At the holidays, I show love with food. But not necessarily my food.
Wherever I can, I buy from new companies that are owned by women or mentor young women. It's a natural outgrowth of my work as an investor of woman-owned startups. Not only do I help support these businesses, but I also end up serving some of the best holiday treats around.
If you have a New Year's shindig in the works or need a rush delivery for Aunt Gladys, here are some great options that don't just sparkle, they help women excel.
For the Wine Geek
Imagine yourself swirling a glass of Merlot, a cheeky glint in your eye, "Why yes, I did support emerging vintner talent in South Africa when I bought this wine. Not just me of course, some folks in Napa were involved too. So glad you came to my fete!"
Then prepare to stand back as your friends break into giggles and Merlot shoots out their noses.
When I entertain this season, I'm ordering from Wine for the World. The company pairs undiscovered winemakers from developing countries, with Food & Wine Magazine Winemakers of the Year, and the result is a fantastic selection of red and whites.
I've been a fan of Wine for the World since it rocked out its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in 2013, exceeding its fundraising goal and appearing on the startup scene in 2014.
"We're at a really exciting time as a company," says founder Mika Bulmash. "We're in the market with outstanding wines, connecting with enthusiastic consumers who love our story, building great partnerships and scouting for new talent as we expand into new markets and grow our team."
And who doesn't like handy gift sets? Wine For the World has 2 and 3 bottle sets ready to go for the holidays. You can also buy in bulk and stock up for your holiday party. With wines running under $25, it's a deal that gets you sophisticated hostess cred.
Skip Baking and Impress Your Friends
I like the idea of cooking and I like the idea of giving, but when I try to put them together, its not pretty.
Neighbors give me pitying looks when I present them cookies that are both lopsided and maybe extra crispy. Does anyone really like fruit cake? No. Does anyone want to see me try to bake a fruit cake? Definitely not.
So how about I skip the whole mess and order goodies like pink peppermint marshmallows and holiday macarons from a New Orleans sweet boutique, oui? Oui!
Sucre caught my attention when I discovered they support the young men and women who graduate from Venture for America, a group that trains ridiculously smart college graduates to enter early-stage companies across the country.
Elizabeth Nicholas is a Venture For America fellow and after receiving her training, Sucre offered her the position of Digital Retail Manager. "Everyday I get to see powerful women excel in various roles, from sales and business development to culinary innovation to graphic design and e-commerce."
She says the co-owners, restauranteur Joel Dondis and executive chef Tariq Hanna, are supportive and challenging leaders. "They expect you to continually build and improve upon your initial idea and then waste no time in implementing it."
When the time comes for Elizabeth to start her own company, she will be ready. "What I've most benefited from is the exposure to so many different industries: the restaurant industry, the world of wholesale and national expansion, haute confectionary cuisine, e-commerce, accounting, etc. We even have an in-house sommelier (female, of course!)."
As an investor, I support Venture for America's work and have had the pleasure of connecting with their hard working corps of fellows. I don't mind sending a little love New Orleans way as a thank you for training people like Elizabeth who I will no doubt see in investor boardrooms sooner rather than later.
Food Overload? Find Pitch Perfect Stocking Stuffers
Maybe you want to be that person who arrives at the door bearing gifts that are kind to the hostesses's waist line. Good thought, but how do you avoid predictability and re-gifting?
It would be so handy if someone could create an algorithm around a product's buzz, sales, user reviews and editor's picks, and then compile it into easy gift guides. Oh wait! That's a thing. It's called Rank & Style, and it was created by three women.
"Lists make everything better," says founder Sarika Doshi, "especially around the holidays."
At least a dozen gift guides can be found on the site, including Deluxe Beauty Delights, For the Preppy Girl and Tech Cases & Accessories.
"We believe it's the thought that counts, not our personal opinions." Doshi explains. "Our gift guides do all the homework for you by objectively ranking the best gifts to give and get in every category, for every personality type. [We] take into account hundreds of inputs from trusted sources."
Rank & Style isn't just making gift giving easy. Want to make algebra glamorous to young girls? Start a company that uses metrics behind pretty things to maximize the value behind the customer's dollar. It's brains and beauty at every level.
Stay safe and warm this season, and in all your party hopping, may the holidays bring you fine wine, tasty treats and sparkly boxes from these fabulous women.