Shop this eclectic collection of alumni businesses this holiday season. These graduates have the goods to spark smiles — and the backstories that make their entrepreneurial mettle a thing to behold.
When Persifor Frazer Smith IV boarded a ship dressed head to toe in white with his chic wife decked out in a wide-brimmed hat, clutch, and scalloped-edged gloves, grand travel was at its height. You’ll find a current take on that at Persifor, the brainchild of Alexandra (Rice) Thompson ’02, the couple’s granddaughter. “I saw a niche for wrinkle-resistant, packable clothing,” said Thompson, a former designer and merchandiser at J. Crew and Lilly Pulitzer. “These clothes are classic and clean with a sense of joie de vivre. You can put on one of our items and run out the door.” persifor.com; dresses, separates, accessories; $38 and up
What do Taylor Swift, Christina Aguilera, and Jennifer Lawrence have in common? All have worn made-to-order jewelry designed by Nicole (Mann) Novick ’00, proprietor of Garland Collection. An L.A. Magazine style writer whom Elle called a “cult West Coast jeweler,” Novick got her start when people noticed the throwback name-plate pendant she created for her first wedding anniversary.
Now a Long Island resident, Novick named her company after the Garland side of her family, including her Business Week White House correspondent aunt, Susan Garland ’73, one of the first 11 women to graduate from Colgate. “I went to Colgate because I admired her,” Novick said.
Novick’s baubles, in solid 14k or 18k gold and some with personalized engraving, range from her sentimental signature pendant to “jingle-jangle” charms to signet rings. garlandcollection.com; $300 and up
Made for TV: Novick’s first job out of Colgate was at a Manhattan law firm representing Hermès. She found herself prowling Chinatown undercover to find counterfeit merch, all while wearing a wire.
Since Yi-Mei Truxes ’08 launched her company in February, her intricate straw bags, handwoven by artisans in Vietnam and Bali, have attracted nonstop press. “There are amazing artisans around the world who are not on the global stage,” said Truxes, who spent nearly six years in marketing at Vogue before recently opening the NYC office for mega fashion photographer Mario Testino. “I can use my experience in both business and fashion to bring their craft to a larger market and bring awareness to the incredible work they do,” said Truxes. She also packs 10 percent of Bembien proceeds off to Nest, a nonprofit that supports the business goals of artisans and homeworkers globally. bembien.com; $65–$220
Worldly: The company name is Truxes’s mash-up of the Portuguese bem and the French bien for the word “good.”
“Whether it be newly discovered brands like Bembien or cult classics like Chanel, it’s safe to say these handbags have officially blown up.”
—Who What Wear, April 2017
When Vermont skiers Sara and Steve Segall ’06 couldn’t find decent ski jackets for men and women under $600, they invented one. Choosing a direct-to-customer model let them slash costs for “weekend escapists who want technical ski wear,” said Segall, a former member of Colgate’s ski team. “At the same time, the jacket is something they can wear into the city,” he added. In “Great Gifts for Skiers,” Forbes hailed it as “waterproof, breathable, insulated, [with] underarm vents, sealed seams and four-way stretch for fit and comfort.” Sports Illustrated had much the same reaction: You’ll find it on its 2017 Best Ski Gear list. orsden.com; jackets; $330
Bearish: Orsden comes from ours de neige, French for snow bear.
“The epitome of fashion meets function in a jacket.”
If your style is classic, chances are it’s your pet’s aesthetic, too. Nancy (Mengel) Baird ’77 and her California-based company Creature Comforts offer ceramic, tip-proof pet bowls and treat jars in Royal Stewart tartan, houndstooth (how apt), chevron, and more. Sold by retailers like Orvis, Neiman Marcus, and Vineyard Vines, her line also includes treats to put in that jar. For cats, try Kitty Catbernet; for dogs, the Oprah List–approved Poochi Sushi. creaturecomfortstm.com; $10–$40; ceramics can be personalized
Salt of the Earth Co.
On departing Peru after an Eat, Pray, Love–style trip in 2011, Jason Kaplan ’06 wedged something unexpected into his luggage: Ziploc bags packed full of pink salt, the gift of a couple working at the Salinas de Maras salt pans outside Cusco. Their generosity moved him to source salt he could import, and thus was born Salt of the Earth Co., which sends back a portion of the profits to the community. “There’s a textural element to this salt,” said Kaplan, a geology major who is now a lawyer for renewable energy. “It’s more crystalline, with more of a crunchy texture, than flaky.” saltoftheearthco.com; $6.50–$12
Sweet & salty: Kaplan’s company also flavors small-batch chocolate from makers like Woodstock’s Fruition and Brooklyn’s Raaka.
Approach the Bench
The hours a young James Mellis ’94 spent playing chess with his lawyer dad spurred him to create an elegant courtroom-themed set. Made of cold-cast bronze and Travertine tile, the set has been featured on CBS’s The Good Wife and crowned the official set of the U.S. Supreme Court gift shop. Mellis also offers legal figures (Blind Justice, attorneys, etc.) in chocolate and as bottle stoppers and holiday ornaments. approachthebench.com; $10–$900
Taconic Cigar Box Guitars
Instruments fashioned out of used cigar boxes date at least as far back as the Civil War when soldiers would take them out between battles, according to Steve Olejarczyk ’86. A guitar player since childhood who also plays banjo, mandolin, and ukulele, Olejarczyk upcycles the boxes into cool ukuleles and guitars suitable for stage use. Listen to him and his instruments on YouTube. taconicguitars.com; $229 and up
A self-described “pseudo inventor,” Ohioan Tucker Neale ’95 recently rolled out Shot Coach, a wearable tool to develop the muscle memory needed to sink shots on the basketball court. Inferring that Neale might just be the go-to guy for shooting technique, Crain’s Cleveland Business noted in July that the shooting guard is “still Colgate’s all-time leading scorer, with a whopping 2,075 points in three seasons.” myshotcoach.com; $29.99
Convers(ate) co-creators Taylor Buonocore ’08 and Mollie Khine were inspired by the concept of Thomas Jefferson’s “Jeffersonian Dinner,” during which leaders would gather together to share knowledge about important topics in a roundtable format. So, they created a game with that idea in mind. Convers(ate) aims to help players get to know the people around them better, whether it’s close friends or new coworkers, through specific questions and roundtable discussions using question and icebreaker cards. The project was funded through Kickstarter. convers-ate.com
Capture the Flag Redux
Everything was normal about Capture the Flag games run by Judd King ’01 until he swapped the flag out for a glowing plastic egg he found in an oddball store. Launched with Kickstarter funding, his tricked-out game — now with LED glow orbs, player bracelets, boundary lights, and more — keeps players of all ages active outdoors for hours after sunset. capturetheflagredux.com; $59.90
Sunniva Super Coffee
When Jordan DeCicco, college point guard and youngest brother of Jimmy DeCicco ’15, needed something to get him through a day that started with 5 a.m. practice, he turned his dorm room into a test kitchen. His challenge: to concoct an energizing coffee free of unhealthy ingredients.
Before long, Jimmy, a Colgate football captain, had left his real estate finance career on Wall Street to join Jordan as CEO of their coffee start-up, Sunniva. (Middle brother and Georgetown wide receiver, Jake, is also on board.) “I take care of raising money, hiring, and, for now, marketing,” said Jimmy. “We’re still small, but we hope to soon be the healthy alternative to the Starbucks Frappuccino on every shelf in the country.”
Sunniva Super Coffee is a blend of Colombian coffee, purified coconut oil for slow-burning energy, a lactose-free dose of milk protein, and organic dark maple syrup. Stocked by Wegmans, Wawa, and mid-Atlantic Whole Foods, the four flavors (Jimmy’s favorite is dark mocha) are also sold in 40 New York locations of WeWork, the booming coworking business that made an in-kind investment in Sunniva secured by Jimmy and Jake. sunniva.co; variety packs, $14–$36
California Fruit Wine
Finding work at the height of the recession led Brian Haghighi ’09 to take inspiration from his hometown, San Diego, the epicenter of craft beer. Yet he snubbed grain and grapes and chose instead to make a craft beverage out of less-expected fruit: mangoes, pomegranates, and more. “It’s perfect for brunch, lunch, and late afternoon,” said Haghighi. californiafruitwine.com; $15/bottle
Seeing double: Together with cofounder and identical twin brother Alan, Haghighi recently opened FruitCraft, a tasting room in San Diego offering cocktails and small bites.
NASA can take credit for developing dichroic glass — embedded with thin, shimmering layers of metal — but Maine art teacher Becky (Clement) Christie ’82 turns hers into vividly colored pendants, bracelets, and earrings. (Contact her with requests; not all jewelry is pictured online.) shinyobjectsbybec.com; $8–$35
A Colgate geography major who traded Utah for Hamilton, Jennifer Meakins ’05 always has to be making something. After studying architecture in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she made her way to Los Angeles, where she creates and curates museum exhibitions. After hours, it’s quilting. “That’s how I relax,” Meakins said. “That’s how I get my creative energy out.” Her baby quilts are modern and “swoon-worthy,” according to the blog Flax & Twine. qltstudio.com; $250
The Commit30 planner grew organically from clients asking how Jenny (Kane) Newcomer ’98 and her husband successfully juggled multiple businesses in Durango, Colo. Her planner — on paper on purpose — helps you set and meet manageable, 30-day challenges to achieve your goals. commit30.com; two sizes, $29.99–$34.99
Insta inspiration: Newcomer posts motivational messages on the Commit30 Instagram feed, like “A year from now you’ll wish you’d started today.”
“If a daily planner, a motivational tape, and your to-do lists had a wild night together, nine months later, the Commit30 planner would pop out.”