I was thrilled when asked to attend the secondary annual 1Awards presented by First Ontario Credit Union this past Monday. Now, overlooking how contrived that sentence seems to me, I sincerely had an amazing time talking with young entrepreneurs in the city and chatting with sponsors. This event has unfortunately already passed, but the opportunity to promote an event that so readily embodies the cultural “renaissance” happening in Hamilton right now was too great to pass up.
The 1Awards launched last year with the intention of helping small business owners in Hamilton with $125 000 in cash and professional services from partnering sponsors. First Ontario has come together with other generous sponsors this year to offer winners expert marketing, media, and financial support. Interested participants were required to fill out an application and give an engaging presentation for judges (as represented by the sponsors).
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the three winners from this year and discuss their backgrounds, future goals, and undeniable love for Hamilton. All seemed to agree that without this city of ours, they would not have been able to pursue their dreams in the same way.
Bakers Josie Rudderham and Nicole Miller first met while in school at Niagara College. After losing touch for many years, they swear by a one time coffee date that brought them together in business. Discussing their lives and goals they realized that Cake & Loaf Bakery was a distant dream that they both wanted to pursue. Now some years later, after the great support of city council and the Hamilton community, these girls are on the way to opening another store front. Plans for the future include, of course, opening this second location and offering baking classes for customers. What did they say when asked how Hamilton has shaped their business? No other city would have been the perfect fit like Hamilton: the tight social media presence of the cultural community, support of the often-discussed renaissance, and genuine warmth of the people equal one thing—the perfect recipe for Rudderham and Miller.
Entrepreneur Martinus Geleynse has certainly seen transformation with MGI Media from an initial small video production company. Given involvement in the Hamilton24 festival and founding Urbanicity magazine, Gelenyse has
taken his media expertise to local companies with media and advertising support. Though hoping to move forward with growth and offering more services with MGI Media, he notes that he will always have a “soft spot” for his objet d’art Urbanicity. Of course, Hamilton plays a big role in the path his company has taken: the so-described “Wild West” is full of people rallying behind rebuilding the city and furthermore there is “opportunity for everything” according to Geleynse.
Though different in scope from the other winners, REfficient and their commitment to the environment and corporate responsibility makes them an admirable choice for the 1Awards. Founder Stephanie McLarty has developed a technology-based solution for a common wasteful problem in the corporate world: the improper disposal of outdated technologies. She found that a few years ago there was the need and opportunity for such a service, especially with the rapid improvements in technologies that require constant upgrading and phasing-out. Again, Hamilton was a key part in McLarty’s success not only from cultural perspective but from an economic perspective: “You can be someone here… from a cost perspective it is also great when you are trying to get your feet off the ground”. Moving forward, McLarty hopes to offer new features, expand her geographical reach to service more countries, and increase education about the 3Rs (as learned in school—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!)
And so, dear reader, I strongly encourage you to consider the amazing opportunities available to you in Hamilton. If not taking the big leap of opening your own business, at least get to know and support the entrepreneurs living near you. You will be pleasantly surprised at the growth Hamilton is fostering.