Luxury Shoe Club screenshot

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In the spirit of supporting local consumer product and service entrepreneurs, we’ve curated a startup-y guide to help you get or give the perfect gift this holiday season. If we’ve missed any cool local startup company, please mention it in the comments so we can make this guide more complete.


Tom & Jenny’s 

This Durham startup is creator of high-end candies that are better for teeth than typical candy. By using Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol often used as a sweetener, a local dentist and her husband, a former management consultant, created an all-natural, gluten-free, and diabetic-friendly candy that helps reduce cavity-causing bacteria. The team is one of nine finalists in the 2015 Fall NC IDEA cycle and is one of three local startups chosen to compete in the 1776 Challenge Cup in 2016. 

Tom & Jenny's bags

Runaway Clothes 

The Durham-based clothing brand completed a successful Kickstarter campaign in October, helping it open a flagship store in downtown Durham next year. In the meantime, you can shop online for its Durham-inspired t-shirts, sweats and hats, designed by artist Gabe Eng-Goetz. He and co-founder Justin Laidlaw have a mission to promote Durham culture by throwing regular parties and events, even as they look to build a global-in-scope clothing brand. 

Runaway Clothes DURM
Credit: Runaway Clothes

Eva Jo Rompers 

Started by PhD candidate and Duke University psychology instructor Stephanie Santistevan-Swett, Eva Jo creates comfortable and versatile rompers for women. Even with little experience in the fashion world, the Durham entrepreneur was able to launch her line and complete a successful Kickstarter campaign. Now, she’s working to sell lots of rompers while continuing to develop new designs in a variety of colors and styles. Her goal is to make Eva Jo the most recognizable brand in the world for rompers. 

Durham-based Eva Jo Rompers has raised 80 percent of its $20K Kickstarter campaign goal with two weeks to go. Credit: Eva Jo Rompers

Frill Clothing

This Raleigh-based made-to-order dress and skirt startup earned national and local headlines for a successful pitch and $100K fundraise on Shark Tank earlier this year. Started by Sharon Bui and Kate Steadman while they were students at NC State and Appalachian State universities respectively, the pair has since expanded the product line to include monogrammed jewelry, bags, hats, and other accessories. Their goal is to be the one-stop sorority shop across the country. 
Credit: Ryan Timms/ExitEvent

Carpe Lotion

Your relatives with sweaty hands will be grateful for this antiperspirant lotion. Using all natural ingredients, a pair of UNC and Duke students has created a safe and effective way to combat sweaty palms, and the fear associated with them. And they’ve got a team of notable Durham investors behind them. A tube of lotion costs $14.99 and lasts for about a month and a half. 

Carpe Lotion
Credit: Carpe Lotion

SWAP Socks 

For those who like to add spark to their sock game, these NC-made socks are the perfect gift.. Launched in 2014 after a successful Indiegogo campaign, the Chapel Hill startup has been hard at work launching new “SWAP packs.” Each pack contains 4 mismatched socks made with high quality cotton and nylon and ideal for mixing and matching. Furthermore, SWAP has partnered with SEVA, one of the leading innovators in sight-restoration surgeries, to donate a portion of earnings. Each pack sold helps to fund vital eye care projects. Packs are $32. 
Swap Socks screenshot
Credit: SWAP Socks

LYF Shoes 

Beginning as a project out of the design incubator Designbox, this startup has created shoes that can be 3D and digitally printed and assembled in 15 minutes and then recycled at the end of their life. They also have embedded electronics that help to determine the exact shape and size of a person’s foot to create a customized sole. Pre-orders are underway to prep for a 2016 product launch, and 50 lucky people will get to be the first beta testers for a discounted rate. Get your favorite shoe fanatic in on something special for the new year. 
LYF Shoes
Credit: LYF Shoes

Headbands of Hope

Then NC State student Jess Ekstrom started this company in 2011 after an internship with the Make a Wish Foundation. She wanted to improve the self- identity of girls who had lost their hair to chemotherapy. With each purchase of a headband or head wrap, a second is given to a child with cancer. The company has even expanded to boys and in September 2015 created the Hope Market, which donates a portion of profits from accessories sold to different childhood cancer organizations every month. 

Jess Ekstrom Headbands of Hope
Jess Ekstrom founded Headbands of Hope as a student at North Carolina State University. She's since sold over 40,000 headbands and donated as many to kids with cancer. Credit: Headbands of Hope

Double Doggie 

This is for those people on your list with not one, but two of man's best friends. This Duke University student-led company solved an all too common dog(s) walking problem by developing a leash with a patented swivel, allowing for multiple dogs to be walked tangle-free. Leashes start at $19.99 and go up to $59.98.  

Double Doggie
Credit: Double Doggie LLC

Sluice Hammocks 

Handmade in Raleigh with locally sourced materials and components, these Eno-style camping hammocks are capable of holding up to 400 pounds. They’re also customizable and easily portable. Founder Kemp Dunbar, a mechanical engineer, was inspired by the process of separating gold from dirt in the mining process, called sluicing. Pricing starts at $69.90.

Sluice Hammocks
Credit: Sluice Hammocks

Sticker Farm

A mom-run startup with high-quality, unique kids' stickers and sticker books as its business has won all kinds of creativity awards since starting up in 2010, and earlier this year, was one of 20 finalists in Shopify's Build a Business contest. Founder Alyssa Minshall's products are sold on Amazon, Zulily and on her website. She's a tenant of Launch Chapel Hill.

Sticker Farm stickers
Credit: Sticker Farm


These aren't your average sunglasses. While they include polarized lenses and the look and feel of designer glasses (at a fraction of the typical cost thanks to a different business model), they include hooks on the ends that double as beer openers. While the Raleigh company preps for a crowdfunding campaign to launch new designs, it's selling existing models online. Hint: Great gift for your college buddies, or your friends who wish they were still in college.  

Brewsees and beer
Credit: Brewsees



Home maintenance is one of the biggest hassles for any homeowner, and this Raleigh startup is betting people will pay for an easier solution. Canopy handpicks top providers of lawn care, pest control and other home care needs and makes it easy to get a customized quote and order and pay for their services. The company raised funds earlier this year from Lowes Home Improvement and local investors, and has launched the service in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte. 

Canopy Screen Shot


Beer lovers dreams have come true. Charlotte-based Brewpublik delivers customized packs and cases of craft beers from around the nation to doorsteps starting at $10/month. It’s all based on taste profiles developed by surveying buyers. Gift cards are available so you can buy the service and let the recipient make his or her own preferences. So far, this service is only available in Charlotte and the Triangle. 

Brewpublik screenshot


A local car wash operator wanted an easier way to service his busy customers, so he partnered up with existing investor, ChannelAdvisor founder and serial entrepreneur Scot Wingo, to develop a mobile car washing and detailing service that can be booked as fast as calling an Uber. All it takes is downloading an app to get a wash or a detail for your loved ones this holiday. 

Spiffy van
Credit: Spiffy


This might seem like a boring gift, but not if your friends and family have cleaner air, healthier families and lower utility bills. Raleigh-based FilterEasy delivers the right sized air filters when you need them, making forgetfulness a thing of the past. Membership is free and you can cancel at any time. Filters range in price based on sizes, and all are shipped from a local North Carolina manufacturer. 

FilterEasy screenshot
Credit: FilterEasy

Coffee Crate

This former Raleigh, now Asheville-based company, works with local roasters to curate coffee, which is then delivered to subscribers monthly. Each crate contains three 4oz bags of pure, whole bean, North Carolina coffee. Costs range from $23/month for a year subscription to $29 for a single month's delivery.
Coffee Crate screenshot
Credit: Coffee Crate

Luxury Shoe Club

Soon to launch, Luxury Shoe Club calls itself a revolutionary way to buy and sell used and new luxury shoes. This exclusive club lets you shop for designer shoes right out of other women's closets. Sign up your shoe-loving friend or family member for the pre-launch and help them become one of 400 inaugural members.

Luxury Shoe Club screenshot
Credit: Luxury Shoe Club