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21 Spartan shops and nonprofits to support this holiday season

By Chelsea Stein and Aaryn Richard; art by Danielle Tice
Monday, November 13, 2023

With the holiday and giving seasons officially here, what better way to show your support than to make an impact for a fellow Spartan? Since 2020, the Broad College of Business and the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation have crafted their annual holiday guide as a handy tool for your seasonal shopping and giving.

This year’s guide features 21 Michigan-based businesses and nonprofit organizations founded or led by Michigan State University alumni and students — so you can Go Green and give back.

Good tidings for health and well-being

Protein Pints

Here’s the scoop: Protein Pints might just be the perfect gift that’s tasty and healthy. (Yes, we said healthy!) Founded by ice cream lovers and best friends Paul Reiss, a junior at MSU, and Michael Meadows, Protein Pints is a protein-packed ice cream designed for people who are looking for better-tasting and more enjoyable protein options.

Across three delicious flavors — vanilla, chocolate and peanut butter chip — each pint has 45 grams of protein, is low in sugar and gluten free. You can find Protein Pints in several Meijer stores, Grand Rapids’ Bridge Street Market and Lansing’s Capital City Market, and on campus in the MSU Dairy Store.

People’s Yoga

Along with joyous celebrations and good times, the holiday season can also bring along a heaping amount of stress for many. Help a loved one melt away their worries with a session at People’s Yoga, located in Lansing.

Misty Flahie-Belous (B.S. Environmental Biology/Botany and Plant Pathology ’01) founded the studio as a space that offers accessible, connected and life-affirming yoga to every body. Whether you’re attending a drop-in class, a group or private session or a workshop, you’ll feel at home when rolling out your mat. Flahie-Belous and her team of skilled teachers are passionate about helping individuals and the community grow together — to forge healthy connections that reach well beyond the studio walls.

Studio Retreat

A trip to Studio Retreat in St. John’s might also be the right choice for improved wellness, offering a space for creative expression. Mary Ablao (B.A. Studio Art ’86) founded the art studio, gallery and gift shop to share her passion for the beauty and healing powers of art with people of all ages.

Ablao’s classes cover everything from watercolor techniques to jewelry making, so you can fully tap into your creative side. She also offers artist coaching, private lessons and art therapy, which serves mental health and well-being for all ages.

Swallowtail Farm

Looking to freshen up your holiday gathering with local produce? Don’t miss Swallowtail Farm. Anne Rauscher (M.S. Resource Development ’05) and David Haywood (B.S. Urban and Regional Planning ’96) founded their small family farm in the heart of the mitten to grow, preserve and share good food with their community.

From April to December, the farm grows salad greens, flowers and an assortment of vegetables that are available for purchase at the farmstead, just six miles south of MSU’s campus. In addition, they raise bees for honey and capture some of the farm’s fresh flavors into preserves and award-winning fruit syrups — we recommend the rhubarb and black currant syrups as excellent gifts for cocktail enthusiasts and foodies! Flower shares for Spring 2024 are also a great gift to celebrate local agriculture and brighten up loved ones’ days.

Pure Food Company

Another option if you’re buying for someone focused on their protein intake is Pure Food Company. Launched in 2014 by Scott Christ (B.A. General Management ’03), this Michigan-based small business offers protein powders made from organic, plant-based ingredients.

Through Pure Food, Christ is on a mission to help people lose weight, build muscle and become healthier with all-natural, American-sourced nutritional supplements, also offering nutrition and fitness plans.

The cherry on top of this protein-packed delight? With every order, Pure Food donates five meals to Forgotten Harvest — metro Detroit’s largest food rescue organization — and has donated over 70,000 meals to date.

Sugar, spice and everything nice

Chunk Nibbles

If you know someone whose favorite tradition is indulging in recipes made with love by friends and families, you’re in luck! Through Chunk Nibbles, founder Brad Cocklin (B.A. Hospitality Business ’12) invites you to taste his family’s third-generation recipe when you sink your teeth into these snack clusters.

As chief executive nibbler, Cocklin and his team in Troy have crafted up flavors like s’mores, PB chocolate, Grandma’s Original, strawberry, award-winning apple cinnamon and holiday peppermint.

On top of tasting good, Chunk Nibbles also does good. This Spartan business donates a portion of every unit sold to Blue Star Service Dogs to help fund their mission of rescuing dogs from animal shelters and train them as service, emotional or therapy dogs for military combat veterans suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injury.

Groovy Donuts

Offer peace, love and fresh-baked goodness this year by supporting Groovy Donuts! Founded in 2015 by Andrew (B.A. Finance ’11) and Monica Gauthier (B.S. Fisheries and Wildlife ’12), they serve award-winning, hand-crafted doughnuts and locally roasted coffee in East Lansing and Williamston.

Andrew and Monica’s core values of spreading joy, building community and feeling groovy will come to life this year through their inaugural Day of Giving. On Nov. 30, Groovy Donuts will donate 100% of proceeds to local nonprofits, including Child and Family Charities, Junior Achievement, Dollars 4 Dyslexia, Project Fish and KCS Angels.

While you can only get your hands on holiday-themed doughnuts — including vegan and gluten-free doughnuts — in Michigan, less perishable options like gift cards, whole-bean coffee and far-out merch can be shipped to all 50 states!

Mammoth Distilling

Say “cheers” this year with the spirits crafted at Mammoth Distilling. Chad Munger (B.A. English ’88) founded Mammoth to connect with small communities and to make craft spirits that highlight the world-class agriculture of Northern Michigan.

They not only use local grain and fruit but also operate their own farms and gardens. With the help of MSU’s Department of AgBioResearch and a permit from the National Park Service, Mammoth has even brought back a variety of rye grain that has been extinct for nearly a century.

Stop in one of their six full-service tasting rooms — in Central Lake, Bellaire, Traverse City, Bay Harbor, Adrian or Grand Rapids — and sip from their full line of spirits, including rye, bourbon, gin, vodkas, single-malt whiskey, rum and cherry bounce. You can also find Mammoth products at fine retailers throughout the state.

Munger says MSU has played a pivotal role in the distillery’s success, so he’s also encouraging Spartans to give back. When you donate $100 or more to MSU between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2023, you can receive a $25 Mammoth gift card. Bring an official donation receipt from MSU to any of Mammoth’s tasting rooms to redeem before Sept. 3, 2024.

Spruce up the hearth and home

Serenity at Home

Life is busy and messy, with festive decorations and trinkets magnifying the clutter around holidays. Organizing a home can prove to be a difficult chore. Treat yourself or someone in your life with a gift certificate from Serenity at Home. This Rochester-based home organizing company was founded in 2018 by Spartan alumna Juliana Meidl (B.A. Advertising ’91).

While working alongside their clients, Meidl and her team patiently listen to understand each client’s struggles, needs and desires. They create customized organizing solutions for each project while always maintaining client confidentiality. As the exclusive in-home organizer for the Container Store in Troy, they proudly provide organizing services for any customer of the store looking for assistance in their home. Through this partnership, they also provide design and installation coordination for the Container Store’s full line of custom systems for closets, pantries, garages and storage areas.

If you know someone who’s moving, Serenity at Home also offers a complete range of services, beginning with decluttering and packing and followed by unpacking and organizing in a new home.

Prestige Scents

Set the mood and spark a symphony of warm, comforting aromas when you make a purchase from Prestige Scents. As a small-business owner in the Detroit area, Alexxis Hamilton (B.A. Psychology ’15) aims to aid individuals in achieving an elevated mental state while promoting self-improvement holistically.

Prestige Scents offers 12- and 16-ounce high-quality candles, wax melts, aromatherapy sprays and accessories. Hamilton’s business model is unique by recycling profits back into Prestige Scents to achieve sustainable growth and to support other local Black-owned businesses.

The distinctive scents and label designs — with names like Happy Hour, Sweater Weather and Saturday Cartoons — are carefully crafted to meet the diverse needs of their customers. With a commitment to sustainability, Prestige Scents uses nontoxic ingredients, recycled materials and minimal packaging to reduce its carbon footprint.

Thumbprint Artifacts

Searching for something handmade and truly one of a kind? We’ve got you covered. Thumbprint Artifacts, established in 2013 by Rebecca Henley Riess (B.A. Business ’77), offers home décor from women artisans in South Africa.

As a Fair Trade Federation member, Thumbprint Artifacts works with nearly 200 artisans, offering them a sustainable income. Most of these artisans are single mothers who support an extended family of 12–15 people. Their creations are sold through the small business’ website and at approximately 800 retailers across the country, including the Smithsonian Holiday Catalog, Uncommon Goods and Ten Thousand Villages.

This holiday season, you can choose gifts that are not only cherished by the recipient but are also ethically made and have a positive impact on the lives of others. Through our collective efforts, Reiss says we can create a better and more equitable world for everyone.

Community Housing Network

If you want to help those in need of safe, affordable and stable housing this year, consider making a gift to Community Housing Network in Troy. Marc Craig (B.A. Psychology ’76) founded the nonprofit to empower individuals and families with lasting housing solutions. Through its various programs, Community Housing Network helps people with disabilities, people without homes and those facing housing crises to live with dignity and hope.

As the year ends, Community Housing Network is hosting a special initiative: the Adopt-a-Family program. This initiative is designed to provide families in need with essential items during the holiday season. There’s no better time than now to extend your support.

Your contribution could change a life, providing safe housing or ensuring that a family enjoys a warm, joyful holiday season. End the year on a note of generosity and compassion, transforming lives and communities through collective action.

Textiles and apparel to sleigh in

Nudge Printing

Make the holidays Spartan-spirited with collegiate-branded apparel and decals from Nudge Printing. Located in the heart of Mid-Michigan, founders Gabe (B.A. Marketing ’07) and Brittany (B.S. Food Industry Management ’05) Viscomi bring you top-notch products in green and white.

As passionate Michigan State alumni and fans, they create apparel for everyday champions — real people, like you. From super-soft tees to cozy hoodies and eye-catching car decals, they have it all.

Nudge’s reputation for exceptional customer service and lightning-fast shipping, with most orders processed the very next day, are known far and wide. Experience the Nudge Printing difference, where quality, local love and Spartan pride unite.

Windy Willow Co.

Find the perfect fit and give back when you make a purchase from Windy Willow Co. Launched in 2016 and later expanded to include the nonprofit Windy Willow Foundation, David Halvorson (B.A. Finance ’18) is on a mission to raise funds for people seeking mental health services.

The custom clothing brand sources USA-strong materials and labor while supporting the nonprofit’s mission and routing funds to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Halvorson and his team deepen their impact by partnering with local businesses, nonprofits and programs in Michigan. In addition, they host a variety of events in Grand Rapids and metro Detroit, like golf outings, fitness competitions and cornhole tournaments.

From beanies and dad hats to tie-dye shirts and fanny packs, spend the holidays in style and know that you’ve supported a good cause.

The Clothesline

Looking to get your thrift on? Consider a donation and/or shopping trip to the Clothesline, a cute boutique store. The mission of this volunteer-run nonprofit, founded by Lisa Jelenek (M.A. Elementary Education ’77), is twofold: provide new or high-quality, gently used clothing to the community at low cost and to those in need for free, and provide funding for local charitable projects from the resale of donated clothing back to the community.

Jelenek saw a need for the Clothesline’s services in 2006, when her students were coming to her first-grade class wearing thin raincoats during Michigan’s harshest months. Today, the volunteer nonprofit shares its space with the Laingsburg Connection, which has been completely renovated and will be used as a community center beginning in 2024. Here, it will offer free tutoring for children starting in kindergarten, as well as other programs like technology classes for senior citizens, grief share for anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one, small-business classes and as a local venue for civic groups to gather.

By making a monetary gift, you can help the dedicated team fulfill their mission and benefit their community.

Gumseat Productions

Pining for custom T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs or other decorated items for a group or corporate gift this year? Look no further than Gumseat Productions, a small, Spartan-owned print shop. Leah Kwapis (B.A. Advertising ’09) and her husband started Gumseat Productions, a wholesale screen printing, embroidery and decorated goods company, in 2018.

If you own a business, coach a team, lead a club or have another need for custom wholesale goods and apparel, Gumseat Productions handles everything from start to finish. They can create custom designs or use existing art you already have. They also provide easy online ordering, and all design and production work is done on-site.

Cute, fun and just because

Crochet Critter Co.

Dive into a world of whimsy with Crochet Critter Co., where every stitch by digital storytelling senior Abbie Townley weaves a story of joy and childhood nostalgia. As the grand artisan of cuddles, Townley transforms yarn into a menagerie of huggable companions, each with a personality as vibrant as its colors. This business sprang to life from the cozy corners of her craft room, fueled by the cherished memories of selling handmade treasures alongside her grandmother.

Townley’s critters aren’t just stuffed toys; they’re ambassadors of delight, handcrafted to sprinkle a dash of happiness in every loop and stitch. With a lineup including the snuggliest bears, the cheekiest monkeys and the most mystical unicorns, these critters are a hit at every age, making luxury-level cuteness an affordable reality.

Crochet Critter Co. isn’t just about creating plush pals; it’s a heartwarming tale of tradition meeting trend. Townley’s mission goes beyond the crochet hook as she infuses each creation with a piece of her heart — because to her, the greatest gift is witnessing the world embrace her critters with the same love they’re made with.

Stuck on You Design Co.

Stuck on ideas for your hard-to-shop-for uncle? Not to worry! Political science junior Ella Lynch is here to help unleash original, personalized gift goodness with Stuck on You Design Co. Her mission is to make sure your gift stands out in the most dazzling way possible. Don’t settle for mere products; craft iconic self-expressions that are as unique as your fingerprint.

From the bold statements on Stuck on You hoodies to the quirky art on stickers, every item is a conversation starter. Lynch’s treasures aren’t just eye candy, either; they’re built to withstand life’s adventures — waterproof, dishwasher-safe and ready for action. Whether it’s acrylic keychains that jangle with personality or pins that shout your story, Stuck on You Design Co. has the gear to make every day an expression that breaks the mold.

So, dive into Lynch’s collection where fashion meets function. Shop for clothing, stickers and accessories that aren’t just accessories — they’re essentials for those who dare to be different.

Mebblet Jewelry

Discover the charm of Mebblet Jewelry, where style meets sustainability at prices within reach. Under the creative direction of founder and marketing junior Megan Rabaut, Mebblet offers a delightful array of handmade jewelry and accessories for the eco-conscious gift-giver.

Mebblet’s journey is one of passion and purpose, rooted in the desire to foster an inclusive space for self-expression. With careful consideration for the sensitive wearer, Mebblet’s earring hooks are crafted to be hypoallergenic, and necklace chains are selected for their enduring stainless-steel quality.

Each piece of Mebblet’s collection is a testament to Rabaut’s commitment to sustainability, upcycling pre-loved jewelry into new fashion statements. From her high school beginnings to the enterprising strides made through the Burgess Institute’s venture creation program, Rabaut’s Mebblet is a brand with heart and heritage. Discover jewelry that’s kind to your skin and to the planet.

Round 1 Gaming Lab

Give your gaming aficionado an experience they’ll never forget with Round 1 Gaming Lab. Created by Tyrell Slappey (B.S. Food Industry Management ’11), Round 1 is where the thrill of video gaming hits the road. Slappey’s state-of-the-art mobile video game truck brings the latest gaming technology to your gamer’s doorstep. Inside, they’ll find a gaming sanctuary equipped with cutting-edge consoles like the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Nintendo Switch, all set in a space designed for peak gaming pleasure.

With a selection that spans the newest hits to beloved classics, Round 1 Gaming Lab caters to all tastes and ages. The truck’s environment is thoughtfully curated for comfort, featuring plush seating, dynamic LED lighting and high-definition screens that make every game come alive.

More than just games on wheels, Round 1 Gaming Lab offers an immersive experience with its climate-controlled setting and rich surround sound. It’s an oasis of digital entertainment, ready to transform any party or event into a memorable gaming adventure.

Round 1 Gaming Lab’s local team, true gaming experts, are there to enhance the experience, offering guidance and support to players at any skill level. At Round 1 Gaming Lab, it’s not just about playing games — it’s about bringing people together in a fun, safe and accessible environment. Gift an experience that’s as much about community as it is about competition and fun.

Thinkits

Nurture creativity by giving Thinkits! Founded by applied engineering science senior Chance Wilczynski, Thinkits is on a mission to fuel the curiosity of young minds. Thinkits products (from think + kits) go beyond typical science kits — they’re passports to discovery, unlocking the joys of exploration and the thrill of innovation.

Designed with the budding learner in mind, Thinkits’ comprehensive science kits entice children age 6 and above into a hands-on world of learning. These kits encourage them to become pioneers in their learning journey, cultivating problem-solving skills and a scientific mindset.

Each Thinkit is an invitation to a new adventure, equipped with the necessary tools and guidance to propel children through the fascinating realms of biology, engineering, chemistry and beyond. These kits don’t just impart knowledge — they build the foundation for a lifetime of questioning, exploring and understanding.

By emphasizing experiential learning, Thinkits are crafted to make educational experiences memorable, nurturing a deep-rooted appreciation for the world around us. Thinkits aim to ignite a spark of natural curiosity in every child, transforming learning into an exciting, interactive experience.

Bonus: University-affiliated items

Grand Traverse Sauce Company

Some like it hot! Kick it up a notch with a gift from Grand Traverse Sauce Company. This small-batch hot sauce company has a passion for bringing unique, flavorful experiences to every meal.

As a veteran-owned business, Grand Traverse Sauce Company takes pride in a keen attention to detail and commitment to excellence, ensuring that each bottle of hot sauce is handmade with care and precision. By sourcing ingredients from farmers and producers in Northern Michigan, the company helps boost the local economy and ensures that these hot sauces are made with the freshest, highest-quality ingredients available.

Be sure to check out Grand Traverse Sauce Company’s latest concoction: Go Green Hot Sauce, an officially licensed MSU product. Explore the range of sauces, drink mixers and spice rubs, and find your perfect present with a Grand Traverse Sauce Company gift box. Whether you like it mild or hot, there’s something for everyone!

Spartan Global Development Fund

Sometimes, giving can create an amazing impact for others in our global community. The Spartan Global Development Fund is a beacon of social impact, functioning as a registered student organization and a nonprofit organization. SGDF’s coalition — composed of students, educators and alumni — is united by a shared mission: to illuminate the transformative power of microfinance. By extending financial services to those often sidelined by conventional banking, SGDF champions economic inclusivity and takes proactive steps towards narrowing the global wealth gap.

From its beginning in 2009, the ongoing work of SGDF has been to deliver over $134,000 in interest-free microloans — small loans ranging from $25 to $5,000 — to people in impoverished regions around the world to attain success and stability while improving quality of life for themselves and their community.

SGDF operates with a hands-on philosophy, collaborating with field partners and leveraging the Kiva.org platform to facilitate its loan programs. The organization’s ambition is to be a catalyst for potential, fostering an environment where individuals are equipped to achieve their greatest aspirations.

Authority Health

Want to make an impact for one of MSU’s health partners? Consider Authority Health, which oversees the nation’s second-largest graduate medical education teaching health center program, in partnership with MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Established in 2005, Authority Health is focused on strengthening the health-care safety net by facilitating health insurance access, increasing clinical capacity and advancing workforce development — including preparing primary care physicians to work with both rural and urban underserved populations. In addition to working with MSU, Authority Health has become an integral part of Detroit’s health-care landscape, initiated by the collective efforts of the State of Michigan, Wayne County and the City of Detroit.

When you make a gift to support Authority Health, you can bolster its critical programming and ongoing work to better health care in our state.

Student-Made

Searching for that standout gift can be challenging, but Student-Made at MSU offers a unique solution. This marketplace platform, launched in fall 2023, connects you with the innovative products of Spartan student entrepreneurs, whom Student-Made proudly calls creators. With an array of goods, the marketplace currently showcases 30 creators, including the enterprising students highlighted in this guide — and the list continues to grow.

In collaboration with the Burgess Institute, Student-Made is more than just a marketplace — it’s a springboard for student ventures. The Institute provides a rich tapestry of programs, courses and resources, all aimed at cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset through experiential learning. It prepares students to navigate challenges with resilience, embrace learning opportunities in failure and acquire distinctive skills that shine in the professional world.

Student-Made’s vision extends beyond transactions. It’s about nurturing the entrepreneurial journey for students across campus, fostering a community where business ideas can flourish and students can thrive as they bring their innovative visions to life.

These are just a small collection of organizations founded and led by many talented MSU alumni and student entrepreneurs. We hope this guide, along with our 2022 giving guide, 2021 gift guide and 2020 gift guide, inspire you to seek out and support Spartans each holiday season!

If you are a Spartan entrepreneur or nonprofit leader or know someone who would be a fit for next year’s guide, drop us a line at news@broad.msu.edu.

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