Connecting Hamilton through event planning

white male sitting facing camera - Matthew Surina

By Meaghan Drury ‘12 and Lynn Matisz ‘13

While working the Hamilton-area comedy circuit, Broadcasting-Radio grad Matthew Surina ’08 got an idea. He could use the connections he was developing and the knowledge he was obtaining to create his own event management business. After running a sketch-comedy festival in 2013 and 2014, Matthew saw the holes in the behind-the-scenes process. He found he was especially skilled at identifying what needed to be done, like marketing and negotiating contracts. “I realized I enjoyed the process of announcing an event, promoting it and seeing it through to the end. And I was good at it too.”

Hub of the Hammer officially launched in 2016 with a three-pillar focus. One, hosting their own events. Two, helping people and businesses plan their own events. Three, helping the creative arts scene find more stable contract work. “The caveat is that everything we do in Hamilton has to be local. All the vendors and venues need to be local to the city and our goal is to find more work for artists and other people who rely on the gig economy,” explains Matthew. “In addition to promoting the creative scene within the city.”

From his Mohawk days, Matthew has grown the skills he developed in the classroom. “The radio broadcasting program brought me out of my shell and encouraged me to be more creative.” It prepared him for his first job working in radio, writing commercials and producing. The program also helped him build his skills for working with people.

No day is the same for most entrepreneurs, but that is especially true in event management. Matthew enjoys the variety of each day and the chaos of making sure everything is completed. “The challenge is coming up with ways to top ourselves,” he says. “You want to spend more time promoting the fact that we do private events while also maintaining the public ones too.”

In a typical month, Hub of the Hammer runs four to five weekly event nights for things like trivia or movie nights, and three to four monthly nights, like comedy shows. They are also one of the organizers behind larger-scale events like the I Heart Beer Festivals that are held twice a year in Hamilton, Guelph, London and Kitchener.

As COVID-19 began to spread in mid-March 2020, things changed for Matthew and his business. “Everything we do is on hold. Everything is postponed—for the right reasons obviously.” He’s taking it all in stride and has adapted to a virtual world for the time being. “We’re dabbling in different online events to stay present and stay top of mind so when this does finally end, we will have more of an audience to pull from for our personal events, as well as potential private clients.”

Over the past five years, Hub of the Hammer has built a reputation on its trivia nights in the city which are run at local bars and restaurants. Recently, they’ve launched a weekly online version through Facebook Live with prizes for the top teams in the form of gift certificates to support the local businesses they’ve worked with over the years. They’re also hosting weekly movie viewing parties using the Netflix Party platform. “We’re just rolling with it as best we can and hope for the best,” says Matthew. “It would be very easy to just lay around and wait for this to be over, but as a small business, you would crumble. You have to find ways to make it work for you.”

Now, Matthew looks forward to the day that businesses re-open and things can start returning to normal operations. Although he anticipates things will likely move slowly at first, he hopes it’ll change some people’s perspectives too. “I think people will take fewer things for granted because we’ve seen what it feels like when things are taken away,” he says. “It makes you focus on what’s important—supporting your community.”

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