From Us to You: A UCalgary Alumni Gift Guide
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or is it?
We’ve all been there before. You’re shopping online or wandering aimlessly through aisles and you find yourself at a loss. Stop right there — this year we are here to help. Who better to recommend a unique holiday gift than some of UCalgary’s entrepreneurial alumni, who, as it turns out, often see it all? The following nine alumni present their wares to help you shop for the trickiest names on your list:
For the organic skin-care fan
Neal’s Yard Remedies
After living in London for three years, while working for Ernst & Young, UCalgary alumna Lisa Shelley, brought this UK-based skincare company back home to Calgary with her in 2014. While its hundreds of products are available online and through retailers such as Whole Foods and Cambrian Pharmacy, the only brick and mortar shop in Canada is in Calgary. With more than 400 items (in stunning cobalt-blue bottles and jars) on display, you can scoop up loose herbs, teas, pillow sprays, candles, diffusers, roll-on energy oils and kits (to make your own cosmetics) or a gift box (you’ll save 20 percent that way). Their top sellers are their Wild Rose Beauty Balm ($29-$75), Frankincense Nourishing Cream ($55) and Shea Nut Lip Balm ($12).
“There’s still a stigma in the beauty industry that organic or natural products don’t work, but Neal’s Yard [named after a forgotten corner of London] has been around since 1981,” says Shelley, BComm’06, “and what sets us apart is that we are organic and also scientifically based.”
For the rum lover
Romero Distilling Company Ltd.
$54.99 for a 750ml bottle
Western Canada’s only craft distillery that focuses on rum was opened in 2018 by co-founder and alumnus Tomas Romero, BSc’04. Besides tucking a bottle of amber, spiced or dark rum in someone’s stocking, add a custom-blend tour to your package. For $75 you can tour the distillery, design your own custom bottle of spiced rum and leave with it that very day. Don’t trust yourself to make your own concoction? Opt for a standard tour and tasting — that will set you back, a paltry, $15.
For the soon-to-sell homeowner
Blue Door Décor
$150/hour (home staging jobs typically take 2-3 hours)
If all you want for Christmas is a quick house sale, consider hiring a home stager. As a colour specialist (for paint, tile and countertops), Loren Snyder, BSc’84, has seen an uptick in staging homes for resale purposes. Unlike many home stagers, Snyder doesn’t own a warehouse of furniture and accessories, preferring to “shop” in someone’s home. By repurposing items or treasures that have been tucked away, Snyder advises clients on how best to declutter, rearrange their own furniture or artwork, suggest colours (if painting is necessary) because, she maintains, “inexpensive does not have to mean ugly.”
For pint-sized fashionistas
From handmade holiday tutus to adorable little onesies, Stinky Bunny operates as both a boutique and a brand. Available online as well as in six Beaners Fun Cuts across Alberta, owner Lara Gilbertson-Hudson, BA’06, curates and designs baby and children’s clothing and accessories, including her best-selling birthday outfits and tutus. Born out of the desire to make children’s clothes affordable — as she raises a little fashionista of her own — Gilbertson-Hudson’s dream for 2020 is to get Stinky Bunny into big-box retailers. While the business gives her work-life balance and freedom to be home with her babies, she will “continue to buy lotto tickets” until she lands a big break.
For the art lover
Just as e-commerce has revolutionized the world of retail, it has changed the practice of buying art. In Calgary, one of the disruptors is Vandy Midha, BFA’12, who acts as a match-maker between buyers of art and local artists. Midha’s art-consulting service includes a 30-minute in-home session where you discuss art and your preferences with Midha. She then photographs the space you want to fill with art and sends you a digital mock-up of a few paintings that have been virtually placed in your space. Next comes a 48-hour trial where the art is delivered and hung in your home where you get to try it on, so to speak. If you like what you see, buy the painting (priced between $200-$6,000) and know that your investment is supporting an Alberta artist.
For the toque and jewelry lover
Lace Brick Design
When self-described “mompreneur,” Jackie Chemelli, BA’04, BEd’06, first launched her company the focus was on jewelry and refurbished vintage goods. Since then, Chemelli has become a mom (of one-year-old twin boys ) and expanded her business into the apparel and adventure supplies (think camping) arena — now carried in 60+ stores across Canada. Even though the focus hasn’t strayed from working with local community-focused women, Chemelli has dreams of partnering with Mountain Equipment Co-op to carry the brand — especially the two top sellers: its alpine necklace ($35) and mountain girl toques ($25). P.S. You can also let the lucky recipient of your gift know that these lovely goods are locally designed and “carry the message that adventure loving women want to share with the world.”
For the wannabe-pampered man
Man Calgary Spa
Never assume that it’s just women who want to be pampered. You can stuff a gift basket full of r&r products for any man in your life, says alumna Annette Burwash, who launched Canada’s first men-only spa 20 years ago. From skin and grooming products to anti-aging and laser services — Man Calgary Spa offers a full menu of head to toe treatments. Whether it’s a luxurious straight-razor shave, a massage, facial or waxing treatment, Burwash says their number one seller at Christmas is a gift certificate, “so the gentleman in your life can choose the service or product he prefers and the GCs will never expire.”
For the community-minded giver
Calgary Drop-in Centre
Time, Treasure, Talent
It’s not too late to Fill-a-Sock with a $10 gift card to Timmy’s, transit tickets, lip balm, hand warmers, toiletries — the list of what the Calgary Drop-in Centre needs at this time of year is always long. Some 1,200 Calgarians rely on the Drop-In Centre every day, says Sr. Manager of Communications, Kala Ortwein, MA’16, “so donations, from cash to stockings to time is always appreciated.”
For the jewelry/yoga/beach-wear lover
With product placements on The Vampire Diaries and in British Vogue and DaySpa magazine, Andrea Kelly, BA’97, finds inspiration in nature — mostly the tropics and on mountaintops. Kelly’s newly launched Aura Collection was a big hit at the recent Spruce Meadows Christmas Market, “likely because customers just wanted to connect with the thought of a tropical beach on a cold winter’s day.”
From gemstones fashioned after pineapples and orchids to drops and swirls the colour of peacocks, Kelly has designs on expanding her collections into tropical resort boutiques around the globe. But for now, she’s thrilled when she spots her pieces on local yogis or on Nina Dobrev (of The Vampire Diaries fame) which happened recently.