U of T entrepreneur to 'make the world a little more inclusive one necklace at a time'
As she pursues a career working with people with disabilities, University of Toronto student Amanda Sottile decided in the summer of 2020 to launch what she calls an “inclusive, high-quality” jewelry business.
Her company, Haven & Co., sells necklaces with add-on magnetic clasps designed for individuals who face challenges with their fine motor skills. The magnetic clasps are also sold individually and can be added to any necklace to make it more accessible.
Ten per cent from every order is donated to a charity that’s selected monthly.
“This lets them put necklaces on and off with ease,” says Sottile, who is in her third year in the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education. “Haven & Co. offers inclusive, high-quality jewelry that can be used and loved by all.
“My goal is to make the world a little more inclusive one necklace at a time.”
While in high school, Sottile says she got interested in weight training and wanted to be an athletic therapist for a sports team. But her focus later shifted after she started volunteering – and eventually working – as a special education instructional assistant at CE Academy, a multidisciplinary therapeutic and education facility based on the conductive education (CE) model and philosophy for children with any condition affecting their motor (physical) development.
“I decided then that I wanted to be a physical therapist for youth and individuals with physical disabilities,” she says.
Over the past three years as a U of T Kinesiology student, she has considered a number of different career paths other than physical therapy, but she is steadfast about wanting to work with youth or adults with disabilities.
As part of her research course at KPE, she is working with Associate Professor Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos and her research team to find the best strategies to foster quality participation on playgrounds for youth and children with disabilities. She is also working at the Jays Care Foundation on their inclusive programs teams, as part of the faculty’s in-field learning program.
Why did she decide to launch a jewelry business in the middle of the pandemic?
“I have always loved jewelry and accessories, but this venture allowed me to merge my love for accessories and my passion for helping individuals of all abilities by creating inclusive jewelry,” she says.
Although Sottile is the sole owner of Haven & Co., she says she would not be able to run her business without the help of her support system, including her parents, sister, friends, boyfriend and dog.
“My mom recently knit me jewelry pouches and my dad is my IT support and does all the post office runs,” she says. “My lovely sister and friends model my jewelry for all my photoshoots and are always wearing it and showing it off.”
Sottile says her boyfriend acts as a soundboard for her ideas and offers encouragement, while her puppy helps with the recycling by ripping up the cardboard boxes after they’ve been used.
“I’m so grateful for their support,” says Sottile. “It really is a family affair.”