This Space: A Business for Community By Community

This Space: A Business for Community By Community

Two Vancouver business men develop unique crowd-sourced company

It could have been a taco bar, clothing shop, even a pet boutique. The type of business was unknown but what was clear was who would make the decision: the community.

That’s the concept behind This Space, a first-of-its-kind social business project that is asking residents to vote on all decisions to start a business at 243 Union St. in Vancouver’s Chinatown/Strathcona neighbourhood.

This Space founders Josh Michnik and Michael Leung.

Since launching the campaign in September more than 450 community members have voted in the company’s first two polls determining the type of business, and the service it will provide.

This Space, so says the community, will be a local grocer that also offers restaurant and café services. Further polls are planned to determine partnership opportunities, design, and its name.

Co-founder of This Space Josh Michnik says it’s incredible to see engagement from community members in determining a business the neighbourhood needs. By participating in the business creation, Josh says residents are also more likely to stay involved once the business opens.

“It’s a business the community supports and takes ownership of,” says Josh, who also owns a clothing shop on the block, Charlie and Lee. “They had a part from start to finish to build the business. They’ve created it, essentially.”

The idea for This Space came when Josh learned there was a spot coming available on the same block as his clothing company. He approached Michael Leung, who owned the space, to ask if he would be interested in a business idea they could potentially partner on.

“I said, ‘Give me a week and I will go away and come up with something that will knock your socks off,’” recalls Josh.

Josh spent the week brainstorming but couldn’t come up with a noteworthy venture. On the last night before he was supposed to meet with Michael, he recounted his troubles over dinner with his then fiancé, Kleah Graham. 

It was Kleah who said “I wish there was a way to just ask the community.”

“Right there, I’m like ‘Wow, that’s the idea,’” says Josh.

This Space is expected to open in February, 2012. Josh says the company will incorporate sustainability into its model by working with local businesses, sourcing its food from urban gardens and hiring area residents. A portion of the profits will also be used to support initiatives or charities decided on by the community.

Anyone who lives in the area, or may stop by, is encouraged to participate in the decision-making for This Space.

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Writer Bio

Camille Jensen's picture
Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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