Support Innovation: Buy Gifts With True Startup Spirit This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving may feel a million miles away, but it -- and the holiday shopping season -- will be here before you know it. Spend your holiday shopping dollars investing in entrepreneurs and their innovations.

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By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whether you are dreaming of being an entrepreneur, in the throes of trying to get a startup off the ground, or managing a growing company, you respect "hustle." You know what long days are and you have the self-determination required to take an idea and turn it into something living, breathing and self-supporting. This holiday season, consider giving back to that community of entrepreneurship with your dollars.

Earlier this summer, as wandered through the Holiday Gift Guide Media Event in a midtown hotel in New York City, we kept an eye out for new products that entrepreneurs can feel good about giving. The products featured below are the result of clever can-do innovation.

We looked for gifts in a variety of prices for a variety of sorts of people on your shopping list. The Holiday Gift Guide Media Event, which has been an annual event for eight years running, is sponsored by personalized gift retailers RedEnvelope and Personal Creations and features almost 100 exhibitors.

With Labor Day plans top of mind, the holiday shopping season may seem light years away. But for retailers, holiday prep is already in full swing. Thanksgiving comes quickly after the days start getting cooler, and the holidays are but a half step beyond the turkey feast.

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Kickstart your holiday shopping season with these entrepreneurial gift ideas.

For the health nuts in your life:

Support Innovation: Buy Gifts With True Startup Spirit This Holiday Season

Image credit: Thesis

Product: West Indies Poppy Seed Facial Scrub by Thesis Beauty in Somerville, Mass.

Price: $19.95

Where to purchase: Select natural food stores, salons and gift boutiques and 27 Kroger grocery stores in the U.S. Online at, Amazon and Abe's Market.

Startup story: Thesis Beauty founder Julia Teren grew up in the small European country of Moldova, watching her mother and grandmother smother their faces with fruit to make natural masks. Her mother was a doctor and her grandmother was a teacher and avid herbalist. When she was laid off in during the Great Recession, she gave her dream of starting a cosmetics company a try. Thesis Beauty is organic, vegan, animal-cruelty free, and its product packaging is eco-friendly. Many cosmetic companies advertise their products as one of the aforementioned -- organic, vegan or eco-friendly -- but Teren wanted to create products that were all three. She and her husband worked long days mixing, pouring and shipping products in the first days to get Thesis launched in 2010. Though she grew up outside of America, she has firmly embraced the entrepreneurial heritage of her new homeland. "I am an American now following my American dream," she told

For the pet-obsessed in your life:

Support Innovation: Buy Gifts With True Startup Spirit This Holiday Season

Image credit: Whole Life-Pet

Product: Farm-to-table pet treats by Whole Life Pet Products in Pittsfield, Mass.

Price: Prices range from $5 to $10 for 1-2 oz. containers, $10 -$15 for 3-4 oz. containers, and $20 -$50 for 10 oz. and 21 oz. containers.

Where to purchase: Available in national chains, including Petco, Unleashed and PetSmart, and in over 1,500 independent pet stores. Also available in corresponding online stores.

Startup story: Farm-to-table restaurants are all the rage. Why not include your pets in the trend? John Gigliotti, who has had dogs for as long as he can remember, was motivated to investigate the sourcing and ingredients in his pet's food, following a handful of recalls in 2007. Gigliotti decided to start his own pet food company, focused on making healthy treats with transparent sourcing. Gigliotti wants pet owners to know exactly where the ingredients are coming from.The pet treats sold by Whole Life Pet Products are made with ingredients sourced directly from small-batch famers all based in the U.S. For example, the cheese used in the pet treats are made in Woodhall, N.Y., and the fish in the fish treats are caught in the waters off Boston's shores. Whole Life Pet Products are advertised as organic enough for humans to eat. Full disclosure: We didn't try to eat them ourselves.

Related: This Gadget Will Let You 3-D Print in Nutella

For the edgy, elegant fashionista:

Support Innovation: Buy Gifts With True Startup Spirit This Holiday Season

Image credit: Bo's Art

Product: Stainless steel mesh handbags by Bo's Art in Los Angeles

Price: Between $200 and $700

Where to purchase: Select galleries and museum stores throughout the U.S. Orders fulfilled through the artists directly, via e-mail.

Startup story: Husband and wife artist-entrepreneur couple Bozenna and Lukasz Bogucki were inspired to create their stainless steel collection of handbags because they were taken by the natural beauty of the material. Meanwhile, they observed that this material -- which they found so beautiful -- is primarily used for industrial purposes. "As artists, we decided that we must think of some other way to show the beauty of it. That's how it started 13 years ago," the couple said. Each bag is made by hand in the couple's Los Angeles studio.

For the hobby aficionado:

Support Innovation: Buy Gifts With True Startup Spirit This Holiday Season

Image credit: ChordBuddy

Product: Guitar-lesson tool by ChordBuddy in Dothan, Ala.

Price: $49.95

Startup story: Entrepreneur-founder Travis Perry has been giving guitar lessons for the better part of three decades. In his years of teaching, he found that about seven of 10 music students quit lessons within the first two months because they find it difficult to nail down the finger movements. Perry needed a way to get students over that initial learning hump. He researched the manufacturing industry, made and tested 17 prototypes for what would become the ChordBuddy and eventually went on ABC's hit show "Shark Tank" in 2012 to raise money to grow his business. The product affixes to the neck of the guitar and students remove each button, one at a time, until they can play without the crutch. Perry's invention supports his hometown: The ChordBuddy is manufactured at a plant in Dothan, Ala.

For the humanitarian:

Support Innovation: Buy Gifts With True Startup Spirit This Holiday Season

Image credit: World Vision

Product: Silver bracelet by World Vision, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that operates in almost 100 countries, in Federal Way, Wash., just outside of Seattle

Where to purchase: In the World Vision gift catalogue and online at

Startup story: The silver bracelet is made by primarily female artisans in Old Delhi, India. A young daughter of one of the artisans found out about Fair Trade certified retailers through her research on the Internet. Fair Trade certified retailers pay workers sustainable living wages, as determined by cost of living in a country. The women artisans unified and started selling through Fair Trade retailers. World Vision put the bracelets in its ecommerce catalogue. Wages of the female artisans have tripped and some of the young girls in the artisan communities are going to school thanks to the increased wages. The cost of silver bracelet bought through World Vision also includes a donation to the nonprofit itself.

Related: How Fair Trade Went From a Crazy Coffee Concept to a Global Sustainability Trend

For the fun and pampered girls in your life:

Support Innovation: Buy Gifts With True Startup Spirit This Holiday Season

Image credit: Arianna Skincare

Product: Bath salts in the shape of desserts by Arianna Skincare in Boston

Price: The Cupcake Bath Bomb is $19.99 and the smaller Ice Cream Bath Fizzy is $8.99.

Where to purchase: Retail stores in Newport, R.I., Martha's Vineyard, Boston and Braintree, Mass., and, as of this summer, New York City. Products are also available for purchase online at

Startup story: Founding entrepreneur Miri Torres was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in high school. Chemotherapy was hard on her skin. Torres, who was born in Israel, tried treatments using natural ingredients derived from the Dead Sea, a hypersaline lake said to have Biblical significance and bordering bordering Jordan, Palestine and Israel. The natural products significantly improved and restored her skin. Torres immigrated to the U.S. at 22 years old and launched Arianna Skincare, naming the skincare brand after her oncologist in Israel.

Related: Get Your Gift On With 8 of This Year's Hottest Holiday Novelties

For the kid-oriented:

Support Innovation: Buy Gifts With True Startup Spirit This Holiday Season

Image credit: MD Anderson Children's Art Project

Product: Shea butter soap, wrapped in paper decorated with a watercolor painted by a 14-year old cancer patient. By MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Price: Floral watercolor soap is $10.

Where to purchase: Retail stores throughout Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Some retail locations in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas. All holiday gifts are also availableat the MD Anderson Cancer Center Children's Art Project's website online.

Startup story: A volunteer at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston had the idea that a child cancer patient's drawing would make a delightful greeting card. The cancer hospital took this inspiration and started making holiday cards decorated with child patients' art work. This was back in 1973. Since then, the cancer hospital has been generating an entire line of holiday products adorned with the artwork of child patients. In the 40 years the program has been operating, more than $30 million has been cycled back into programs supporting child cancer patients and their families. The soap, featured above, is wrapped in paper decorated by a 14 year old patient, Regan, from New Braunfels, Texas.

Related: 'If You Can Think It, We Can Make It': A Look Inside Brooklyn's New Lab

For the wine lovers:

Support Innovation: Buy Gifts With True Startup Spirit This Holiday Season

Image credit: II Bere

Product: Magnetic wine or drink charms.

Price: Charms range from $14 to $35

Where to purchase: Charms can be purchased at the Il Bere website,, or at select retail locations around the U.S.

Startup story: Marnette Wilcox and Chrissy Olsen, both of Italian heritage, came up with the idea for the magnetic drink charms when they were traveling throughout Italy. Their travels took them to Venice, Florence, Siena, Santa Margherita, and Lake Como. On the vacation, Wilcox and Olsen clipped the vintage earrings they had just purchased in Venice to the top of their wine glasses so they could remember whose glass was whose. They were quite taken with how the vintage earrings looked on the wine glasses. When the friend duo returned to their home in Vancouver, Wash., they turned their newfound fascination with vintage earrings doubling as wine charms into a business. They launched Il Bere, which means "to drink" in Italian, and started producing and selling charms that afix to the side of a wine glass or to the base of the stem. Many of the charms are made out of antique or vintage earrings that Wilcox and Olsen find and clean.

Related: What Keeps the Founder of Sam Adams Going After 30 Years

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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