Brewing a relationship: DC alumni continues to give back

Jeff Dornan has always prided himself on his work ethic.

While completing the Durham College (DC) Business – General program, in tandem with Ontario Tech University’s Bachelor of Commerce, he also worked full-time, leaving little time for extracurriculars.

Now, as co-owner of Oshawa-based All or Nothing Brewhouse, the DC alum has continued to nurture a relationship with the college, finding new ways to connect and give back.

“As an alumnus and local business owner, I’ve always looked to Durham College as a guiding light in the area, and I wanted to do more than be a supplier and partner, I wanted to help guide the direction of the college and contribute to its continued growth.” said Dornan, who joined the DC Board of Governors in 2023.

As a student, Dornan said he valued the hands-on experience and microlearning gained at DC, which helped as he and his brother, Eric, kicked off their craft beer business in 2013.

Starting as contract brewers, the brothers produced their recipe at other facilities and running distribution out of their small office in south Oshawa. After a few years of growth, they purchased Trafalgar Brewery in Oakville and rebranded it All or Nothing Brewhouse, but with their sights always set on returning to Oshawa, they purchased the old Beer Store location on Ritson Road and opened in the spring of 2019.

Always with their roots in Durham Region, when Bistro ’67 opened its doors in 2013, All or Nothing Brewhouse began partnering with the restaurant to create unique beers using ingredients from the fields at DC’s Centre for Food. Collaborations have included lemongrass, raspberries and sweet potatoes.

Dornan also helped launch Durham Lords Ale, which was sparked when the Campus Ice Centre wanted to serve a classic ale instead of the unique, experimental flavours All or Nothing was creating in partnership with Bistro ’67. As a result, the crisp and refreshing Durham Lords Ale was launched.

And, as another way to give back to DC, a portion of sales of Durham Lords Ale is contributed to DC’s Student Experience Fund which helps support student’s most pressing needs, from equipping teaching spaces to supporting financial aid.

“Our customers have been very supportive,” said Dornan. “People really want to support local businesses and we’re committed to keeping the money we earn in the community. We’re buying everything from our ingredients to our stickers locally. We’re really trying to be an engine for the community to grow – to see our neighbours do well as well as our own business.

“Staying connected to Durham College after graduation has been so helpful. It really is a hub for Durham Region and has been a great way to make connections.”

Alumna leading the way in her marketing career

Alumna spotlight: Brittany Garlin

Getting a coveted spot on the Forbes Communications Council is just the latest accomplishment in Durham College (DC) grad Brittany Garlin’s flourishing career.

Holding dual roles as head of marketing at Agency Vista and Vista Social, the 2016 graduate of the Advertising and Promotion program at DC was named to the Council earlier this year. An invitation-only organization for senior-level communications and public relations executives, it provides invaluable networking opportunities, while adding Garlin’s name to the esteemed list of Forbes contributors.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to be featured in Forbes or writing in Forbes,” she said. “When I’m doing partnerships with businesses, it gives me a layer of credibility, because they’re seeing the Forbes name associated with my name. It has definitely made me feel more confident.”

Garlin has plenty of reasons to be confident. In a relatively short amount of time, she has built an enviable marketing career from the ground-up and has excelled in the tech space. Her journey began soon after graduation, when she took a role as junior marketing manager at Keek, a popular social media video app.

“It was a really fun and cool experience. That was the first company that got me into tech,” she said. “It’s something I discovered I had a passion for. My path has never been set in stone. I’ve always just gone with what interests me and watched that evolve.”

In 2019 her path led her to a new company, Agency Vista. As one of the first three employees, she helped build it into a successful platform that connects businesses with marketing agencies to suit their needs. Last year, her responsibilities doubled with the launch of Vista Social. A social media management tool, it allows businesses to schedule their social media posts across various different social networks, view engagement analytics and more. It was also the first such tool to implement ChatGPT technology.

In helping to build both companies, she has called on a number of the lessons she learned at DC. Her tireless work ethic was influenced by her professors, many of whom were still working marketing jobs while teaching. She received a solid foundation in a number of crucial skills, from networking and bringing in customers to experiential marketing. She has even benefitted from courses she didn’t particularly enjoy, like learning to use Adobe Illustrator. Those skills later came in handy at her first job, when she had design skills nobody else could match.

Dawn Salter, professor and program coordinator, sees Garlin as a prime example of the kind of talented marketer DC can produce.

“Students come into the program because there’s something that they think they’re going to like about it, and then you just watch them develop. When they leave, that development continues and they end up flourishing,” said Salter. “Brittany found her passion in the industry. She had to go through some learning and try some different roles in the industry to find that fit.”

With years of marketing experience now under her belt, Garlin is giving back as a member of the advisory committee for her old DC program. By sharing the lessons and insights she has learned along the way, she is helping to shape the education tomorrow’s marketers will receive.

“They just need to realize that learning never stops,” she said. “The only way that you can stay ahead is if you continually keep learning and realize that you don’t know everything.”