December 7, 2023 | Alumni
Unique gifts from small businesses run by U of T Scarborough alumni
By Alexa Battler
These little luxuries make great gifts and support alumni businesses.
The holidays is the best time to give the gift of self-care. Whether it's an indulgent treat or a soothing fragrance, a moment of calm can be just what your loved one needs in the chaos of December. We’ve rounded up a list of businesses run by U of T Scarborough alum (and one by the community pillar Scarborough Spots) with products that’ll show your giftee you care. Maybe there’s also something for you here too.
A natural perfume with a purpose
Glow Ritual’s wellness perfumes not only smell nice, they can also add an invigorating, mindful ritual to your giftee’s day. Just spritz a small amount on pulse points (such as the wrists) and/or the ends of the hair and enjoy an artisan-crafted scent inspired by the environment and intended to evoke different feelings. Don’t worry about damage, all the company’s products are free of synthetics, parabens and harmful chemicals.
The Amalfi fragrance is a citrusy blend designed to spur joy, Tulum is one for serenity, and the popular Marrakech scent conjures blooms and warm spices to embody feelings of love. Glow Ritual is owned by alum Sumera Nabi (BA UTSC), and you can use the code “UTSC” at checkout for a bonus gift with your purchase.
Body butter that seriously hydrates
If dry or sensitive skin — or even Eczema — is among your giftee’s winter woes, this hand and body butter is designed to hydrate skin for 24 hours and reduce irritation from dryness, all without leaving a greasy finish. Free of parabens, phthalates, gluten and sulphates, it’s made of only three natural ingredients: almond butter, which is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids; hazelnut oil, to stimulate blood flow and tighten skin; and litsea essential oil for a lemony scent. It also comes in a recyclable glass container topped by a bamboo lid.
Natural Organic Matters (NORM), run by alum Chevon Riley (BSc 2020 UTSC), is certified by Health Canada, and donates a portion of all proceeds to Toronto Tree and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
A chocolate hazelnut spread that’s good for the body and planet
Give a sweet gift free of added sugar with dairy-free, gluten-free, palm-oil-free spreads from Mounib. There are only three ingredients in alum Iman Mounib's (BA 2017 UTSC) take on the chocolate hazelnut spread: hazelnuts, organic, fair-trade cocoa powder and honey courtesy of local Mennonite communities. A vegan option swaps honey for organic cane sugar, and a peanut chocolate version is designed for fans of chocolate peanut butter cups. All spreads come in reusable, locally sourced glass jars, and you can get them online or at several farmer’s markets, restaurants and stores around Toronto (check their website for more in-person locations).
A tiny cabin vacation that makes off-the-grid easy
This one’s a pricier gift at around $150 to $200 per night for a getaway, but it’s one that promises to be memorable. Cabinscape, by alum Laura Mendes (BA 2005 UTSC) and Johnathan Loerchner (BA 2005 UTSC), has a range of custom, eco-friendly tiny cabins on private properties overlooking lakes, rivers, trails and nature around southern Ontario.
Gift a night, a weekend, or choose the “Cabin Chaser” package and send your giftees on a mystery three-day road trip with a surprise itinerary that takes them through local gems, scenic landmarks and two unique cabins. There are other packages for romantics, adventurers, dog lovers and more, and a self-care kit is available at all cabins, full of spa products from local artisans in plastic-free packaging. Plus, get $25 off your first trip and stay in the loop by signing up for their newsletter.
A beauty box subscription or a clean product
A surprising amount of chemicals in beauty products are straight up toxic, from carcinogens linked with cancers to neurotoxins that disrupt hormone production. That’s why alum Lily Tse (BA 2001 UTSC) founded Think Dirty, a company that analyzes millions of cosmetics for skincare, wellness, makeup, hair, body and more. The platform calculates the potential health impact of each ingredient to give products a “clean” rating.
You can gift a smorgasbord of the cleanest products in a range of beauty box subscriptions, including a limited edition holiday box, a roulette box and a one-time purchase option. The boxes range in pricing, but you can use the Think Dirty app or check out the company’s Clean Beautique to find products you can be confident about (or you can be sneaky and break the box’s contents into multiple gifts or stocking stuffers).
Gourmet vegan cheeses that actually melt
These cheeses might make your giftee do a double take — they’re free of dairy, nuts and gluten but still bubble, broil and melt like the real deal. VEGCHEESE, founded by alum Lori Sroujian (BBA 2007 UTSC), has flavours in fresh mozzarella, garlic and chive and Italian black truffle, along with a bag of curds, all made in Ontario in small batches with a base of organic soy milk and coconut oil. Pick them up online or in Whole Foods across Ontario.
A cozy sweater or shirt that shares their Scarborough pride
For the giftee that wears their Scarborough pride on their sleeve, these sweaters and shirts also give back to the east end. All net profits from this line go to the Scarborough Health Network Foundation and support the Love, Scarborough campaign, a movement to address the severe lack of donations Scarborough hospitals receive compared to the rest of Toronto.
There’s also a range of other retro Scarborough sweaters to snuggle up in from Scarborough Spots, including a popular pullover that puts a map of Scarborough right over your heart, and others that celebrate specific east-end neighbourhoods.