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Nov. 22, 2021

17 Spartan-owned Michigan businesses to support this holiday season

Consider giving a gift that celebrates a Spartan entrepreneur this holiday season. Together, the Broad College and the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation bring you their second annual holiday gift guide, featuring 17 Michigan-based businesses run by Michigan State University alumni and students. 

Things to sip, things to indulge


Cask & Kettle Hot Cocktails

You had us at hot cocktails! Cask & Kettle, co-founded by Lucinda Wright (B.A. Marketing ’84, MBA ’92), offers hard coffee and cider cocktail pods that can be prepared in any Keurig-style brewing machine or simply peeled and poured into a mug of hot water.  

First to enter the market, Cask & Kettle brews up their cocktails K-Cup style with bold roasted liquid coffee concentrate, liquid distilled spirits and natural flavorings. All you need is hot water to enjoy a barista-quality coffee cocktail.  

This certified woman-owned company launched in Battle Creek in 2018 and offers five cocktails to make your holidays a little more festive: Irish Coffee, Spiked Dry Cider (made from Michigan cider), Mint Patty Coffee, Mexican Coffee and Hot Blonde Coffee. Cask & Kettle also partners with Temperance Distilling, located in Temperance, Michigan, to craft and blend its signature hot cocktails.

Littlefoot Coffee Roasters

Speaking of brewing up goodness, check out Littlefoot Coffee Roasters for the coffee connoisseur in your life. Founded by proud Michiganders Rosie Quasarano (B.A. Advertising ’04) and Alex Burbo, this small but mighty operation is a reflection of the founders’ hardworking heritage. 

Based in Grandville, Littlefoot sources coffee directly from farmers whenever possible, and they do their very best to honor the hard work and energy that goes into growing coffee. Their rotating selection of single origins and blends keeps things fresh and highlights the best of each season. From their online shop you can snag a 12-ounce, two-pound or five-pound bag of coffee — or start a subscription so you’re never without great coffee again.  

Topping it all off, you’ll be sipping coffee from two award-winning founders. Quasarano and Burbo earned the 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year award from the MSU Product Center for their unique accomplishments and growth over the past year and for their commitment to supporting others.  

Explore Littlefoot today and come along for a coffee adventure.

Eudaimonia Juice Co.

Are you a Lansing resident looking for a gift that’s tasty and healthy? Look no further than Eudaimonia Juice Co. Founded by marketing research master’s student Tarek Chawich, Eudaimonia Juice Co. aims to provide fresh, organic cold-pressed juices for you to be happy, healthy and prosperous. 

The juice company’s core values revolve around sustainability, innovation, high-quality ingredients and service to the Lansing community. They rely on local, raw and organic produce, and for those in the area, they deliver the juice straight to your door. 

Eudaimonia — a term coined by Aristotle that means human flourishing — launched earlier this year and has seen rapid growth through online subscriptions and farmers markets. In December, Chawich will be launching a new venture, Château Coffee Co., to help further grow Eudaimona Juice Co.  

MAWBY Vineyards and Winery

Say “cheers” this holiday season with wine from a Spartan. In 1973, Larry Mawby (B.A. English ’72) planted a parcel of land in Leelanau County, with a personal promise to make the best wines he could while respecting Mother Earth. Almost 50 years later, Larry’s legacy continues.  

MAWBY exclusively produces naturally fermented sparkling wines in a range of styles to please almost any palate, each uniquely approachable, each with their own personality. They toast to unity and believe there is something to celebrate every day. 

The MAWBY tasting room is open year-round for you to sip some bubbly creations and take in the stunning views of Northern Michigan in each season. In addition, you can join the MAWBY Fizz Club for exclusive wines, discounts and other fizzy fun. 

Hear from the godfather of Leelanau wine himself on the Hatchcast. In a first for the MSU entrepreneurship-based podcast, cohosts Diego Fernandez and Aaryn Richard trekked northward to Michigan’s magnificent wine country to interview Mawby. From poetry to sustainability, this interview is a treat!

Lake Charlevoix Coffee Company

Another option if you’re buying for a coffee lover is Lake Charlevoix Coffee Company. Founder Brittany (Brubaker) McNeil (B.A. English ’08) is committed to making excellent coffee, one small batch of roasted beans at a time. 

She starts by building relationships with farmers to ensure the coffee is not only the freshest but also ethically and sustainably sourced. Learning about the journey the beans take to be grown and harvested with care has elevated her passion for this work and her appreciation for all those who work to bring us the perfect morning cup of joe. 

Within the walls of Lake Charlevoix Coffee Company’s shops, McNeil works to make coffee fun, accessible and inclusive. The smiles, connections and relationships forged over a shared cup are the motivation and magic behind what they do. The passion for coffee and for people — their stories and journeys — guide every decision made at Lake Charlevoix Coffee Company, and it’s in that spirit that they roast every small batch of beans, sure to brighten your holidays. 

Goods that are a perfect fit


Public Thread

Treat the upcycler in your life to some goods from Public Thread. Launched in 2016 by Janay Brower (B.A. International Relations ’01), this Grand Rapids–based company designs and makes bold upcycled products. They elevate existing textiles and inspire creative disruption by designing and making products using the local community’s surplus textiles. 

With a gift from Public Thread, you can feel confident you’re helping the planet — this women-owned company has kept more than 100,000 pounds of textiles out of landfills to date. As for the products, you’ll find everything from backpacks and duffle bags to koozies and pet collars, all expertly crafted. 

If you’re interested in purchasing batches of “green” products for holiday gifts this year, Public Thread can help with that, too. They’re happy to create custom items, private label products or collab products.

Twin Eyewear

The glasses we wear tell the world who we are. Finding the right pair means expressing your identity through an impeccable iconic accessory.  

When shopping for someone obsessed with stylish lenses, cast your view on Twin Eyewear, an online retailer of eyeglasses and sunglasses. Founded by M.S. in Business Analytics candidate Raghunath Reddy Koilakonda, Twin Eyewear is fun, fashion and personal. The company also has a clear focus on giving back: with every pair you purchase, Twin will help give sight to a person in need, one for one. 

Twin is out to prove that glasses can be more than just a medical device — they can be an extension of your personality, your mood and interests. Twin is on a journey to become the go-to personalized eyewear brand by creating glasses that people are excited about wearing. 

Their approach encompasses a high-quality production process, exploration of the most innovative trends and solid and distinctive values embedded in every new pair of glasses.

Human Base Apparel

Looking for the perfect performance undergarment? Human Base Apparel has you covered. This women-owned company is on a mission to create apparel that acts to simulate natural body balance when under the fluctuating environments and stressors of hard work. 

When Lauren Aitch (B.A. Advertising ’09, M.A. Public Relations ’10), managing partner of Human Base Apparel, designed a custom suit for MSU women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant, the genius of Human Base Apparel was conceived. As a member of MSU’s team from 2005 to 2010, Aitch was inspired to help her coach address a lifelong problem of sweating through her garments while on the sidelines.  

Today, Human Base Apparel’s base layers feature a patented design that provides maximum sweat, odor and stain protection for people in athletics, entertainment, law enforcement, business and health care settings. Since its inception in 2011, Human Base Apparel has been at the forefront of developing technologically driven wearable products designed to improve performance and impact the company’s bottom line.

Ideas for your favorite foodie


Cravings Gourmet Popcorn

For many, popcorn reminds us of good times with friends and family. That’s the motto of Lansing-based Cravings Gourmet Popcorn

Led by founder Chad Jordan (B.A. Social Science ’03), Cravings Gourmet Popcorn is a small-batch craft gourmet popcorn company that prides itself on creating top-notch gluten-free and nut-free popcorn flavors. 

Get your hands on one of the gift tin varieties or sink your teeth into some delectable gourmet creations — everything from Buffalo Cheddar Cheese and Hot Kansas City White Cheddar to Pumpkin Spiced Cheesecake Drizzle and Egg Nog Butter Rum Chocolate Drizzle. 

At Cravings, they create the popcorn so you can make people happy. 

The Only Bean

We all know a pasta lover, and we all know that carbs and gluten don’t fit on everyone’s plate. Plant-based pasta creations from the Only Bean could be a solution. Founded in 2017 by Spartan power couple Brian Lai (B.A. Marketing ’12) and Kristine Yang (B.A. Marketing ’11), the Only Bean offers a line of high-protein, gluten-free pasta made 100% from beans, packed with three times the protein, six times the fiber and less than half the carbs of average pasta.  

Beans are one of the best sources of plant-based protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. They’re high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and much more. In addition to being an excellent source of nutrition, beans are one of the only plants that enrich soil during its growing process, making beans one of the most sustainable crops.  

Lai and Yang use all-natural, organic, non-GMO beans to create plant-based, gluten-free, better-for-you products that are healthy, delicious and sustainable. What could be better? Don’t miss their recently launched line of crunchy roasted edamame snacks that are keto-friendly, gluten-free and vegan as well.


If you’re gifting for someone with a plant-based diet, it might also be time to explore the menu at VEG-N, the first and only plant-based drive-thru establishment in the state of Michigan. 

VEG-N is an American classics eatery that provides customers with a unique harmony of flavor, convenience and hospitality. They take pride in consistently serving up smiles and a delicious vegan menu, with items like chick-n sandwiches and chili cheese fries, to everyone from lifelong vegans to open-minded meat-eaters.  

Jonathan Ristola (B.S. Mechanical Engineering ’18, M.J. Intellectual Property Law ’20) and Christabelle Dozeman (B.A. Communication ’17) know firsthand that a plant-based lifestyle has countless lasting benefits. In an effort to share this experience with the rest of the world, and to take direct action on climate change, they started VEG-N as a food truck in 2019 and relaunched it as a drive-thru venture in Lansing last February. 

Don’t miss their special holiday gift options, like gift cards, vegan cookie boxes and VEG-N apparel.

Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Lodge

Perhaps you’re ready for a visit to “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.” Consider making plans to stay, shop and eat at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Lodge in Frankenmuth. The Bavarian Inn Lodge is a 360-room conference center and family resort located across the Wooden Covered Bridge from the 1,200-seat family dining Bavarian Inn Restaurant.  

The experience is sure to be filled with fun as the hotel has four pools, three whirlpools, two waterslides, an 18-hole indoor mini golf course, karaoke and more than 160 arcade games. Enjoy shopping galore with more than eight retail stories. You won’t want to miss their Famous Family-Style Chicken dinners, either.  

What makes the Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Lodge even more special is its family ties to MSU. Martha Zehnder Kaczynski (B.A. Hospitality Business ’03) was trimming chicken and folding napkins by the age of 10. Now, as vice president of the Bavarian Inn Lodge, she and eight other Spartan grads from the Bavarian Inn Zehnder family are at the helm. They bleed Green and are proud the family business is an icon within Michigan.

Gifts that are one of a kind



Struggling to quit vaping or smoking? Know someone who is? CAPNOS is on a mission to prevent lung diseases and save lives. 

Founder Brendan Wang, supply chain management senior, and co-founder Jake Roach, finance senior, both struggled with vaping. Now, they are helping other people who aim to quit vaping or smoking succeed by addressing the behavioral addiction. They created the patent-pending CAPNOS Zero, a flavored, pressurized air inhaler. With each hit, a valve pops open to create a deep-hit sensation that feels like vaping, but with no smoke, nicotine or charge. It’s just flavored air!  

After two years of product development, CAPNOS launched this September, selling out 400 CAPNOS Zeros to customers globally within 10 days. Many customers report the Zero being “extremely effective” toward satisfying oral fixations, reducing vape usage and for stress relief.  

Support CAPNOS in their next launch this November and join them on their journey to put a cap… on vaping.


Bring the heat this holiday season with the unique, flavor-first creations from hot sauce company Redfelr. Founded by Stephen Cooper-McCann (B.A. Physics ’08) and based in Detroit, Redfelr sauces are produced with locally sourced peppers, fruits and spices. 

Each batch is mindfully processed, after weeks of careful fermentation and individual testing, before it hits your plate. The fermentation process adds a bright, briny undertone to the fruits, enhancing the fresh, earthy notes and intrinsic flavors of the sauce.

Redfelr’s original sauce is the signature apple and mild serrano blend, spicy enough for hot-sauce fanatics but balanced enough for casual dining. The Solstice and Root sauces — crafted in a tradition of natural coloring and flavoring — add a habanero kick to lemon zest and sugar beet foundations.

'The Cut Cookbook'

Share some culinary joy with "The Cut Cookbook", created and tested by environmental economics and management junior Madison Marsh. This book is meant to be simplistic and straightforward to encourage people to be more adventurous in the kitchen. 

Marsh believes cooking is a social practice that brings people together. Whether you want comfort food, tasty vegan and vegetarian recipes, healthy ideas or easy-to-make recipes, her cookbook has it all. Each recipe in the cookbook has a section for notes so foodies can make these recipes their own and change what they want. 

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Experiment with the recipes and share the joy of cooking with others. Ultimately, Marsh hopes her book will help you find a passion for cooking!


Consider spreading cheer and purpose this year. leahmonet is a cause-based business designed to positively empower and inspire people through the product lines and their support of the leahmonet Philanthropist Foundation. 

When you purchase something from the collections under the brand, you’ll directly support philanthropic initiatives that provide those in need with opportunities to aspire, persevere and find justice. The common thread through the lines created by social science senior Leah Monet Ellis is the unmet need for understanding, support and resources related to mental wellness from birth through adulthood.  

leahmonet’s brand culture is one of love, compassion and empowerment. The products — including customized notebooks for students with ADHD and OCD, handmade jewelry and clothing (coming soon) to destigmatize mental health issues — give people the power to express their voices in the chorus of support for individuals and families facing adversity. 

Upper Peninsula Supply Co.

Give a gift that celebrates the wonder of the Upper Peninsula. Find something unique from the Upper Peninsula Supply Co., run by Bugsy Sailor (B.A. Sociology and Advertising ’06) — including original apparel, prints, artwork and tchotchkes.  

Sailor partners with people and organizations across the U.P. to promote good, execute original ideas and provide a fresh take on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Great Lakes and the nature and wildlife that surround us. To this end, he’s helped create holidays (including 906 Day and Plaidurday), campaigned for a U.P. embassy in Lansing and, yes, even helped launch a dating site called Yooper Singles. 

Since 2008, his company has been supplying the Upper Peninsula to the world through their website, and in 2017 they opened a brick-and-mortar store in the heart of downtown Marquette. When Sailor isn’t running the helm at the UPSCo. storefront, he can be found chasing sunrises, skipping stones and running Fresh Coast Film Festival. Get UP there soon. 

Bonus: University-affiliated items and University Stores

Looking to buy MSU-branded merchandise? From mugs to T-shirts and everything in between, is the source for all your Spartan gift-giving needs — including exclusive items, such as the collectible ornament series and merchandise from many MSU colleges and departments! If you need a place to shop on campus, University Stores sells a variety of Spartan merchandise to students, faculty, staff, alumni and retirees. 

MSU Press

Give the unique gift of Michigan-based stories or books published and distributed by MSU Press this year! A wide variety of books is available. From beautiful coffee-table books filled with vibrant art to stories that explore the depths of the Great Lakes, you’re sure to find something for the Spartan or Michigan history enthusiast in your life. Visit the MSU Press online gift store to view some of their most popular titles, including "Twelve Twenty-Five", the true story of the locomotive featured in the beloved holiday classic "The Polar Express." 

These are just a small collection of products from the many talented MSU alumni and student entrepreneurs. We hope this and last year’s gift guide inspire you to seek out and support Spartans this holiday season! 

If you are a Spartan entrepreneur or know someone who would be a fit for next year’s gift guide, drop us a line at

By: Aaryn Richard and Chelsea Stein