Holiday Gift Guide

9 must-have holiday gifts from the coolest start-ups

Getty Images | Luis Alvarez

For some on your holiday gift list, a tie and socks will do. For a special few, however, only the most elegant and noteworthy gifts are good enough.

Here are nine gifts for the hustler, the innovator, the contemplative creative. Not only are the products themselves great, but the entrepreneurial companies they come from are duly impressive.

1. Limited-edition print from Absolut Art 

"Girls Wear Red," by Carly Kuhn
Photo courtesy Absolut Art

Buy now: Girls Wear Red by Carly Kuhn
Price: $230 with white frame

In 1986, pop art icon Andy Warhol was intrigued by relatively unknown brand Absolut's vodka bottle and created a screenprint of it. The piece inspired Absolut's tradition to collaborate with artists, including Jean-Michelle Basquiat, David Bowie, and Damien Hirst. In 2015 the company bought art-rental platform Art Remba, and its owner Nahema Mehta became a co-founder of Absolut Art with Marcus Lado, who runs the technical operations of the start-up.

Absolut Art cofounders Marcus Lado and Nahema Mehta

Absolut Art is now an independent extension of the Absolut vodka company. Curators scour the globe for local artists' work to both help creators find a market and to make affordable art available. (Prices range from $100 to $3,000, with most pieces in the $250 to $600 price point). "Girls Wear Red," by illustrator and creative director Carly Kuhn, who has collaborated with brands like Prada and Dior, is an archival inkjet print.

2. On-demand massage from Soothe

Book a on your phone and have a masseuse come to you in as little as an hour.
Photo courtesy Soothe

Buy now: 60-minute massage
Price: starting at $109

Founder and CEO Merlin Kauffman started Soothe to solve his own problem: As a student at Harvard Business School with a busy travel schedule, he couldn't find time for a massage. With the on-demand massage service, which he launched in 2013, a massage therapist comes to you. There are 60-, 90- and 125-minute services available.

The venture-backed start-up has grown rapidly. It's now in 50 cities in the United States, UK, Canada and Australia and there are 10,000 massage therapists on the platform. Customers can book deep tissue, Swedish, sports, and prenatal massages from 8 a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week.

3. Outdoor Voices unitard

Buy now: Unitard in charcoal or oatmeal
Prices: $95

The founder and CEO of Outdoor Voices, Tyler Haney, grew up in Boulder, Colo., and always lived a very active life: She was an equestrian, competitive hurdler in track and was on the basketball team. After graduating from the Parsons School of Design, where she became fascinated with technical fabrics, she launched Outdoor Voices in 2013. The now Austin-headquartered start-up (it launched in New York City and just moved to Texas) currently has 75 employees and six retail locations.

4. Artisan-made KOIO sneakers

Photo courtesy KOIO

Buy now: KOIO sneakers in luscious caramel leather
Price: $368

The two German co-founders, Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert, met while getting MBAs at Wharton. One of their first topics of conversation was how prohibitively expensive quality sneakers could be. So the friends decided to produce their own perfect version at an affordable price point by building a direct-to-consumer brand, skipping over the traditional retail middle man.

KOIO cofounders Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert holding their "Game of Thrones" collaboration sneaker.
Photo courtesy HBO

To do so, they traveled to 34 factories in Italy and settled on one in the village of Civitanova. Each sneaker has 88 individual parts and is made with calf-skin leather, and a pair takes four hours to make. The two founders are savvy marketers, too: KOIO has done collaborations with the likes of with The Beverly Hills Hotel, Game of Thrones and JonBoy. Canvas low-tops start at $148 and leather high-tops start at $298, for both men and women.

5. Keecker robot

Photo courtesy Keecker

Buy now: Keecker voice-activated home robot
Price: $1790

Designed and engineered by ex-Googler and Paris-based entrepreneur Pierre Lebeau, the Keecker robot turns any surface in your house into a screen. Want to stream Netflix on your ceiling? Done. Or conduct video conference calls and play video games on any surface. The combination of Internet-connected cameras, four speakers and a subwoofer also allow for remote video surveillance and a super slick sound system. Sensors on the Keecker monitor humidity levels, CO2 and room temperature too. It's all controlled with an app on your smartphone or by voice.

With Keecker, any surface in your house can be a screen.
Photo courtesy Keecker

Beta versions of the device premiered at the Consumer Electronic Show in 2014, and a successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $260,000.

6. Buko boots

The Buko boot made by SITRANA
Photo by Andrea Cardemil Frazzoni

Buy now: Buko seven eyelet boot with red laces
Price: $265

Jaime Cardemil, from Chile, wanted a boot he couldn't find in the market: simple, well-made and versatile. So he created them. "I began with one pair, designed for myself, and soon found myself with orders from friends and colleagues," Cardemil says on the company website.

Photo by Andrea Cardemil Frazzoni

Eric Pitzer, from Ohio who lives in Chile, was one of Cardemil's early customers. He loved the product so much that he and Cardemil went into business together, growing Sitrana into a company that ships globally. The handmade men's shoes range from $225 to $265, depending on the style. Women's shoes and sneakers made with up-cycled car tire are in the works. Order by Dec. 5th to receive by Christmas.

7. Soapply soap 

The Soapply box makes a lovely gift presentation.
Photo courtesy Soapply

Buy now: Year-long monthly soap delivery
Price: $239.88

After a job with a tourism operator took Mera McGrew to Africa, she learned firsthand that lives could be saved with access to soap for hand-washing. She came back to the United States to launch a business that would help those in need get access to sanitation. Soapply was born and in April 2016, McGrew, now 30, processed her first sale. For every 8 ounces of soap sold, Soapply donates $1 toward water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives in Tigray, Ethiopia, through a donation to the local non-governmental organization, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST).

Mera McGrew is the founder and CEO of Soapply
Photo courtesy Soapply

Soapply founder and CEO Mera McGrew

Soapply soap is made in Vermont with a 300-year-old recipe including food-grade organic oils with no parabens, sulfates, artificial colorants or synthetic fragrances and is packaged in recycled glass. "In a world where we are inundated with problems, we like the idea that making a difference in the world can be as easy as changing the type of soap you use," the website says.

8. Self Love Pinky Ring

The pinky ring in pink sapphire
Photo courtesy Fred + Far

Buy now: Limited Edition Pink Sapphire Self Love Pinky Ring
Price: $399

Melody Godfred was successful in almost every way, but she wasn't happy. "By the beginning of 2015, I had hit every milestone I had ever dreamed of: a great career, husband, kids, a home. And yet, I was lost, unhappy, and disconnected from my true, authentic self.... I desperately needed a bold, beautiful daily reminder to choose, honor and remember myself. So I created one," she says on her website.

Godfred didn't intend to start a business, but soon Fred + Far, was born to sell her pinkie rings. Within a year, the product was selling in more than 40 countries, Godfred says. Today, Godfred also sells rings, necklaces, note cards, pins, greeting cards and T-shirts. Prices for the pinkie rings range from $129 to $449.

9. Star Wars yoga mat

Buy now: Solo yoga mat
Price: $64.95

The Austin-based wellness company Onnit, which launched in 2010, sells a combination of supplements, cognitive enhancers and products designed to help athletes and entrepreneurs achieve a peak performance. Previously, CEO Aubrey Marcus started his own marketing company and it shows: Onnit has a roster of spokespersons including entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, ultimate fighter champion Tyron Woodley and Olympic-gold-medalist skier Bode Miller, to name a few.

Onnit's Star Wars collaboration includes not only this yoga mat that features Han Solo frozen in carbonite, but also 70 pound Darth Vader kettlebells and more.

Disclosure: These items have been handpicked by our editorial team. CNBC has affiliate relationships with some retailers so in some cases, if you purchase an item from one of our gift guides, we may get a small share of the revenue from your purchase. This holiday season, the proceeds will be donated to the Council for Economic Education, which supports economic and financial education.

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