CCEI’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Welcome to the season of giving! As the holidays quickly approach, finding the perfect gift becomes a joyous pursuit, and what better way to spread festive cheer than by supporting innovative startups? 

Here you will find our 2023 curated holiday gift guide, showcasing a unique selection of products that not only make for thoughtful presents, but also contribute to the growth of new businesses. (Not to mention … many of these products are on sale for Black Friday!)

Discover the charm of supporting UConn-based startups and the importance of investing in the dreams and creations of entrepreneurial minds. From one-of-a-kind products to cutting-edge innovations, let this guide inspire you to embrace the spirit of giving … and giving back!


INI Sips

INI Sips is your one-stop shop for premium, organic coffee, and tea! Created by Marine Corps veteran, Gulaid, alongside his wife Davina, INI Sips is proud to be amongst the growing population of community-centered, family-operated businesses in both Connecticut and North Carolina. INI Sips is committed to providing customers with the highest quality premium coffee and tea products sourced sustainably and ethically from around the world! |


Kona Brand

Can’t decide between a flannel and a Hawaiian shirt? Now you don’t have to choose! Kona Brand, founded by Zac Will, is an apparel company that makes fun winter flannels by combining the feel of traditional flannels with the flare of a Hawaiian shirt. If that’s not enticing enough, with each Kona Brand purchase, 10% of the profits will go towards finding a home for rescue dogs! | @thekonabrand



Treat yourself this holiday season to the swimsuit of your dreams! onewith is a swimwear line that is patent-pending, dig-free, elastic-free, and edgeless, just like your favorite no-show undies. Truly onewith a woman’s body! Founded by Hayley Segar, the swimsuits are size-inclusive (available in sizes XXS – 4XL) and include free shipping on any U.S. orders over $65! | @onewithswim



Level up your hydration by eliminating bacteria from your water! Growing concerns over water quality inspired Luma, founded by Jaden Brodeur and Willy Hogan, to innovate the outdated water bottle industry. Luma 1.0 now uses UV-C light technology to filter and eliminate 99.9% of bacteria from water in just 60 seconds. Perfect for any reusable water bottle lover! | @drinkluma



Have an athlete in the family? Train every aspect of hitting, all in the same swing! ProVelocityBat, founded by Elijah Taitel, is a baseball and softball tool that uses a sliding “power barrel” releasing to the impact position when a batter achieves the desired speed. To be a dangerous hitter, you need to barrel up the ball as often as possible and hit the ball hard. That leads to a high batting average and more homers! | @provelocitybat



Work on self-development in 2024! Mindfulness is proving to be more and more important, but beginning your journey can feel overwhelming! StarMind, founded by Allie Davenport, equips you with tools, techniques, and habits to live each day intentionally. Begin with “The Guide,” an integrative journal designed to kickstart your personal growth by providing a holistic introduction to key psychology concepts. Its integrative QR code system provides a seamless combination of paper and digital! | @starmindco


Queen Bee

Restore your trust in natural remedies … while also saving the bees! Queen Bee, founded by Raina and Harsha Jain, sources natural, holistic wellness shots and on-the-go herbal packets with intention and care. They use ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, raw and unfiltered honey, lemon, and cayenne pepper to produce the highest-quality products. They also donate to honeybee research facilities to support pollinators! | @queenbeesupplements



Out with the old, in with the new! ReForm, founded by Air Force veteran Steve D’Amico, takes old military veteran uniforms and turns them into something that is both honorable and useful! Items can range from dog collars, bracelets, body satchels, key chains and more! Additionally, every product is uniquely crafted and American made. |


Curated CT

Shop locally this holiday season! Curated CT, founded by Donald Pendagast, connects you with Connecticut makers, growers, and artisans to make it easier to discover, learn, shop, gift—and be—local. So, you get to enjoy the best of Connecticut and support small businesses from the comfort and convenience of your home! Visit their website to shop around and learn about the various vendors—perfect for any small business lover! | @curatedct_2020


Happy Dinosaur 

Everyone needs a cuddly friend! Bringing a sustainable, personalized experience to the toy industry, Happy Dinosaur makes handmade plushies, as well as other dinosaur products and accessories. Happy Dinosaurs, created by Lyla Andrick, are committed to zero waste production, available in three different sizes, and can be customized! | @_happy_dinosaur


Roast Me

Need a way to spice up those same old get-togethers with friends/family? Look no further! Roast Me, founded by Chris Mueller, Ben Morneault, and Ato Eyiah, is a card game with a fun twist, with players pulling “roast cards” and “challenge cards” they must complete. Their website also has merchandise products available for purchase, as well as a “Create A Card” section where fans can submit an idea they think is card-worthy! | @playroastme


Bastion Health

Power up your health from the comfort of your own home! As the first specialty digital clinic for men, Bastion Health provides comprehensive test kits customized to your needs. Founded by Reza Amin, simply collect the necessary sample, drop it off at a USPS location, and schedule a virtual specialist visit to review results and figure out a treatment plan. Download the mobile app and figure out the right plan for you or your loved one! | @bastionhealth 


Tony’s Denim

Ever hate the feeling of jeans that just don’t fit right? Tony’s Denim will fix that! Founded by Patti Starr Oliva, Tony’s Denim is a gap-proof line of jeans with no uncomfortable waist gap! The waistband is instead cut by 1/2 an inch to create a smaller waistband, with a built-in adjustable elastic embedded. So you have full ability to adjust based on your waistline needs! Hand wash cold and air dry preferred! | @tonysdenim


Levo International 

Don’t want to necessarily buy a product? No worries! Levo International is working to turn underutilized urban properties into productive farm spaces to alleviate food insecurity. Founded by Christian and William Heiden, Levo International creates food security solutions to build stronger communities through partnerships and innovation. With your help of a donation, they can have vegetables available in the north end of Hartford! A matching grant (dollar for dollar) from SustainableCT is now available in support of this project. | @levointernational