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Ceibo Handbags- Vegan Arm Candy Made in Houston
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Grit Grocery- Houston’s First Mobile Food Shopping Experience
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Veatge Handcrafted Fine Jewelry

Ceibo Handbags- Vegan Arm Candy Made in Houston

That gleaming gold metal circle handle… The buttery soft vegan leather… The strong and functional geometric structure…

These lovely handbags I’m describing have been seen all over Houston, on the arms of influencers, and at many a local market. Self-taught designer Maria Cadena moved to Houston from Ecuador just four years ago, and has already gained a good amount of traction in the local handbag market.

Maria learned sewing from her mother when she about about twelve. Her family also owned a handbag store, so that’s also where she hoaned her skills. When she was older, her mother and she discussed starting their own handbag line. They started out by doing simple silhouettes, such as an envelope handbag with a crossbody chain. A few months later, they further developed more designs, while also constantly learning the business. The business continued to grow, and they found themselves selling wholesale, and hiring on people to help make the handbags in order to meet the numbers.

Maria felt that the transition to Houston was somewhat tough, as she was starting over from scratch, and by herself. But she quickly learned to adjust, and decided to create her own brand, which she named Ceibo (pronounced say-bo). The inspiration for the name went back to her Ecuadorian roots- the Ceibo Tree. “I grew up seeing the tree, so I wanted to have something that reminded me of home.” (For a peek of a Ceibo tree, go HERE.)

Ceibo launched in November 2016, and consists of just Maria. She loves being able to do everything by herself, as she missed that while running the business in Ecuador. She enjoys the slower pace, and having a more personal and hands-on approach to the craftsmanship of the bags. When designing handbags, she believes that less is more, when it comes to interior pockets. Her bags only consist of one zipped pocket, or a removable pocket that can also be used as a coin purse. She also likes to create bags that aren’t so big, because we women tend to carry a little more than what is usually needed, and it only adds as extra weight on our bodies. “I make myself carry the things that I know I’m going to use,” Maria added.

Along with her signature structured, geometric handbags with the gold ring handles, she also offers small accessories. I’m also a fan of her belt bags. “It’s a small accessory that you can carry all day!” Oh, and she now carries handbags with zig-zag handles- the coolest thing EVER! I love that you can also get her bags in every color. She also appreciates experimenting with color-blocking, and it’s usually spot on.

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Oh, and REALLY great news… Ceibo is launching a collaboration with my fave Houston skincare brand- Rosehip Essentials this month! Stay tuned! In the meantime, here is a sneak peek…

Ceibo Handbags, made in Houston, handbags

Aside from shopping Ceibo online, you can find her locally at Collectivo, LAUNCH, Thinking Boutique, and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. You can also find her at many of the local markets that take place throughout the city. Be sure to follow her on Facebook and Instagram for updates!

 

Grit Grocery- Houston’s First Mobile Food Shopping Experience

Grit Grocery‘s recent launch is one of the best things that’s happened to the Houston food scene. I was able to check it out on a recent Sunday, while I was in the city. It was parked at Levy Park, with a white and black striped awning, and a neatly stacked pile of shopping baskets beckoning shoppers. Fresh produce and an assorted batch of local seafood, pasta, milk, bread, etc., lined the shelves of the open-air store front. The friendly one-on-one service was also a great perk.

Dustin Windham and his wife were living in Azerbaijan a few years ago, while Dustin was in the Peace Corps and working on some food projects. He recollected that they would visit the neighborhood butcher, bakery, and fruit stands several times a week. When they returned to the U.S., they noticed that the concept of having local and fresh food readily available was not a really an option, especially in Houston. Co-Founder Michael Powell further explains, “[While Dustin was in Azerbaijan], he saw how people around the world shop for and consume food. People eat fresh, they shop often and there is easier access to food markets on the street or in small shops. In places like Azerbaijan, “local” is not a food trend, it’s a way of life. And that’s a radically different model than what we’ve become accustomed to in the United States, which relies on a giant food industry driven mostly by profit margins and processed food. Grit takes inspiration from how people have been shopping for food for centuries. We want to see more people making more trips to the store, but it has to be an easier and more friendly retail experience.The other side of Grit’s inspiration is from entrepreneurial startup culture, where people are making dreams a reality and where technology can facilitate solutions that society had never anticipated. Grit is using a range of high-tech solutions to make this old-school grocery a model of innovation.”

Grit Grocery was launched in 2015. The team found that it takes grit to take back your health, thus inspiring the company name. “It takes grit to farm the land and produce the nutritious products that make people live healthy. Oh, and we’ve quickly found that it takes some grit to start up a grocery store in the 21st century,” Powell stated.

When asked about why they chose to have a mobile truck, instead of a brick n’ mortar, Michael explained, “I’ve actually been working in the food retail design industry for the last 12 years, which is how I connected with Dustin. I have a PhD in cultural anthropology and have been working with a design firm as a consultant, studying shopping behaviors, food culture trends and food brands. In that time, I’ve consistently found that most people are less than satisfied with their grocery shopping experiences. It’s a time-consuming chore. While food culture is blowing up around us, the grocery store is mostly stuck in the mid 20th century. And that’s largely because people don’t have many viable alternatives. So it’s no wonder that as soon as online grocery or alternative stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods came along, people jumped the grocery ship quickly. But those experiences are lacking, for a number of reasons. Grit offers a more social and neighborhood experience. Our merchants don’t just stock shelves, they’re passionate advocates for local food, and the value of cooking and eating together. And the products that Grit offers are not just local, but we don’t carry any of the processed junk that has now come to fill the shelves at many of our competitors. The truck is a flexible, convenient platform. It allows us to go places where our competitors can’t or won’t go. The numbers make sense, too. A new ground-up grocery store can cost upwards of $15 million, and then they have to employ 200 people and maintain the 50 thousand square foot building (and 100 thousand square foot parking lot) 24-7-365. Grit trucks cost a fraction of that price, and maintenance is much lower. So basically, the cost of a few grocery stores could fund enough Grit trucks to be in most Houston neighborhoods, not to mention effectively ridding Houston of food deserts.”

They have quite a variety of locally-sourced product, including, “In produce, our main suppliers are Gundermann Acres in Wharton, Lightsey Farms in Mexia and Sustainable Harvesters in Hockley. Meat is supplied from Three Sisters Farm in Tomball, Liberty Provisions in Richmond and Rocking 711 Ranch in Edna. Seafood from Katie’s in Galveston. Fresh pasta from Fabio’s in Montrose (Houston). Ice cream from Fat Cat Creamery in the Heights. Baked bread and cookies from Cake & Bacon in Houston. Brazos Valley Cheese from Waco. The list goes on. We also produce a lot of products in-house, so you can look for our Grit Grocery brand on: juice, hummus, prepped salads, soup and a few upcoming items.”

Ah….yes…. let’s talk about those cool meal bundles. I personally got the Pasta Salad bundle on my first visit, and it did not disappoint! I’m not really a cook, but I was able to understand the simple directions that were included, and it probably took me about a half-hour to prepare. I also added a pinch of my favorite See Salt before I added the sauce and veggies.

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Michael adds, “Meal Bundles include all the ingredients you need to make a simple, healthy, local meal. 2-3 servings per Meal Bundle. Local products are featured. We aim for classic crowd favorite recipes that take 15 minutes or less. No chef hat necessary. This is for your busy Tuesday evening dinner. Because the products are good, that’s going to make your meal taste great. Oh, and substitutions are always welcome. So when you visit the truck, talk to our Truck Merchant about the Bundles and make sure everything works for you.”

Great news, ya’ll! They plan on adding more trucks, which’ll mean more locations. “We are also developing technology solutions to make shopping the truck easier, including a “Chatbot” on the Facebook Messenger platform which will allow people to shop and pay for Meal Bundles before they leave the office, then come pick it up at the truck.”

Be sure to follow them on social media- Facebook and Instagram for further updates. Or check out their website.

Where and when to shop:

~Levy Park (3801 Eastside) on Sundays from 3pm to 8pm

~The Circuit Apartments in EaDo (2424 Capitol) Mondays and Wednesdays, from 4pm to 9pm

~Aris Market Square by Historic Market Square Houston (Downtown, 900 Preston), Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 4pm to 9pm

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

“We’re always trying to learn more about our customers and what they want, what would help them in their daily lives when it comes to eating healthier and making local shopping easier. What kinds of Meal Bundles would you like to see? Or what kinds of products are you seeking? How can we make it easier to make weekday dinners more interesting? What kind of everyday food problems pop up–big or small–that we might be able to help solve? Grit Grocery is a flexible platform that’s always open to new ideas for how to improve food shopping,” Michael finished.

Veatge Handcrafted Fine Jewelry

I was first introduced to Veatge while I was browsing Flea at Silver Street several months back. I met with the lovely Krishna- who is the brand’s creative director. She preceded to show me her best sellers and other unique jewelry. Her pieces are simple, yet are refined and statement-worthy.

Veatge (pronounced way-aaa-je) is Catalan for “journey.” Catalan is a language that is spoken in parts of France and Spain.

Krishna Chavda’s journey began as a teen. She was working with her father and uncle in their fine jewelry business in India, where she was born and raised. The business mainly dealt with 22k bridal Indian jewelry. She goes on to explain, “I wasn’t really into the traditional designs, as they were only for special occasions. One day I found a tiny shop in the old part of my town, it had beautiful glass beads and gemstones and I was completely mesmerized by the colors and those unique beads, I bought a handful and made necklaces and chokers for myself. All of a sudden, I was a cool kid in the school. (Yes, chokers were trending big-time 25 years ago, and it came back in last few years). Collecting beads and making jewelry was always a hobby, I never thought about making a career in it. After migrating to the USA and working in the corporate sector for several years, I realized the crazy markups in the jewelry industry, and it felt like spending an entire paycheck for a well-made fine piece of jewelry. I also briefly worked at a Turkish jewelry store during my college days, which gave me a good understanding of women’s choice in the western countries.”

After migrating to the U.S., her goals were different, she wanted to be independent and travel the world. She then settled in Houston, and began sorting out her future. “After finishing Masters in Business Administration I started working as a Financial Analyst at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and then later moved to Houston’s oil and gas industry. My time was mainly spent with numbers, large data, and spreadsheets. It wasn’t until my daughter was born and I stayed home with her, when the major shift in interest happened,” she explained.

While she was staying home with her newborn daughter, she decided to take up silversmithing class. Then, an idea dawned on her. “I was already making jewelry and gifting it to friends and family. But inspiration didn’t come until my husband pointed out that I COULD actually create a business I wished existed all along – a new direct to consumer concept in fine jewelry that provides a single platform for unique high-grade designs from around the world at fair prices. With a little bit of bootstrapping, combined with his business expertise and my creativity, together we launched Veatge. The name aligns well with my personal journey of connecting back to my roots and a passion that I never even knew I had.”

Krishna goes on to explain her brand, “Veatge is known for fine jewelry that is minimal, modern and made to last. You can pick a piece of Veatge jewelry, and tell that it is made with high-quality materials by skilled hands. We work directly with trusted manufacturers who share our values and have been in business for many years. All our jewelry is made using only precious metals (sterling silver, 14kt gold, 18kt gold vermeil). We are merging technology and fine jewelry and creating a unique brand experience, with price points that are affordable and easily accessible through our website – this is what sets us apart from our competition.”

When asked about her favorite pieces from her brand, she replies, “I love to wear jewelry depending on the occasion and time of the day. I keep it simple with dainty pieces such as opal ring and studs during daytime and nighttime is all about statement gold jewelry. Dome Ring and Abstract Wire Hoops are a staple. I also wear hammered hoops in silver with three circles ring, you can never go wrong with them when you are in a hurry.”

You can find Veatge through the website, as well as through pop-up markets. They will be doing a pop-up in Dallas later this year. Be sure to sign up for a newsletter, or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Veatge, necklaces, handmade jewelry, jewelry

One of Krishna’s first creations. (Image provided by Veatge)

Veatge, necklaces, handmade jewelry, jewelry

Dome Ring and Abstract Wire Hoops – Krishna’s signature pieces (Image provided by Veatge)

Veatge, handmade jewelry, jewelry

Krishna Chavda- founder of Veatge (Image provided by Veatge)

Veatge, handmade jewelry, jewelry

Me wearing Veatge. (Image by Krishna)

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