If it’s possible to generate buzz in the world of puzzles, Rachel Hochhauser and Jena Wolfe were doing it. Their company, Piecework Puzzles, had received glowing media coverage for its vibrant jigsaws that look like art book covers. By the end of 2019, Piecework’s catalog featured six puzzles for sale in its online shop and on the shelves of design-savvy boutiques. There’s the 500-piece Disco Queen, a thirst-inducing tableau of Seventies-era cocktails reflecting rainbow prisms on a mirrored table, and the 1,000-piece Forbidden Fruit, a still life of cleaved melons and citrus on a bunched white tablecloth. At $26 to $36 each, they make sophisticated gifts for housewarming parties and are good for toting along to the Airbnb or gluing together and hanging as artwork once finished.
When they started Piecework, Hochhauser and Wolfe were already partners at Major Studio, a 5-year-old creative agency based in Los Angeles that does marketing and branding for clients such as Google and Radisson Hotel Group. They anticipated a slow and steady year of building their own brand. “It was feeling very manageable to have this second business together,” Wolfe says.
From February to March 2020, Piecework’s retail sales spiked 910% as families trapped at home looked for alternatives to staring at a screen. The company’s inventory, which normally lasted two quarters, was depleted. Its Indiana-based manufacturer dropped Piecework in favor of larger clients that were also facing huge demand; a final delivery arrived a month late in mid-June. “We thought the order was going to last us for a considerable amount of time, and we sold through all of that, too,” Hochhauser says.
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