Matt Choon’s first investment in sneakers was a success.
When he was about 12, he started trading them. As a teenager, he didn’t have much money, and he recalled the rush of taking $200 in birthday cash to SoHo to buy a used pair of statement sneakers from a stranger on Facebook.
“Teenage Matt definitely was obsessed with the internet and looking cool,” he said.
When he came home with his 2003 Nike SBs, his mom “flipped out” at the price he’d paid, he recalled. But as he bought more sneakers to resell or trade for a profit, “she realized it was me becoming an entrepreneur.”
Choon founded several businesses. He created Bowery Showroom in Lower Manhattan, which is a retail and creative hub, and Bowery Agency as a marketing agency. The showroom and agency are part of Choon’s Lower East Ventures LLC and have pulled in five figures of revenue per month in recent months, according to records provided to MarketWatch. Choon says that the three businesses combined are profitable and consistently gross between five and six figures each month.
Choon is a native New Yorker. He grew in the Lower East Side, went to school in Chinatown for elementary and middle school and then Chelsea for high school. Takeshi Fukui is his roommate and business partner in Bushwick. They met each other when he was in middle school.
After high school, Choon got into CUNY’s prestigious Macaulay Honors College, which allowed him to study tuition-free at Baruch College. Choon switched from studying finance to entrepreneurship at Baruch College. He got his feet dirty by creating an app and competing in business competitions.
He had tried day trading but failed, and regretted losing $3,000 he’d worked hard for.
His luck has changed since he discovered crypto. Choon told MarketWatch he sold stocks and put the cash in his bank account into Ethereum — most of what he had at the time. He saw the low five figures he invested soar to more than $100,000 and then fall, he recalled, still landing, at the time, at more than double what he’d invested. He then went on to make much more.
He said that he used $1,000 from his earnings as an economics teacher during college to launch his CBD brand Potion. He bought CBD gummies at a local deli in the fall of 2018 and rebranded, repackaged and resold them for profit at Hester Street fair.
He got a job as a digital marketer at a crypto-firm and sold CBD gums on the weekends to grow his business. He earned enough from Potion for him to decide to leave his job full-time in August 2019.
Now fast forward to 2020. The pandemic is here. Choon took a pair vintage Air Jordan 4s to a Bushwick repair shop. He recognized the shop owner as an East Village shoe designer. Choon claimed that after a brief conversation with the owner, he was taken to the back where the man had vintage designer clothing and informed him that there were more in an adjacent warehouse. Choon paid $300 for a black trash bag filled with clothes.
“We’re talking about like $500 T-shirts that are crumpled up, smelled like bleach, dirty, disgusting,” Choon recalled. “But to me it was like a treasure.” He bought many more bags from the seller, and washed, ironed and tagged them to get them ready for sale. He shared his actions on TikTok.
He brought vintage clothes and cannabis to the Hester Street market. The TikTok postings of his have sparked an explosion in interest.
“So now I’m this micro influencer overnight,” he said.
He needed to find a storage space for his clothes as he bought more to sell at fairs. He found a store on Craigslist, “really cheap because it was still during Covid,” and in serious need of repair.
He spent some of his cryptocurrency earnings to prepare the space for a sample sales, and at this sale he sold enough money to pay for renovations.
Choon, CEO of the Bowery Showroom, is now a retail space that sells clothes and cannabis. The store attracts influencers and creatives by allowing brands to pay for their clothing to be displayed. The store also offers a tattoo artist and direct-to garment printer.
Choon’s marketing agency offers services from conception to completion. It employs videographers and editors, as well as social media writers, to create content. There’s also a hospitality component.
Choon, looking back, noted that he had never created a business strategy for his companies before he began. He learned from his mistakes.
“My biggest teacher is the experience itself,” he said. “Understanding what my customers wanted, what I wanted, what performed well, trial and error, those are all things that got us to this point. But my professional background, things I was interested in when I was young, provided me the foundation.”
Julia-Barrett-Mitchell contributed to this story.