Written by Andrew Seale

Every year the holidays roll around and recycle bins strain to contain layer upon layer of packaging, gift boxes, and single-use wrapping paper. This is how we choose to start and end our year. But it flows throughout, gift-giving as a language of love both familial and otherwise.

Peter Deitz, serial social entrepreneur and founder of UnWrapIt is hoping to change the way we give for the better. UnWrapIt creates a unique gift opening experience by letting users send gifts via email wrapped in a digital paper of sorts in the form of multiple choice questions, a scavenger hunt, personal photos, or a charitable donation. The gift, whether it’s an experience or something physical, is included as a photo or description with a link to whatever the gift giver wants it to be.

“I grew up in a household where gift giving was a very important love language… to reinforce and deepen connections,” says Deitz. “And as an environmentally-minded person, it just seems so tragic that one of humanity’s love languages is in opposition to what the planet needs.”

UnWrapIt lets users carry on the tradition of showing love through gift giving but in a way that’s not harmful to the planet. In less than a year since launching, 150 gifts have been given through the platform, a number Deitz anticipates growing through the holiday season. “2019 will be our breakthrough year,” he says adding that so far, users have found “ a variety of uses for the platform I could not have foreseen.”

UnWrapIt just started collaborating with SickKids, Action Against Hunger, Toronto Tool Library, Cycle Toronto, and One Tree Planted.

“With those collaborations, each of them has their own landing page and on that landing page we set up prebuilt bundles,” says Deitz. Users can give any gift they want, wrapped in, say, a  $36 donation to SickKids to hire a therapeutic clown to visit patients.

Companies are also using UnWrapIt this season to give out employee gifts, be it for the holidays or parting/retirement. Deitz admits there’s an education challenge since the concept of UnWrapIt is unprecedented. “We've built something totally unique… (it’s) a paradigm shift and there is an explanation and vocabulary we have to pin down and communicate to users.”

But Deitz says he’s up for it, having hedged his career as an entrepreneur on changing narratives. This is his second company, his first being Grantbook, a consultancy which helps grantmakers leverage digital tools to be more effective. Deitz launched Grantbook in 2012, also in Toronto.

“Toronto is a leader in support for social entrepreneurs,” says Deitz, adding that both enterprises leveraged the city’s Centre for Social Innovation. “I moved to Toronto from Montreal because of the Centre for Social Innovation and the community that it offered me as an entrepreneur – it’s the world's first co-working space that happens to be socially-minded and community-driven.”

UnWrapIt is a part of the CSI’s Climate Ventures incubator focused on climate change solutions. It’s the first of its kind in Toronto, but Deitz is quick to point out that CSI has been around for nearly 15 years.

The city is also host to a number of social finance vehicles, including the second largest conference on social financing for social purpose businesses.

“The Social Finance Forum happens every year and has been for 10 years,” says Deitz. “Toronto also has a growing angel (population) and community of impact investors… from my perspective as an entrepreneur I've got all the ingredients that I need to develop UnWrapIt as well as other companies in the future.”

Photo by Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)