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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Buy family and friends a product developed by SDSU alumni this holiday season. Buy family and friends a product developed by SDSU alumni this holiday season.

Aztec Holiday Gift Guide

Buy a gift for a loved one from a company started by fellow Aztecs.
By Ryan Schuler

Like elves in Santa’s workshop, San Diego State University students and alumni have a long history of taking ideas and turning them into products and businesses. Whether it is in the Zahn Innovation Platform Launchpad, the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, or entrepreneurship curriculum, students from all majors at SDSU have the opportunity to turn their business ideas into reality.

But entrepreneurship does not stop when Aztecs leave campus. Many go on to follow their entrepreneurship dreams after graduation.

We’ve come up with a list of products developed by SDSU alumni that you can buy for family and friends this holiday season.

Sand Cloud Towels

Sand Cloud Towels were invented by SDSU alumni Brandon Leibel (’12) and Steven Ford (’12), who one day at the beach had the idea to make beach towels with a built-in pillow. Sand Cloud also sells a backpack that converts into a towel and accessories like shirts, water bottles and phone cases. The company is socially conscious with 10 percent of net profits going back to marine life organizations.

SOLO Eyewear

The concept for SOLO Eyewear was developed in a classroom at SDSU. While enrolled in SDSU’s MBA program, co-founder Jenny Amaraneni (’11) discovered there was a great need for eye care around the world. She, along with co-founder Craig Stern (’11) and creative director Dana Holliday (’11), whom she met at the Entrepreneurial Management Center on campus, went on to create the unique line of hybrid-bamboo sunglasses where each pair purchased helps fund a pair of reading glasses or a cataract surgery for someone in need.

H2O Audio

Founder Carl Pettersen (’93, ’01) graduated from SDSU with a bachelor’s degree in 1993. After seven years as a mechanical engineer, he returned to school and earned his MBA from SDSU in 2001. Pettersen then co-founded H2O Audio and took responsibility for product development and marketing of its line of waterproof housings and headphones for all MP3 players.

Soul Spot Sunscreen

Current SDSU student Naseem Kasraee developed her second prototype of Soul Spot Sunscreen during her first year at SDSU. While in high school, she learned coral bleaching can be caused by many mainstream sunscreen brands, so she decided to create her own. Soul Spot Sunscreen is a completely reef- and skin-safe, all-natural sunscreen.

Pura Vida Bracelets

While traveling through Costa Rica during a college graduation trip, SDSU alumni Griffin Thall (’10) and Paul Goodman (’10) crossed paths with two bracelet peddlers and asked them to make 400 bracelets to take home with them. Upon returning to San Diego, Thall and Goodman sold out of the bracelets within days. Now, Pura Vida Bracelets employs more than 100 Costa Ricans artisans to make bracelets and donates one percent of their annual net revenue to environmental organizations worldwide. Last year, Thall and Goodman were named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Matt de la Peña’s “Last Stop on Market Street”

Author Matt de la Peña earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from SDSU in 2000. Earlier this semester, he returned to campus to deliver the second Provost’s Distinguished Lecture. This year, the American Library Association awarded de la Peña the John Newbery Medal, one of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature, for his children’s book, “Last Stop on Market Street.”


ShredLights — headlights for your skateboard that are easily installed, used and removed — were first conceived in 2013 in the Zahn Innovation Platform Launchpad by SDSU students Eric Birkemeier, Drew Page (’14) and mechanical design engineer of the Zahn Innovation Center Kyle Kitzmiller (’12). ShredLights not only enhance visualization of cracks, rocks, and other obstacles at night, but also enhance visibility of skateboarders by motorists and pedestrians.


Stance, the official sock of the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, was co-founded by alumnus John Wilson (’93). Wilson returned to campus earlier this year as a speaker in the annual L. Robert Payne Lecture Series. Stance, which sells a wide variety of sock styles and designs, recently launched an underwear line and boasts famous fans like LeBron James.