Wilson Lee

Wilson Lee

Founder and CEO

AGE: 28

COMPANY: Wun2Free Entertainment

The story: During the summer of his 16th year, Wilson Lee and a friend took a bus from Marpole to Mario’s Gelati on East First Avenue, where they planned to buy ice cream to resell at the Richmond Night Market. “When we went to pick it up, we realized that we didn’t have a vehicle to carry it all,” he recalls. “Which was really funny because we didn’t foresee it and our budget didn’t allow it.” They did not give up. They found an old pickup truck for $500 and ran the profitless business all summer. “People loved us,” he recalls, “because we had energy.” Upon graduating from UBC in 2009 with a major in psychology and minor in economics, Lee went to work at Shaw Cable. But two years in, he was back to the Richmond Night Market–this time, selling bubble tea. While there he convinced the owner of the market to let him run an entertainment area. With no experience, he went to the PNE with a clipboard and a camera and took notes–as well as to Hong Kong (where his parents are from) to visit some factories. Using all of his savings and the limits of two credit cards, he bought more than $100,000 worth of stuffed animals for prizes. Then he worked with his uncle, a carpenter, to design carnival games. He started in 2013 with four games, which were immediately popular. By 2014, he had 16 games and 80 staff at the Richmond Night Market, and that same year he convinced the PNE to let him try his model there. Lee is intent on changing the perception of the carnival game industry: a grungy midway of road-weary carnies waiting to take your money. “For us it’s not just about the product or the game but about creating the atmosphere where people are really enjoying themselves.”

Markers of Success: For 10 days in December 2015, Lee’s company ran the Vancouver Winter Wonderland, an indoor Christmas event at the PNE Forum with more than 100 vendors, stage entertainment, food trucks and custom-designed games. The event had 35,000 visitors, and Lee’s 2015 total revenue including the night market and the PNE topped
$1 million.