Meet Jack Harding, Toronto-based entrepreneur and founding member of UHN Impact Collective
While studying Fashion Management at George Brown College, Jack Harding’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked into high gear. He started his first business, one of two he’d have acquired before the age of 25, and launched a career within the competitive arena of Canadian business development and marketing.
Now Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Diner Agency, Jack works to provide accessible marketing solutions to several businesses across various sectors. Volunteering his expertise with University Health Network’s (UHN) Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation, Jack has championed their new social media ambassador program, UHN Impact Xchange. We caught up with Jack to talk business—including the power of influencer marketing and the details of the virtual Serving Knowledge Supper Club with TL Insider on December 1.
Tell us a bit about your introduction to the world of entrepreneurialism. Have you always been this business-savvy?
Growing up, my family ran their own plumbing company, so the entrepreneurial spirit was always there. I dropped out of university while studying International Economics & Finance at Ryerson. I switched to George Brown’s fashion program, where I started my first company—a fashion and lifestyle website. It was a lot of fun to do, and it launched during the very early stages of social media. This was when blogs were the source of information online. I grew that site to over a million readers a month, which ultimately helped get it acquired.
What was your inspiration and approach to starting Diner Agency?
After reconnecting with my now business partner, Maleah Sparks, we realized our work had taken a similar direction since interning together years prior and we decided to partner. Our whole approach has been to offer cost-effective solutions to small and medium-sized businesses. We try to solve our clients’ problems by sitting with them at a partner level. Our suggestions don’t always mean marketing and often come from a place where we seek a business solution first. This might mean approaching different communities, working on rebrands or even refreshing existing package designs. It’s about building a relationship with the client to learn what some of their struggles have been, being sure to avoid those struggles and coming out of them stronger. It’s why we’re so proud that the majority of our clients have been with us since inception.
How did you begin volunteering with UHN?
My relationship with UHN began while I was doing work for the Foundation. It came up that they were starting the volunteer-based UHN Impact Collective and they thought my expertise and passion for the cause would be a fantastic fit. UHN’s growing list of research breakthroughs and the overall healthcare service perspective is very inspiring; I couldn’t not be a part of that.
What sort of advantage does your marketing background offer in your volunteer work?
My marketing background comes in handy from a communications standpoint. Understanding how to take something as broad as the work of UHN—to pick and tell those stories to people within a network has been great. In this approach, we’ve worked together to develop an ambassador program called the UHN Impact Xchange.
It’s an opportunity for people to participate by leveraging their networks online—understanding both that influencers and everyday people who choose to share our story can reach an audience of family and friends. We’ll be organizing fundraisers throughout the year, supporting causes and bringing a larger group of people to rally around the successes and goals of UHN.
What do you think differentiates influencer outreach from more traditional marketing methods?
In my experience working with people who have large online followings and passionate fan bases, I have seen first-hand what an emotional connection and a personal story can have on business. And it is no different in fundraising. It’s ultimately a very human (and very effective) way of reaching people.
For those interested in joining the Impact Xchange, what makes a social media ambassador?
If you have the time and are willing to share a post with your online network, it’s an easy way to get involved. Ambassadors are not restricted by location, following or skillset. Our goal is to make this opportunity as accessible as possible, rally people, and share something as a common good. An onboarding session will get ambassadors up to date on the type of content they can share and work with pre-developed social media posts.
Especially this year, the need for UHN has never been as important, simply as a result of COVID-19. If maybe you’ve been financially impacted by the pandemic, and can’t give financially, or if you are just looking for a way to increase your support, this is a great way to give back. In reaching someone who might make a donation or get involved, your participation will make an impact.
We’re excited to have you join TL Insider for the Serving Knowledge virtual event on Giving Tuesday – December 1! Can you share with us any details of what members can look forward to?
This will be our fourth virtual Serving Knowledge event this year and the one that I am most passionate about. The focus will be on the inequities Indigenous and racialized communities in Canada face. The pandemic has made these inequities, especially related to health care, more apparent than ever.
We will hear from UHN’s Dr. Lisa Richardson, Dr. Andrew Boozary and Sané Dube about the work being done to build an Indigenous health strategy at UHN and new models of healthcare delivery to meet the challenges faced by patients with complex health and social needs. We can make an impact together on Giving Tuesday by gaining knowledge, taking action, and supporting healthcare.