Strong Narratives, Fun Stories Fuel 2017 Oscar Celebrity Connected Event

By: Marjorie Galas

The 2017 Oscar best picture race featured a wealth of strong narratives. Three of the nine nominated films were inspired by true and mesmerizing stories including “Hacksaw Ridge” (WWII conscientious observer Desmond Dodd heroic that saved countless injured soldiers), “Lion” (Saroo Brierley’s 20 year, multi- continent journey to reconnect with his lost family) and “Hidden Figures” (three black female mathematicians who’s efforts launched the first US mission to the moon).

Fittingly, the concepts behind many of this year’s vendors at Celebrity Connected’s Oscar Gifting Suite arose from engaging true stories. Some vendors decided to break free from the corporate structure and redesign their lives.  Others took a family members struggles as inspiration for a new product line.  Some vendors just wanted people to taste the “sweet life”, such as Route 66 Cola, while Ricos Products Co., a one-hundred year old food vendor supplying snacks to movie theaters across the country, encouraged attendees to “Nibble my Nachos.”  Whether empowering a local community or supporting a joyous lifestyle, there was a narrative, and a product, for everyone.

Here’s a sample of some of the many stand outs at the 2017 Celebrity Connected Oscar Gifting Suite:

Balm Skin Care

Founded by Lindsey Moeller, Balm Skin Care emerged from products she was creating for her mother during a battle with cancer.  Her mother wasn’t responding to conventional treatments, forcing Moeller and her family to look towards other options.  While herbs weren’t a cure, their benefit was visibly noticeable.   Culling from her background as a biologist and molecular geneticist and working alongside her cousin Katie Schact, a pharmacist, they explored ways to refine and blend organic and raw herbs into a daily skin regimen.

“We envision a marketplace with more raw products and where making healthy lifestyle choices is an easier decision,” said Moeller.

To help encourage people to feel excited about the passion for healthy lifestyles, they have added a community building message campaign on their site. Users are encouraged to submit a photo of themselves holding a sign reading “I Balm For” – adding the inspiration for their decision. You can find out more about their products and campaign at:

13-One Sportswear

13-One marries NASA developed space technology with sleek and stylish sportswear, creating light weight jackets that keep you insulated in cool climates.  Sporting the slogan “Every Day is a Marathon” –  founder Hema Nambiar shared the story behind her upstart company.

Nambiar was an avid marathon runner until a ruptured diaphragm forced her into a long period of recuperation. Upon her return to the sport, she was cleared to run a half-marathon, or 13 miles.    Noticing how beautiful the individuals who completed the race looked in their heat sheets, an idea hit her.

“Two and a half hours is the average time we are on the go, running around, every day,” said Nambiar. “That is the same average time it takes to complete a marathon.”

Incorporating NASA developed interior material – similar to the silver wraps marathon runners use to keep warm upon finishing a race, the jackets are compact and extremely light weight, making them the perfect companion for athletes, travelers and every day activities. Nambiar is engaged in an Indiegogo campaign where consumers may pre-order their jackets (in assorted sizes and male/female cuts).   The pre-orders, help fund the development of the business. Go to the 13-One website for more info and to place your IndieGoGo pre-order!

Freeman Jewelry Collection

Talk to owner Nakishia Freeman about her spectacular jewelry designs, and she not only says “thank you”, but also informs you she is “blessed, very blessed” to have a job that inspires creativity and brings both her and her clients joy. Her design merge large pendants with delicate crystals, beads, gemstones and pearls.  From large and bombastic to petite and delicate, her designs ranged the gamut.

“I want people to have as much fun wearing these pieces as I have creating them,” said Freeman.

In addition to making her own pieces, Freeman reaches out to the impoverished women from her community to help her with big projects and large orders. While these women aren’t necessarily artists or jewelry makers, she enjoys being able to give back to those less fortunate in her own back yard.

“They get to enjoy being creative, and enjoy comradery as we (work on the pieces) together,” said Freeman. “I have been blessed and want to share those blessings with my community.”

Mumpreneur Success

Noor is the embodiment of spunky. She is a self-made entrepreneur who created her business after giving birth to her first child.  She now devotes her time to being a life and certified business coach to other mothers having trouble juggling their goals of achieve success while maintaining “their most important job of being a mother.”

Like a few other vendors who flew in for the event, several of her exhibition items were delayed – or hadn’t arrived at all. This did not deter Noor – accompanied by a few booth volunteers, she met with visitors, chatted about goals, and gave everyone a polaroid that doubled as a business card with her website hand-written in gold under a photo of her smiling alongside the attendee.

If she can handle a high-pressure crowd and turn misfortunate around with a spontaneous and fun fix, imagine what she can do for you to help you reach your dream?

Villa Sorgenfrei

Discarded dandelion seeds. Used cork.   Bits of husks and water.  Jewelry designer Villa Sorgenfrei not only finds inspiration in the world around her, she literally incorporates it into her designs.  A delicate, triangular glass pendant hanging from a chain contained five dandelion seeds – complete with their whispy, white filaments.  Their arrangement within the bauble not only ads to the beauty of the piece, but protects the natural elements, keeping them fully intact.  This artist has combined natural elements most would take for granted, and creates stunningly beautiful rings, necklaces and bracelets highlighting their beauty.

Sorelle and Co.

Sorelle and Co. is a gluten-free, soy-free, sesame-free, preservative free vegan bakery that specializes in dessert tables, custom cakes (a number of elegant wedding cakes were on display), cookies, cupcakes and tarts (although they also offer savory sandwiches, salads and soups on a catering menu). To bite into one of their double dark chocolate cookie was pure bliss.  To the non-vegan palette, it was inconceivable to think there was no butter or eggs involved in their baking.

Based in Onterio, Canada, Sorelle and Co. has expanded to Toronto and promises further expansion in the near future. One can hope this includes some shops in the US!

Joe Cans – Coffee for a Cause

Stephaniee Rowbury was the first employee Sarrah Fendley hired to work in her coffee shop, Big City Coffee, that she opened in Boise, Idaho in 2001.   When Rowbury was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, Fendley wanted to highlight breast cancer awareness at her shop, and created a roast she named “Big TItty Blend.”  The humor grabbed people’s attention and helped her long time employee in her fight.

When Rowbury succumbed to her illness in 2011, Fendley created the coffee line Joe Cans in her friend’s honor.   With names including Double D Decaf and BraZilian Brew, Fendley presents a one dollar donation from every can sold to the charity “Barbells for Boobs” – an entity that helps both men and women in the early detection of breast cancer.