Talking Shop

How to feel good about your holiday spending

Cullen Schwarz (left) and Peter Kruskal, cofounder and VP of Data Science, respectively, of the startup DoneGood.
Cullen Schwarz (left) and Peter Kruskal, cofounder and VP of Data Science, respectively, of the startup DoneGood.(Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)

Your holiday shopping calendar maybe already be booking up for Thanksgiving weekend and beyond — what with all the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday promotions. But Cullen Schwarz wants you to make room for another gift-buying event. The co-founder of DoneGood, a tech startup out of the Harvard i-lab, on Nov. 26 is launching “Shop for Good Sunday” this holiday season.

The premise is an extension of the DoneGood mission: To help steer consumers to buy from companies that make commitments to sustainable practices like environmental conservation, fair wages, or helping support populations in need. Shop for Good Sunday is a partnership between DoneGood and 50 of those companies, plus the Certified B Corporation and the Social Enterprise Alliance, which both promote mission-driven companies.


Americans spent $1 trillion last holiday season, but 60 percent of the purchases made online over the Thanksgiving weekend went through just 10 companies, according to Schwarz. “We believe the world’s greatest potential force for change is the dollars we all spend,” he said. “Consumer spending is 70 percent of our whole economy. Just think if a fraction of those resources can also help reduce poverty or reduce climate change.”

DoneGood’s first product, which launched this time last year, was a Web browser extension that helped direct shoppers to socially-conscious alternatives to big brands (it can also alert users to brands that support the Trump agenda). It’s since expanded to include a mobile app and this month plans to unveil a new website that will act as a “Kayak of the social impact economy,” said Schwarz. The company, which recently secured its first round of seed funding — Schwarz would not disclose how much — also partners with socially conscious brands to offer discount codes to shoppers through its site.

Schwarz said DoneGood saw a void in the holiday retail space for buying with good intentions in mind. “There’s a tension between the consumerism and the commercialism and the real meaning of the holidays,” he said. “We’re hoping this is way to bridge those two things.”


Meet your meat

Health concerns were the driving force behind Mike Salguero’s decision to switch to grass-fed meat. But he was frustrated by how far he had to drive to find it. When he started purchasing directly from a farmer, he had to crisscross the state to get his orders. “The way that most farmers sell beef is they do a cow share. It’s literally a trash bag full of meat that you pick up in a parking lot,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’ ”

Salguero comes from startups — he was the co-founder and chief executive of the local craft products marketplace CustomMade — and started dabbling with buying and selling grass-fed beef online. It was a hobby until he linked up with a former head of operations from Omaha Steaks. Together, they launched ButcherBox as a Kickstarter project in 2015, promising a $129 monthly subscription of quality beef, chicken, and pork that are pasture-raised and delivered to a customer’s door.

The idea took off — Salguero says ButcherBox now has more than 30,000 subscribers. The company, which has 25 employees, moved into new office digs at 12 Eliot St. in Harvard Square, where it’s also opened a retail storefront to help promote the brand. (The company is not permitted to sell meat on site, so for now it’s just subscriptions).


The space opened last week, and is already driving online sales, said Salguero. “We want to replace the butcher,” he said.

Blue Nile is not a river

Buying jewelry online has always been tricky: Sure, you can design the diamond engagement ring of your significant other’s dreams, but should you pony up for that significant purchase without seeing it in person? Ask Blue Nile, the Seattle based online jeweler, and you’ll get a resounding yes. As evidence: the company has 1.7 million customers. But that isn’t keeping the Blue Nile from creating some real live experiences where shoppers can try on the bling for size just in time for the annual spike that comes with holiday engagement season.

This past week, Blue Nile opened a “webroom” at the Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem, N.H., its sixth physical store to open in two-and-a-half-years. The setup is not unlike that of an Apple store: Sleek white walls and pricey items tethered to tables, only in this case it’s rings and other jewels that you’re playing with and designing. The company doesn’t carry any inventory, but will ship your booty overnight — if an order is placed by 4 p.m. and the diamond is in stock, it can be fashioned into jewelry and on your doorstep by 10 a.m. the following day.

“The goal is really to give our customers the opportunity to see and try-on product in person,” said Amanda Winters, a company spokeswoman.

But be forewarned: proximity to big carats can be costly.


“We found that the average spend is actually higher in store than on the website,” Winters said. “People have the confidence to purchase.”

Janelle Nanos can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @janellenanos.