the space, and we were going to use it as an office/workshop. I walked away from the company and I was left with the space. Around that time, I went to Portland and we kept going to all these eclectic shops and restaurants and the common question was, Why don’t we have this in Vancouver? That got me thinking of all the reasons why it wouldn’t work: lack of affordable space, lack of accessible space and barriers to entry to starting businesses. Having the space and knowing the trouble that all businesses go through, I came up with the idea for The Chinatown Experiment: anyone who had an idea who wanted to try it out could rent the space and we would provide the support to get people in the door to test their idea.

Do you have a special interest in working with emerging entrepreneurs and businesses?
The people who are coming to us are trying to add value; they’re not trying to make a mass-produced product that just floods a market to make some quick money. They’re trying to do something that they’re passionate about, which is really easy to get behind.

Tell me about your latest project: rejuvenating a Downtown Eastside alleyway.
The alleyway adjacent to the building we’re in is considered the worst alley in the Downtown Eastside. The VPD have dubbed it “stab alley.” What I’ve been trying to get [local business] groups to do is get a pool of money together and basically make that alleyway a less attractive place for the drug dealing that goes on: putting in greenery, adding light and making minor improvements that make it a walkway that people feel comfortable being in. What we want to do is make something that shows businesses adding value to the neighbourhood. –Kristen Hilderman

Meet Devon MacKenzie at our 30 Under 30 event on April 30, 2014. Get your tickets here.