Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

08There is one week until Christmas. Does that make you feel: A. Happy! I LOVE Christmas!

B. Afraid, confused, royally behind on everything, like you fail at life and probably shouldn't show up. 

If you answered A-you're probably a perfect person and we don't have much in common, and you don't need me, so goodbye.  If you answered B-hi, we'll be close friends...proceed.

If you're anything like me, you might be waiting until the last minute to buy your gifts because you're avoiding spending money (you went overboard on blowouts and Lululemon again), but you'll end up spending it last minute, so it really doesn't matter. You also may be like me in the sense that you truly dislike the mall and shopping, when forced, and therefore avoid going, especially after Thanksgiving, and so you'll end up circling the parking lot for 90 minutes on Christmas eve and giving bitch face to every reindeer antler headband wearing salesperson and tantrum throwing child you encounter. Ew, was that just me? I think it was. But really, why do I do this to myself? Being the organized, habitually punctual, and generally pulled together person that I am, I have no clue where this stems from, but it's real and today, panic sets in.

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewing a local business owner at a hotel downtown while a holiday market was taking place. After our meeting wrapped, I decided to take a quick look at the other vendor tables, feeling a little underwhelmed by most of what I saw until I hit the very last table. I struck up a conversation with the owner, discussed her business, told her I'd love to feature her on my blog, exchanged cards, and we set up a date...with wine. We were going to be great friends, I knew it.

Katelyn Stalowy (30) was born in New York, has lived in California and Italy, but considers the Chicago suburbs home. She spent years working in corporate event travel and towards the end, felt a constant pull and desire to do something on her own; something creative and something for which she felt passion. What was it? Late one night over the holidays while sitting around a table with her sister, cousins, and best friends, Manofatto was born.

Manofatto is a shorthand way to say handmade in Italian. She learned it first in Ruvo di Puglia, Italy, from her great Aunt Antonietta, her idol. Aunt Antonietta is a classic Italian woman-making everything by hand in her tiny apartment, including wine, bread, sauce, and pasta and is the inspiration behind Katelyn's business.

Katelyn's love of products and her husband's talent with woodwork (he builds the beautiful boxes..and is a firefighter-go Katelyn) come together to create one of a kind, beautiful and personal gift boxes.  If there is one profession I wish I were in, it would be this. Katelyn has a dream job, getting to thoughtfully sample and select American made products and items to customize these boxes by theme and occasion. A few of the themes that are most popular:

  • House Warming
  • Baby Showers
  • Birthdays
  • Engagements

Currently, there are over 25 themes and as she continues to receive custom requests, her list expands.

Katelyn dropped off three boxes on Monday morning, so I could have a photographer take some photos and if it weren't for the fact that we had our interview scheduled that evening, at my  house, I wouldn't have given them back (I should have never given her my address). Katelyn and I sat down over a glass of wine and spoke about our love for calligraphy, floral arrangements, community, products, branding...oh and Manofatto.

VBC: So Katelyn, where are you currently creating your boxes?

KS: The boxes are made by my husband in the wood-shop and the boxes, themselves, curated inside our shop.

VBC: Where do you sell your products?

KS: The majority of our business is online , 75%, and the other 25% comes from holiday and local markets in Colorado.

VBC: Do you have any new concepts or themes on the forefront?

KS: YES! I didn't think we would do this, but I am THRILLED to be moving in this direction. We just did a ten year vow renewal. The box was was sent to 25 people and inside was the invitation, local chocolate, and organic lavender. We are currently working on kid boxes where we paint our box with chalkboard paint and put crayons, chalk, puzzles, candy, and lots of other small gift items inside. They're a big hit.

VBC: Can your boxes be customized?

KS: Yes, I just did an engagement box and I got custom stationary, a custom bride planner, and added more bridal items. We can customize any box to anyone's preferences such as a particular wine, product, anything.

VBC: What is a short term goal for Manofatto?

KS: To survive and thrive into year one. We took the leap, gave it a shot, and I want to see how we end up in our first year.

VBC: What is a long term goal for Manofatto?

KS: To have a sustainable business and continue enjoying what we do.

VBC: What has been the most challenging thing about being a small business owner?

KS: Juggling every single aspect of owning a business. From running social media, to fulfilling orders, buying products, to setting up meetings, finances etc. There are a million things to do every day and you have to find a way to make it all happen.

VBC: Being a small business owner, what has been the most rewarding?

KS: When you work for a big corporation, your impact gets lost in the shuffle and when I get positive feedback or I deliver a box to someone and they shed happy tears, I feel truly touched by what my brand has accomplished.

VBC: What is your mission?

KS: My main thought behind it all is to put the heart and thought back into gift giving. It is so easy to go on Amazon and buy a thoughtless and easy gift. I like to showcase American made brands and handmade products, that really means something.

VBC: What has your experience been as a small business owner in the Denver community?

KS: With the connections I've made through Denver Flea and the Denver Makers Convergences, I feel it is a really good support system. It feels like there are so many small business owners here and everyone is extremely supportive and not competitive. I make a lot of connections through the small business world through the products I buy. They come to my house to deliver items, I go to their homes to pick up items, it's great.

VBC: What advice would you offer those just starting out with their new business or who desire to work for themselves?

KS: Take the leap. New business owners are going to work really hard, you will have to juggle a lot of things, but there is so much satisfaction in it. A good friend of mine recently told me, "Know your price and show pride in your work".

VBC: What do you want people to know about Manofatto?

KS: The main thing that sets us apart is every single box is made from hand. Our boxes are made, stained, and sanded in Denver, Colorado and each is personally curated by the owner, me.  I truly appreciate every order, whether it's $75 or $250. I appreciate making every single box and appreciate the fact that people are putting their trust in me and the support of small business. It really means the world.

A couple of other things to know about Manofatto:

  • They offer beetle kill boxes for a premium fee. The wood is sourced from a farm in Castlerock, Colorado.
  • You can add a floral arrangement to each order (local only)
  • They make complimentary home deliveries in the Denver area
  • Follow them on Instagram,you won't regret it.

Are you feeling any better about your lack of Christmas gift  ideas? If not, here are a few ideas from me to you:

Best Friend. Female Boss (Hello, promo!). Child's Teacher. Mother In Law. 

07

Boyfriend. Brother-in-law. Thirsty Uncle. Neighbor who hangs things for you.  

03Mommy to-be {Just my hands, I have nothing to share}

06So, place your orders now (Katelyn is busy, as are you) and thank me later. Keep Manofatto in mind for all of your gift giving needs, not just for the approaching holiday, but throughout the year. These boxes are fun to gift, will introduce you and your loved ones to great American products that you've probably never heard of, and support small businesses in Denver and around the country.

God bless the USA and God bless pumpkin pie.

-Brittany | Vodka and Birthday Cake