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The Reinvention Of Minted

Mariam Naficy had a vision for her company, Minted, the artists’ platform and marketplace. But the business took on a life of its own, leading to unforeseen challenges—and profit.

Stephanie Schomer

When Mariam Naficy launched Minted in 2008, she wanted to create a niche business, one that would crowdsource stationery designs from independent artists, ask consumers to vote for their favorites, produce and sell the best-performing creations, and share a portion of revenue with the original designers. But Naficy underestimated consumers’ interest in what she was building, and she soon found herself at the helm of a massive venture-backed design platform that was growing far beyond her original vision.

So she rolled with it—adapting right alongside her company. Now Minted’s team is 400 strong and the company is generating revenue in the “hundreds of millions of dollars.” Naficy talked with Entrepreneur about letting the business lead the way, carefully selecting strategic partners, and building a team that doesn’t require hand-holding.

Minted has been in business for 11 years. Talk to me about your original vision when you started working on it in 2007.

I was captivated by the idea of bloggers. These unknown writers were coming from nowhere, were unaffiliated with big institutions, but people wanted to read their work. I thought it was fascinating, and thought that there probably were great designers out there that the internet could also help uncover—people who are deserving but don’t know how to get their work to market. I thought crowdsourcing designs and holding competitions was the way to do it. I raised a small round from friends and family, and we launched in 2008.

And what happened?

Not a thing sold. Not one sale for four weeks—after building this business for a year. I had launched an e-com business before—Eve.com—and product flew off the shelves immediately. But with Minted, I seriously had to consider pulling the plug. Some of my friends-and-family investors encouraged me to raise a venture round. I felt so responsible for having their money on the line, so I did, reluctantly—I didn’t want any strings with this business—but it basically saved us and gave us time.

Why do you think Minted ultimately worked?

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Startups Summer 2019