Consider giving a gift that will help a Spartan this holiday season. Together, the Broad College and Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation compiled 11 Michigan-based businesses, run by MSU alumni and students, as a handy holiday guide for your gifting this season.
Bon Bon Bon
Who doesn’t love chocolate? The gourmet creations you’ll find at Bon Bon Bon, run by chocolatier Alexandra Clark (B.A. Hospitality Business ’10), have earned their spot on Bloomberg’s World’s Best Chocolate list.
Since 2014, this Broad alumna-owned business has used classic methods and Detroit ingenuity and has managed to hand-make and hand-package more than 320,000 Bons annually in “Willy Wonka-esque” flavors. Clark and her team of native Hamtramckans, brand-new Detroiters, immigrants, artists and dreamers have united around one central idea: good people deserve sincerely good chocolate.
Hickory Creek Winery
Why not pair wine with those Bon Bon Bons? Whether you’re pairing wine with chocolate or simply needing the perfect gift for a wine enthusiast, check out Hickory Creek Winery.
Located on 38 acres of rolling farmland in the southwesternmost corner of the Great Lakes State, this winery is owned by Adam McBride (B.A. Social Relations ’99, MBA ’16) and offers limited-release vintages in an old-world style featuring Michigan grapes.
Hickory Creek produces a carefully curated selection of dry red, dry white, rosé and a few off-dry wines to showcase the winemaking potential of the region. McBride focuses on quality over quantity and complex flavor over the cloying sweetness that many other wineries in the Midwest bring to market.
Tasting flight kits have been wildly popular since their launch in April 2020. The kits are available in several formats and include individually bottled 1.7 oz tasting pours, a tasting glass and palate-cleansing crackers. While sipping, you can also enjoy a virtual guided tasting with Hickory Creek’s winemaker, included with the flight kit purchase.
Superfoods are all the rage now. To delight the super-foodie in your life, look to BRITE bites, an all-natural probiotic snack bite company, which stands true to its core values: Balanced. Real. Integrity. Trust. Energy.
Founder Bri Makaric (B.A. Advertising Management ’20) struggled with nutritional deficiencies and digestive problems growing up and had to rely on probiotics in pill form. This personal problem led her to start the company so that people could get probiotics from real sources of food instead of pills.
BRITE bites are gluten-free, dairy-free superfood snack bites that contain organic chia and pumpkin seeds as well as live probiotics. These snack bites are the perfect on-the-go breakfast to keep you energized and ready to power through the day!
Looking for the perfect gift to win the respect of your Gen Zer? Check out York Project, a Detroit-based clothing company selling premium basics. Founded by alumnus Josh York (B.A. Supply Chain Management ’16), alongside partner Hugh LeFevre (B.A. Accounting and Finance ’18), York Project is driven by three simple values: take care of people, make great products and do so in a way that minimizes the impact on the planet.
By December, 100% of York Project’s line will be manufactured in Detroit with sustainable materials. While York Project has suspended normal operations to produce protective face masks for COVID-19, stay tuned to the website because they’ll be launching new items very soon. A must-have this year from the new line: York Project’s legging made from recycled water bottles!
What’s even better? With each product sold, York Project provides living essentials to the homeless in the Detroit community through monthly volunteer and outreach events. In fact, to date, the company has made over $104,000 worth of donations to helping the homeless and home-insecure. People. Product. Planet. What’s not to feel good about?
Are you getting your daily protein intake? Give the gift of nutrition and immunity this holiday season with VADE Nutrition dissolvable protein scoops.
Joe (B.A. Finance ’16) and Megan Johnson founded VADE Nutrition and invented dissolvable packs for protein powder after they realized that scooping protein powder in the car covered their seats in powder. Even more frustrating, taking protein powder on the go was impossible without prepping portions into a plastic bag or bottle.
After appearing on Shark Tank and landing a deal with Mark Cuban and Alex Rodriguez in 2018, VADE has grown exponentially. Due to the overwhelming success of their 100% whey isolate protein, Joe and Megan have developed other nutritional products with the same dissolvable technology. VADE Nutrition now offers a wide range of products that also includes plant-based meal replacement and pre-workout.
Flowers of Vietnam
Maybe the right gift is a dining experience in Michigan’s largest city. Consider making plans to eat at Flowers of Vietnam, Detroit’s finest Vietnamese restaurant, run by chef, owner and founder George Azar (B.A. Business ’14). Transformed from one of the city’s historic original Coney Islands, Flowers is a vanguard of Detroit’s dining scene.
The menu features Vietnamese street food ranging from the wildly popular caramel chicken wings to exceptionally crafted pho, papaya salad and broken rice, as well as vegan and gluten-free favorites. The cocktail and beverage program is one of Detroit’s strongest, offering fresh and modern twists on classic drinks.
Look forward to a lively, fun and quintessentially Detroit experience at Flowers of Vietnam, located in Mexicantown. Flowers of Vietnam provides safely distanced in-house dining, full patio, carryout, to-go cocktails and custom catering for small and large events.
Grand Traverse Pie Co.
Pie is an essential part of the holiday season for many families. Since 1996, Denise and Mike Busley have grown Grand Traverse Pie Co. to make amazing pies, warm memories with family and friends and a positive impact in each of its communities by focusing on the greater good in all they do. They focus on creating a warm and cozy “home away from home” for guests in each of their pie shops.
Denise and Mike, from the Class of 1980, certainly recognize how Spartans can be found far beyond Michigan. They happily deliver and ship their pies to all 50 states, adding a taste of home to the holidays no matter where you find yourself.
Good Mood Food
Another option if you’re buying for someone in tune with health and wellness is Good Mood Food. This health food company, founded by advertising and public relations master’s student Brianna Belanger, believes that liveliness, positivity, prosperity and healthfulness all begin with what you eat. When you eat good food, you feel good; when you feel good, you do good.
At the heart of the company’s mission is a commitment to transparency and simplicity in all that they do. This includes simplifying nutrition into easy-to-understand terms, educating consumers so they can make informed decisions about personal health and wellness, guiding customers in developing a healthy lifestyle that works for them or, of course, offering functional, nutrient-rich food products made with simple, minimal ingredients.
Bite into the quinoa brittle, which comes in three flavors — peanut butter, vanilla almond and cocoa coconut — and combines wholesome ingredients into uniquely sized, satisfyingly crunchy, slightly sweet snack bars. Or try the mixed nut butters in three blends — coconut cashew, almond cashew, and cacao coconut almond — all of which can be spread, drizzled or enjoyed straight off the spoon!
Gifting for someone who’s into fashion? INFKNIT Apparel Inc. could be the perfect fit. Cofounded by Broad students Jackie Smythe and Olivia Miller, INFKNIT offers sustainable, versatile apparel for people on the go.
As seen in British Vogue, the products — the No. 1 Dress, Back2Back Long Sleeve and Jack of All Trades — are completely reversible and offer functional features intended to maximize wearability while minimizing space. INFKNIT also sells beanies, scrunchies and masks made from fabric scraps to reduce waste. Each product is reversible, crafted from sustainable fabrics and manufactured at Soft Goods Detroit.
As the textiles industry remains a top contributor to the growing issue of climate change, INFKNIT products help counteract the phenomena of fast fashion. The concept of intertwining reversible clothing with slow fashion is what sets this company apart. Look great and take action on climate issues with the styles from INFKNIT.
Black Educated is less of a brand and more movement.
Created by a physiology major, D’Mario Northington’s company offers clothing items made for pure comfort, such as T-shirts, crewnecks and hoodies, to people who identify as Black and educated. These pieces give customers a sense of empowerment and confidence wherever they go.
Black Educated aspires to utilize its platform to educate people about the great things Black entrepreneurs, creators and influencers are doing in this world. Moreover, the company and its products stand as a way to bring communities of color together and raise awareness about other Black-founded and Black-owned businesses big and small.
Land Grant Goods
If you’re hunting for an eco-friendly gift, look no further. Land Grant Goods was launched in 2017 by a group of MSU RISE students committed to sustainable entrepreneurship. The students partnered with the Bailey Bee Team, along with Bailey Greenhouse and Urban Farm, to develop value-added agricultural products such as tea and honey, which are LGG’s most popular products today.
This group of dedicated Spartans now operates from the Venture Kitchen, an incubator kitchen space in the MSU Union, and has expanded their product line to include lip balms and other cosmetics, which are sold online. LGG takes pride in developing environmentally friendly products that are good for the planet, good for business and good for you. While LGG has had to temporarily suspend operations due to COVID-19, you’ll want to keep checking the website as they have plans to reopen for the holiday season!
These are just a small collection of products from the many talented MSU alumni and student entrepreneurs. We hope they inspire you to seek out and support Spartans this holiday season!