Business Out of the Box Lab

Scadding Court shipping container market in Toronto, Ontario (image credit: Scadding Court)

Scadding Court shipping container market in Toronto, Ontario (image credit: Scadding Court)


Business Out of the Box is an initiative that uses retired shipping containers to create affordable spaces for low-income individuals to launch small businesses within a community. Inspired by similar projects implemented locally and globally, the Business Out of the Box Lab will explore whether a made-in-Hamilton solution can be prototyped in Hamilton over the summer of 2018. In April 2017, an initial exploratory workshop engaged with a variety of stakeholders to identify issues to consider when scoping a prototype and the feasibility of a pilot, including:

  • Business Modelling: What will the business case for a pilot look like?
  • Permits, Licensing, Zoning, & Servicing: What operational aspects need to be considered when planning for a Hamilton-based prototype?
  • Engagement & the Local Context: A community engagement process based on best practices should engage with residents, businesses, and other community stakeholders to get their insights and input on the concept.


Project Proposal

Based on this initial exploratory work, this project will require a group of graduate students to scope out the potential steps needed to launch a prototype over summer 2018, with a focus on exploring the following:

  • Design: Given the constraints identified, what is the ideal type of container for this project? Is it possible to create a container that is made locally and made to be self-sufficient (e.g. no utility hook-ups)? What type of materials could be used to create a basic prototype that could function over summer 2018?
  • Feasibility: If a box were designed to serve the purpose of the project, is there interest in the community to use this type of space for a small business? If so, who would be the business users and who would be their target audience?
  •  Location: Where could this project be prototyped in Hamilton?
  • Opportunities for Alignment: Identifying areas, projects, and issues in Hamilton where this project could ideally align. Examples include:
  • Light Rail Transit (LRT) Displacement: During construction of the new LRT project, a number of businesses will be displaced. This project could provide a short-term solution for those businesses.
  • West Harbour Development: The City of Hamilton is in the early stages of a massive development of Hamilton’s West Harbour. The long-term goal is to include shops in specific locations along the waterfront. This project could help serve as a pilot for specific shop locations along the waterfront.
  • Project Risks: What concerns might arise as the project develops? What should the project team take into consideration when moving this idea forward?