Half way through a brutally hot summer, you might be fantasizing about snow. Us too. It's a quick mental trip from snow to the holiday season.
To figure out what might be on store shelves in December, this month we scooted over to the Holiday Expo in New York City. Two popular themes that seemed to grow even stronger this year were personalization and items made of recycled and repurposed materials.
We kept a keen eye out for gifts made by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, zeroing in on items that might be a good gift for the tech-savvy, time-crunched entrepreneur. Here's a shopping guide of our personal favorites.
Repurposed steel that keeps hackers at bay
Product: Stainless steel accessories
Company: Stewart/Stand in New York, N.Y.
Cost: Passport sleeves, $49.50; billfolds for men, $72; clutch wallets for women, $119.50 and up
Repurposed is the new chic. The accessories made by family-owned Stewart/Stand, carried by hip design stores like those at the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in New York, are made from repurposed industrial-grade stainless steel fabric. You have to touch them to believe: The steel feels like silk. Not only are they cool, sleek and eco-conscious, the steel protects your credit cards and passport from Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) hackers. RFID chips send out a signal to scan the information off your credit and debit cards. But if they're tucked away in a Stewart/Strand stainless steel billfold, the RFID signal can't get through.
A service that transforms old T-shirts
Product: Quilts made out of squares cut from your old clothes.
Company: Project Repat in Boston, Mass.
Cost: From $75 to $500, depending on size
Who doesn't have a pile of old T-shirts sitting in a corner of their bedroom? Often, we have trouble parting with them because they have a logo of a concert, school sports team or organization we love. Project Repat, founded by Nathan Rothstein (left, in photo above) and Ross Lohr, provides a way to turn that stack of old T-shirts into a conversation-starter that also keeps you cozy. When you send Project Repat your old clothes, it turns them into a quilt backed with fleece. In the past year, it's helped divert more than 200,000 shirts from landfills (and the bottom of crowded closets).
A fish tank and garden
Company: Back to the Roots in Oakland, Calif.
Cost: $60, which includes organic seeds, a Petco coupon and fish food
We can't help ourselves. This makes us want to go back to middle school biology class and learn about photosynthesis. We aren't alone, either. Co-founders Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora raised $250,000 in 30 days on Kickstarter for the launch of the AquaFarm. It is a self-cleaning fish tank that grows herbs or small greens such as basil, wheatgrass and mint. The AquaFarm hit shelves in Whole Foods and Nordstrom and on the company's website in late June. Petco will start carrying it in September.
A wearable camera
Product: Looxcie HD
Company: Looxcie in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Entrepreneurs are always connected. The Looxcie HD takes connectivity and sharing to a new level. With this wearable camera, you can live stream what you are seeing directly to Facebook. While perhaps unsuitable for the neighborhood bar, it's great for capturing outdoor adventures. The Looxcie HD comes with a weather resistant casing and mounting hardware so you can attach the camera to your hiking gear, baseball cap or ski helmet.
Gifts made just for you
Product: Personalized games and books.
Company: Pinhole Press in Latham, N.Y.
Cost: Memory game, $19.99; puzzle, $24.99; mini book of names and faces, $29.99
Personalization is big this year -- beyond just family-photo Christmas cards. Consider this: Remember playing the memory game when you were a kid, where you flip over cards to find the matching pair? Well, what if the cards had people, places and objects from your own life? Kinda cool, we think. Pinhole Press makes memory games out of photos you provide. They also make personalized puzzles and baby books.
Shot glasses made of soapstone
Product: Soapstone Shot Glasses
Company name: SPARQ Home in Denver, Colo.
Cost: Set of two, $19.95; set of four, $29.95
Entrepreneurs work long hours. At the end of a stressful day, take the edge off with a shot in a glass made out of soapstone. SPARQ Home founders Steven Chavez and Justin English were looking for a use for wasted soapstone, a metamorphic rock that is often left strewn about at quarries. When chilled in the fridge or freezer, the soapstone shot glasses keep your liquor cold without needing ice.
Personalized inspiration art
Product: Subway Art
Company name: Replay Photos in Durham, N.C.
Cost: Ranges from $159 to $270
These word-inspirational canvases can be a perfect gift for the person in your life who is impossible to shop for. The signs have words associated with cities and professional and college sports teams. Also, starting in September, you will be able to personalize a wall-word inspiration art board with the words and phrases that you want. For the Create Your Own option, Replay Photo will make a smaller size available, running for only $99.
Scented holiday ornaments
Company name: EnviroScent in Atlanta, Ga.
Cost: $8.95 per six-pack
The Scentsicle is a stick made to smell like the holidays, with scents including White Winter Fir, Christmas Time Spruce, Snow Berry Wreath and Two Dashes of Cinnamon. It lasts 30 days. There is a hook at the end of the icicle-ornament so you can choose to let it hang from a tree branch, wreath or centerpiece. We can see this as a great stocking stuffer, too.