little girl in red velour tracksuit
Photo: Joel Benjamin
Business & Entrepreneurship

Comfort & Joy
Brown alums offer bright ideas for your holiday gifts & year-end giving.

By Kerry Lachmann, Pippa Jack, and Louise Sloan ’88. Nonprofits compiled by Jaehyun Hong ’24 / November–December 2021
November 4th, 2021

Lawyer and former Marine Corps officer Peter Bartle ’95 may not be the first person you’d guess was all about the velour. But when his wife gave him a velour tracksuit several years ago, he was hooked. “It brought not only a smile to my face when I put it on, but made everyone around me smile, too,” he says. He didn’t love the design, however, and was about to call up the company with some suggestions when he thought, “Wait—why don’t I do this?” (See photo above). Despite “literally zero experience in the fashion or apparel industries,” Bartle decided to give it a go, and launched Velomino in 2020. He credits his training as a Marine for “giving me the confidence to pursue this venture and tolerate the risk,” but he says it was Brown and its Open Curriculum that helped him learn to think creatively and approach things with “the mindset of an entrepreneurial problem-solver.” Velomino’s cozy velour tracksuits can be customized with embroidery for even more smiles.

$100-$150/2-piece tracksuit; 10% off and free shipping with code BAMGIFT2021

Gift Guide 2021 products

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Soothe your skin with natural ingredients like beeswax and organic pasture-raised tallow and lard. Tania Teschke ’93, who says she was inspired by the French country traditions chronicled in her book The Bordeaux Kitchen, sources all her products with soil regeneration and animal welfare in mind.

$6-$40; 10% off with code BROWN10

Professor Barrett Hazeltine’s entrepreneurship classes and an early career in finance helped Huron cofounder Matt Mullenax ’08  take the leap into men’s skincare. Mullenax, who says he struggled with blemishes and redness into his late 20s, wanted to find “products that worked at non-offensive price points.” Huron’s body wash and shampoo garnered “best” ratings from Men’s Health and Rolling Stone.

$39; $5 off with code BAM5

Back in the day, most farms had stills to deal with harvest excesses. Manya Rubinstein ’01 wants to bring back that strong link to the farm with the Industrious Spirit Company, which distills sustainably sourced vodka, gin, and bourbon in Providence, R.I.—the city’s first distillery since Prohibition. The gin is dubbed “ornamental” as homage to the ornamental steel once made at the site.


Bio major Owen Miller 09 planned to use his science savvy to brew beer but ended up making “another partially fermented beverage, one that didn’t come with a hangover.” Miller, who originally “rigged up a home roaster made from a flour sifter and a heat gun,” offers coffees in compostable bags featuring his dad’s engravings. He donates 5% of profits to the fight for racial justice.

$16.50/12 oz.; 15% off with code BROWN15

Gift Guide 2021_masks

Beautiful form meets high-level function in the N95-grade Airgami mask, designed by Richard Gordon 78. Gordon began developing the mask back in 2011, nearly a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic. His  goal was to create a better-fitting N95 respirator to protect his teenaged son from air pollution while they were living in China. He hit upon the prizewinning Airgami design in 2016. The project took Gordon entirely out of his depth at the start, as his graduate education and career were all about integrated-circuit hardware and software design. Airgami, on the other hand, “is made of origami and plastics, and is devoid of wires, transisters, and code.” Gordon credits “the rigors of Brown engineering” and its interdisciplinary approach for giving him the “breadth and mindset” needed to learn and innovate outside his comfort zone. Airgami fits youths through adults, conforming to each individual face, and can be rinsed, heat-disinfected, and reused for up to a month. The company says it “won’t fog up your glasses, fall off your nose, collapse onto your mouth, or muffle your voice.”


Gift Guide 2021 products

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After finding her skin drying out in Santa Fe’s desert climate, Moira Gehring ’78 started tapping the body’s endocannabinoid system and “one of our oldest plant relationships” to make CBD-rich skin products aimed at combatting inflammation and aging.

$65/Dirt; $70/Dew; 20% off with code BROWN

Montessori instructor Dan Filler ’02 MAT is returning to art, his concentration at Brown, with colorful designs that “reflect my great love of picture book art, an inevitable outcome of two decades as an elementary school teacher.” A distinctive aesthetic reflects Filler’s printmaker training.

$30/print on wood

“Women deserve deep pockets,” says Julie Sygiel ’09, and we couldn’t agree more. Sygiel’s line of five dresses, each named for a snack food, have sturdy, capacious pockets for  everything you’ll need to fuel your adventures. The Bonbon dress, shown, is 100% linen lined with 100% cotton.


Carry some nature around: Nick Mayer 93, 99 MAT, makes portraits of fish that are technically accurate and bursting with life—now available on quality merch like insulated steel tumblers and, yes, phone cases. It was Mayer’s father who urged him “to view science from the art side of things.”

$39/case; 15% off with code BROWN15

Gift Guide 2021_knitting tools

She may have been knitting since she was 9 years old, but Kayleigh Butera 13  searched in vain for stylish knitting tools and accessories. So in 2020—noticing that knitting was experiencing a resounding pandemic-related revival—Butera launched Allstitch Studio, a line of accessories made from natural cork sustainably harvested in northern Portugal. “A few years ago, I became obsessed with the magical properties and sustainability of cork. The harvesting process actually keeps cork forests healthy and increases their capacity to store carbon,” she says. The material “adds a beautiful, natural aesthetic and a lovely tactile experience, which is so important to knitters.” Flagship products include cork stitch stoppers, below, to keep stitches from falling off the ends of needles; and accessory pouches, also made of cork, “the perfect catchall for knitting notions.” The products are available online and in specialty shops across the U.S. and abroad.

$15/cork stopper set; 15% off with code BROWNx15

Gift Guide 2021 products

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Julia Tatiyatrairong ’16 read that warmth could help repetitive strain injury, so she hand-knitted a pair of gloves designed specifically for office work. They helped her boyfriend’s RSI and others’ just plain cold fingers, and Refiber Designs was born—as eco-friendly as it sounds.

$35-$50/pair; 15% off with code BRUNO

Chef and cookbook author Stephanie Hua 04 set out to elevate cannabis edibles. Her San Francisco–based company creates hand-crafted marshmallows in a variety of flavors and two choices of THC levels. Available at Cal. dispensaries or delivered within the SF Bay Area.

$55/box of 12

That’s what this cocoa butter soap ornamented by a cast bronze hand is saying in American Sign Language. The second part of the message from sculptor Daniel Wheeler 84?  “Now wash your hands!”


With Lago medical wear, former Nike exec Michael Tang ’05  rethinks shapeless scrubs, in “buttery soft,” stretchy, wrinkle-resistant fabric. Each set of scrubs is made from 14 recycled soda bottles.

$30/top; $40/pants; 10% off with code BROWN10

Gift Guide 2021 products

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Marc Choyt ’84 describes himself as a “radical ethical jewelry activist” and the only artist in the U.S. using Fairtrade Gold, sourced from a small mine in Peru. Working alongside his wife and Kyle Abram ’18, his company showcases ethically sourced gems and a Southwest allure.

$595/ring; $795/earrings; 10% off until 12/31/21 with code Bruno

“I know everyone has a place they feel connected to,” says Courtney Reckord  ’97.5, who has categories on her website that include “mountain jewelry.” That’s fair given that she uses USGS data to create pieces that include a slim gold ring that’s also an elevation map of Vermont’s Long Trail, a silver Green Mountain topographical cuff, and gorgeous Montana sapphires.

$250/14k gold ring; $850/bezel ring; $225/bracelet;10% off with code gobruno!

Hankering to escape to a wood cabin? That’s why Harry Doull ’07  makes the sustainable coconut wax candle above, which has a 45-hour burn time. Other destinations from a master perfumer include canyons, hot springs, fields of lavender, and waves.


Get you one of our cover pies, the Salted Caramel Apple—or the Raspberry with Hazelnut Streusel number above—to make your holiday desserts next-level. Rebecca Bloom ’96 bakes with fresh Idaho fruit and the devotion to sharing, creativity, and art she learned at Brown.

$36; 10% off with code BROWNPIES

Gift Guide 2021_silo art

Though art and design are different disciplines, graphic designer Jessica Braun ’96 says, “sometimes I get labeled as ‘crafty’ and recruited for ‘art’ projects.” One such, a preschool holiday gift that included a portrait of each child in a hand-painted frame, needed a simple image to work within the students’ brightly painted mats. So Braun photographed each kid in profile, then tweaked the images to achieve that old-fashioned ideal, the silhouette—but in an updated form that preserves individual features, characteristics, and expression. Demand for the custom portraits—whether of people, pets, heirlooms, or landscapes—swiftly became so strong that she created an online portal to manage orders. Braun was a biology concentrator who says she discovered graphic design from “the note-making systems I devised to master complex scientific material meant for a different brain than mine.” After graduation she formally studied design, learning “how to communicate words and ideas with type and images.”

$65/5”x7” print; 15% off with code bruno

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On Martha’s Vineyard’s Merry Farm Road, Micah Thanhauser 13 uses natural materials to make pottery. His contemplative studies capstone project “inquired into the relationship between artistic, contemplative, and religious practice,” he says. “I am now living the questions that I was studying at Brown.”

$50; 20% off with code BROWN

Never choose between nibbles and a beverage again with this well-designed wooden tray from Charles Tansey ’74. Sustainable materials include recycled carbon fiber from boats.

$26/cherry tray; 10% off with code BROWN110

Interior designer Markham Roberts ’90  has made Architectural Digest’s top 100 and was dubbed a “master of timeless American style” by Vogue. Dive into his gorgeous rooms all over the world.


After a close call biking, Sarah Canner 94  chose reflective vests but hated the crossing-guard look—especially biking in Paris, where she lived at the time. Enter Vespertine NYC and its “haute réflecture.”

$72; 10% off with code BROWNALUM

Gift Guide 2021_cheese

Former food writer Anna Thomas Bates ’98 moved to a small town in Wisconsin and, perhaps naturally, cheesemaking  presented itself as a new career path. With another woman named Anna (Landmark), she launched Landmark Creamery, which specializes in sheep milk cheeses, “unusual in this land of Holstein cows.” The Cheese State has 1,200 licensed cheesemakers, Bates says, and only 60 are women. Their proudly women-owned business with women cheesemakers ships cheese and gift boxes (like a “leveled up” s’mores kit with artisanal marshmallows, dark chocolate, fig crackers, and wedges of Pecora Nocciola cheese). At Brown, Bates concentrated in environmental studies and interned at the Southside Community Land Trust, which turns vacant lots into gardens. Her thesis was about reclaiming vacant lots. “A seed was planted in my mind regarding community, foodsheds, land use, and agriculture,” she says. Landmark partners with farmers to help build sustainable, family-run dairies.


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Another pandemic-inspired biz brings you the smells of sea salt and vanilla. Sean Tiner 06 and his wife started experimenting during her third trimester, as lockdown kept them at home. The finished product allows buyers to “enjoy the feeling of a beach-side cottage year-round.”


Finally, a dog bed with a washable cover. Gabriela Baiter ’12 and her product-designer partner, Drew, started designing a better berth for their pupper three years ago. Featuring an accident-resistant orthopedic insert and a range of “machine-washable, durable, and dig-proof” covers that boast stylish designs, this may be the last dog bed you ever have to buy.


Charley Cummings ’06  started with a refrigerated van and a mission to bring the local pasture-raised meats, dairy products, and wild-caught fish he could buy at farms to other families like his. Eight years later, Walden Local has a Boston butcher shop and delivers to tens of thousands from Jersey to Maine.

$39-$339/month; Free bacon and eggs with code Brown Alum

Don’t scroll when you should be sleeping! Matthew Hassett 08  started with the goal of reducing reliance on smart phones. The result: an alarm clock that’s blue-light-free, dimmable, and offers a two-phase alarm and custom content such as guided meditations and sleep playlists. Now banish that phone from your bedroom.

$149; 20% off with code BROWNALUMNI

Gift Guide 2021_throw

Architect and interior designer Elizabeth Dang 10 had worked for years in “the fast-paced world of commercial design.” But in 2020, she and a longtime colleague, Catherine Cao, suddenly found themselves at home “a lot.” Dang recalls how “forced to slow down, we had the time to think about the things that make our spaces more comforting to us.” The pair founded home-decor brand Manufica to “make things we loved for our own homes without sacrificing our ideals—high-quality products, ethical practices, sustainable materials.” Focusing initially on blankets, they partnered with family-owned knitting mills. The throw above, Woodland, shown in  a “mini” size and “Earth” color, is made from 50 percent recycled cotton and 50 percent recycled PET, using less energy and resources in “virtually every step of the production cycle,” Dang says. “We like to think our blankets help you sleep at night, both literally and figuratively.”

$98; 20% off and free shipping with code BROWN2021



Row of icons
Illustration: Tim Cook
Nonprofits Galore!

So many Brown alums (and students) start nonprofits that it’s hard to keep up with the opportunities for giving. We’re highlighting a sampling here in our 2021 Gift Guide and keeping a longer, ongoing list at

“Outdoor recreation is still predominantly a white and privileged space in our society, and it should not be so—nature is for everyone,” says David Taus ’01, executive director of Big City Mountaineers, which provides youth with fully outfitted and professionally-led backcountry trips. A week on the trail, says Taus, can do more to support social development, values, health, resilience, and sense of self-worth than years in the classroom.

In 2014, only 7 percent of the top 250 grossing films were directed by women. Film Fatales, founded by Leah Meyerhoff  ’01, aims to change this, partnering with Sundance, SXSW, Netflix and others to support  film directors of marginalized genders, including trans and nonbinary.

Edwell, cofounded by   Nicola Fleischer ’12, aims to address the national educator shortage by providing individual and group-based wellbeing coaching to K-12 schools and districts. While there’s plenty of individual support, Edwell also provides support around things like dismantling systemic racial oppression and inequality, empowering educators to “thrive in their wholeness.”

Constitutional lawyer John Bonifaz ’87 founded Free Speech for People in response to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC. It’s  a “transpartisan movement” that seeks to “reclaim our democracy” and defend the Constitution by challenging corporate influence in politics, fighting corruption in government, advocating for free and fair elections, and advancing new jurisprudence on big-money spending.

33% of women under 35 say they have been sexually harassed online, according to a Pew survey. Joan Miller ’15 cofounded Uplift to provide an integrated framework for education and advocacy around  online sexual violence. Its programs, directed  by Christine Chapman ’14, emphasize the importance of consent, respect for victims of sexual and emotional abuse, and fostering healthier online community interactions.

As many as one in five low-income people who menstruate can’t afford period products, and they can’t be bought with food stamps or Medicaid. Carla Ferrari ’82 founded PVDPeriod to help those in Providence, R.I., who suffer the most for the lack of these essentials. Ferrari works with her daughter and her son’s girlfriend, using 100% of donations to buy and distribute 3,000 products a month.

It began 25 years ago with a single student. Conor Bohan ’91, who lived and worked in Haiti from 1996 to 2008, paid for tuition and books for a promising young woman to study medicine. She’s now a doctor, and Bohan had found his calling: He founded and is executive director of the Haitian Education and Leadership Program, now the largest university scholarship program in Haiti.

Rivers and streams can’t talk, but they’re given a voice by the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, which uses an innovative and adaptable model to bring together 80 different member organizations to inform state policy with “the river perspective.” Julia Blatt ’84 joined in 2009 as founding executive director; policy goals revolve around water quality, streamflow, wildlife habitat, and investment in green infrastructure.

Starting with a local group of people “terrified of climate change,” the Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) has grown into a leader in driving green systems change. Physics concentrator Zeyneb Pervane Magavi ’95 is co–executive director; recent projects have mapped gas leaks in Mass., supported solar, and created the geothermal GeoMicroDistrict, which partners with utilities to create economies of scale to transition households off gas.

FIRST Global, led by president Jeffrey May ’86, sets out to inspire young people to tackle “the world’s most pressing challenges” through education in science, technology, engineering, and math. Its signature program, an annual world-wide high-school robotics challenge, has reached 196 nations since 2017; ancillary programs help mentor participants through partnerships with volunteers and leading universities.

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November–December 2021