Harry’s Hackathons Thrive Through Community Building

Employees at the Shaving-Supplies Business Partnered With the Charity City Year

Members of one of Harry’s hackathon teams take a break during their problem-solving work for the charity group City Year.

Members of one of Harry’s hackathon teams take a break during their problem-solving work for the charity group City Year.

What They Do

Four years ago, when Jeff Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield started their direct-sale shaving-supplies business, Harry’s, they wanted their company to have a conscience. So, they immediately took on a nonprofit partner — the New York chapter of a national charity called City Year that organizes young AmeriCorps volunteers to mentor students in disadvantaged urban areas.

Harry’s donates 1 percent of its sales to City Year and encourages its 140 employees to help out as volunteers.

But the co-founders wondered if they could help more, so two years ago they launched a day-long “hackathon” and invited their employees to spend a day helping City Year figure out how to “Grow the Circle” and keep the charity’s 22,000 alumni involved as volunteers. The result was a community building event amongst Harry’s employees that helped the charity thrive.

“It was a way to inspire out-of-the-box thinking, to help solve a complicated problem with a road map for how to make it happen,” says Raider.

How They Do It         

Problem-solving teams with names like City Crush and Hack to the Future, each sporting colorful team shirts, combined employees from every Harry’s department. They drafted ideas and then pitched them to the other teams. “There was a spirit of friendly competition,” says Raider.

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Finally, a panel of judges from City Year selected the winner: a prototype of a microwebsite to which alumni could submit stories memorializing their time with City Year.

Another cross-functional team of Harry’s employees then worked with City Year for five months to build the website and a social media campaign. The result: more than 450 alumni-submitted stories. Plus, the nonprofit raised $13,127 from people in City Year sites, with a 42 percent increase in new alumni donors from the previous year.

Rachel Peck, a staff manager at Harry’s, is in charge of supervising Harry’s relationship with City Year. She says she loved the hackathon experience.

“I had a great time — it was a really high-energy event,” she says. “I left feeling that Harry’s is a special place.” She also points to unanticipated benefits. “It makes people feel more engaged, more tied to our nonprofit partner,” she says. “One of the reasons I love working at Harry’s is we really care about the impact we make.”

This year Raider and Katz-Mayfield decided to adjust the original hackathon format to solve more specialized projects. Now, smaller groups of Harry’s volunteers work directly with City Year’s teachers and students to help them solve specific problems, a project also focusing on employee engagement. One team visited the nonprofit’s office to work on résumé writing, for instance. “The company is bigger, but we still want to give back and have an impact,” says Peck.

This content originally appeared in the Pathways department in the Fall 2016 issue of B Magazine. Read more about employee engagement initiatives from the same issue: The Golden Hairball: How West Paw Design Harnesses Employee EngagementHow an Employee-Driven Stewardship Council Can Raise B Impact ScoresCrafting Quick and Effective Business Solutions With Engineers.

Image courtesy of Harry’s.

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