McMaster grads & business owners hit the road to give to communities in need

Three people standing outdoors, all wearing toques and smiling at the camera. One is holding a pile of toques, while the other two are holding clear, plastic bags containing toques.

(From left to right) Degroote business graduates Casey Rogan, Matt Carter and Matthew Milne are the co-founders of Toques From The Heart, a company that sells toques. For every toque sold, the company donates a toque to someone experiencing homelessness. (Photo courtesy Toques From The Heart).

As we mark Global Entrepreneurship Week at McMaster, we are highlighting the innovative thinkers working to turn ideas into reality. Stay tuned to Daily News all week long as we share stories of McMaster community members whose entrepreneurial skills are making real-world impact.

Three years ago, three McMaster business students set out on a mission — to warm heads and hearts across the country. Thanks to a recent road trip, the trio, who are now McMaster graduates, are that much closer to their goal.

Casey Rogan, Matt Carter and Matthew Milne are the co-founders of Toques From The Heart, a business that sells wool toques. For every toque the company sells, another is donated to someone experiencing homelessness.

They hit the road this month for ‘The Stay Warm Together Tour,’ driving from Toronto to Halifax, visiting 12 non-profits and donating 4,000 toques along the way.

Carter said it was important to the group to make in-person connections with their giving partners outside of the Hamilton region.

“The original idea was going across Canada, but this year we’ll be going all the way out east for a 10-day trip,” shared Carter in an interview before the group hit the road.

He also said they intended to volunteer and use the time to give to those in need in the communities they were travelling through.

“We’ll be serving food on certain days, making gift baskets to donate, and sharing our journey online to show our following different ways they can also help out,” said Carter.

Buy-a-toque, give-a-toque

Toques From The Heart began when Milne — who has a love for hockey — began looking for another use for the vast collection of hockey socks he had acquired.

His mom, a pro-seamstress, let him know that she could turn the hockey sock into a toque.

Enter Carter and Rogan, fellow students in the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster, and soon, Toques From The Heart was born.

“We started off with repurposing Canadians’ hockey socks, and then it turned bigger than expected. We shifted to a buy-a-toque give-a-toque model, so for every toque sold one was donated to an individual experiencing homelessness,” shares Carter.

A hand holding four wool toques against a background of greenery and snow
Toques From The Heart partners with non-profits and charities across Canada to distribute toques to those in need (Photo courtesy Toques From the Heart).

They began locally, selling and sharing their toques within the Hamilton community, and now, three years later, have sold their products in every Canadian province and territory.

“As soon as we started gaining some press, we gained incredible support, and more articles were written about our story and what we’re doing,” said Carter.

“We also got involved with The Forge, a start-up incubator that helped us with issues we’ve never dealt with before,” said Carter.

Through connecting to professors both after-class and during office hours, the Toque team was able to gain plenty of guidance and support.

Carter also shared a turning point for the McMaster graduates — seeing their toques at the Mac Campus Store.

“We had to stand in front of the toques and process how they were right in front of us at the store,” says Carter. “It was something we’d always mention to each other, ‘imagine seeing our product at our own school’s campus store.’”

Looking to the future, the team has big plans for Toques From The Heart, with potential plans of making their products available on an international scale.

Learn more about Toques From The Heart here. See more about the ‘Stay Warm Together Tour’ on their Instagram page.

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