Hamilton Day: Shining a Light on Small Business

Written by Marin Hudson

December 13, 2023

Marin is a community-minded designer who finds joy in all things creative, and in connecting and supporting others. From designing an annual report to crafting the perfect pizza, she thrives in collaborating with a team to make ideas come to life.

Hamilton Day is a city-wide celebration, uplifting the #HamOnt community and supporting small businesses. The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce first held Hamilton Day in 1931 during the depths of the Great Depression to boost spirits and the local economy. In 2021, the Hamilton Chamber revived the event to support small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. A great success, the Chamber has now made Hamilton Day an annual event!

What is Hamilton Day, and what’s so great about it?

First of all, it’s FREE! Hamilton Day happens across the city, put on by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and organizations, and most importantly — the people of Hamilton. It is free to attend* or participate and the Chamber hosts a schedule on their website each year to highlight events across the city. This year, the event saw 1000 participating businesses, 14 markets, 5 concerts, 25 pop-up performances, and 28 featured programs. There is so much to see and explore!

Katie Stiel, the Manager of Strategic Initiatives at the Hamilton Chamber, led the team as they planned and executed Hamilton Day 2023. Having managed the event since 2021, she noted how exciting it was to see the event grow over the last 3 years.

As a local business, Needlework participated in Hamilton 2023 and said the vibes were immaculate. “People were genuinely excited to visit us, and all the extra love and support we received felt like a gift,” said Needlework owner, Liz Simpson. “Hamiltonians are fiercely loyal and continually show up for us and the people/communities/businesses they love, and Hamilton Day was like a great big giant hug!”

What’s better than that?!

As a business, why should I participate in Hamilton Day?

Katie is the expert on this: “Hamilton Day is a great opportunity for businesses to engage with the community, foster and develop relationships with patrons, and profile their services and products. Participation is FREE, and all businesses are encouraged to participate in a way that best suits their ability. Whether it’s offering a discount or weekend-only activity, or simply putting up their hand to come say “check me out’, all are welcome.”

Hamilton Day is a really low barrier way to connect with the community, and we were in awe of its growth and presence across the city this year. Whether you want to see art, go shopping, hear music, or simply explore, the Hamilton creativity really shines on Hamilton Day. Looking ahead to 2024, mark Hamilton Day on your calendar (on/around November 2) and start thinking about how your business could show up.

As Liz notes, “By simply participating in Hamilton Day (however that looks for you), you are then supporting your fellow small biz neighbours. A rising tide lifts all ships!”

What’s the best part of Hamilton Day?

Katie says it’s really hard to choose! “In addition to working with our fun and vibrant brand, I love Hamilton Day’s purpose and the wave of creativity and support that the community brings to the event. While it’s exciting to see new/loved partnerships develop, there are always new and exciting community surprises — from activations to celebratory performances. This year we also successfully expanded the one-day event to include four days of programming via concerts and kick-off activities, adding a whole new layer of fun ways to celebrate our city and local business community. We also brought our mascot, Pepe the Paper Bag, to life via a mascot costume.”

As a small business supporting local businesses and organizations, take our advice: get in on it!

Planning events, preparing promotional materials, and generally marketing your business/organization can come at a high cost. Events like Hamilton Day provide a platform for you to market your business in a more accessible way, depending on your budget and capacity. 

  • Have limited resources? Offer a discount for folks that shop at your business on Hamilton Day!
  • Have a lot of amazing volunteers? Consider a face painting event or donation drive to draw support. 
  • Want to go big? Create Hamilton Day exclusive product or offering to get people excited about what you do. 

No matter how you show up, the point is that you DO.

How to get involved for Hamilton Day 2024

Registration for Hamilton Day 2024 will open in early October and will consist of filling out a simple 2 minute form on the Hamilton Day website (hamiltonday.ca). From there, all businesses receive free website promotion via the online map, as well as free promotional assets (posters and social media graphics) to signal their participation. Registered businesses also receive a free 3 month membership to GetintheLoop (the official app partner of Hamilton Day) to further their reach and expand their audiences. Building on the success of 2023, we’re excited to see the impact of Hamilton Day 2024, and encourage all local-loving businesses to join in!

Note: some events, such as markets or concerts, might have a fee to participate.

Kitestring is a Hamilton-based design and marketing agency specializing in branding, marketing and campaign strategy, and annual report design. Whether you’re a socially-conscious organization, non-profit, or community-led business, we’ll take on your marketing so you can focus on your top priorities.

Written by Marin Hudson

December 13, 2023

Marin is a community-minded designer who finds joy in all things creative, and in connecting and supporting others. From designing an annual report to crafting the perfect pizza, she thrives in collaborating with a team to make ideas come to life.

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