Written by Andrew Seale

We can have a more sustainable future, we’ll just need to make it ourselves. That’s the ethos behind Toronto startup Make this Universe, which designs eco-conscious Do-It-Yourself skincare kits and workshops; this notion that the more hands-on we can be with the products we use daily, the closer we get to understanding the footprint these products have from an environmental perspective. 

“It goes so far beyond just the five or ten minutes they spend with the kit – it actually impacts their purchasing behaviour in the future,” explains founder Jessye Grundlingh. “That really just makes them feel so much more empowered.”

Grundlingh launched Make This Universe after selling her stake in Area91, an industrial design studio she co-founded. 

“I had a little bit of startup cash from selling the business,” says the entrepreneur. “I’d been designing products for other businesses but I always knew in the back of my mind I wanted my own product business.” 

But that desire to create was innate. How could it not be? Grundlingh had grown up in Cape Town, South Africa to artist parents, and had been using her hands to make things since she could remember. She immigrated to Canada at 23-years-old to study industrial design at OCAD University, graduating with a master’s degree in 2016. It seemed inevitable that she’d find a way to pass that affinity towards creating things herself onto others. 

Make This Universe embodies her personal philosophy perfectly. Grundlingh says she’s drawn inspiration from the zero waste community as well.  

“I just thought, there's no kind of cute, accessible DIY skincare company out there that people can go to when they want to start making their own simple anhydrous (waterless) skincare products,” she says. “I felt it would be a great opportunity for me to marry my passion for creating, product design, packaging, and branding to this unmet need.” 

She says she recognizes it’s a niche market, but one she suspects will grow considering the conversations surrounding climate change and the plastic waste issues in the cosmetics industry.

“I don't see a lot of people changing their lifestyle to the point where they're creating every product,” says Grundlingh. It does, however, offer some solace when customers realize “they're either using the wrong product or they actually had no idea what the product did in the first place.” 

She says going through the process of making it themselves helps them to understand the ingredients. And there’s an appetite for that understanding, says the Make This Universe founder. 

“I find that Canadians are very open-minded when it comes to more natural products or more thoughtfully sustainable angles of traditional products,” she says. “Both Toronto and Vancouver would be great markets for me and I just love the existing structures available for entrepreneurs in Toronto.”

Currently, Grundlingh is working out of Make Lemonade, a female-focused coworking space. 

“Being a solo founder this time around is so isolating and stressful,” she says. “(But) Make Lemonade is a huge community of mostly female-identifying people who are having the same experience… they've tapped into the grassroots needs of (this) entrepreneurial community in Toronto and they're serving us with the exact tools that we need.”

Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)