Minted is a design platform whose mission it is to bring the best in independent design to consumers everywhere. The company’s art, stationery, and textiles products have reached over 75 million homes worldwide. Since launch in 2007, the company has expanded to serve consumers in new categories including wall art, textiles, digital content and home decor, as well as serve major retailers and consumer products brands with data-backed design through licensing and wholesale partnerships.
MINTED & BRYANT STIBEL
A Permira Partnership
When Mariam Naficy founded Minted back in 2007, it was with a vision to create a transformative e-commerce platform that would unearth hidden creative talent of the best emerging independent artists and designers of the world to consumers everywhere. This was no simple task, but with the timely rise of Pinterest and Instagram, it was clear to Naficy that there was untapped value in crowdsourcing creatives and the opportunity to foster a community for design.
As it turns out, she was onto something huge. Today this pioneer of e-commerce rocks an artist community of 15,000-strong, located in 50 states and more than 100 countries, and is comprised of illustrators, textile designers, painters, packaging designers, marketers and stay-at-home moms. Minted’s design community ultimately populates what Naficy calls “not just a design platform,” but a “multi-brand, multi-category, public portfolio that powers the Minted brand, and supports retailers, and other brands when it comes to their design needs.”
Naficy first got to know Jeff Stibel through the process of due diligence when Permira and Bryant Stibel were looking to make Minted the second company in their new Growth Opportunities platform. From there, the partnership was off and running. At just nine months into that relationship, there is a mutual kinship between Nacify, Minted and the Bryant Stibel team.
“They are people I feel like I can actually relate to in my journey, which straddles the tech world and more of the content world,” reveals Naficy of her early work with Bryant Stibel. “They too are sitting at that intersection, which is extraordinarily helpful to me.”
As Naficy tells it, both Bryant Stibel and Permira naturally fit the mold of companies who belong on the Minted journey. With the Minted community in mind, Naficy seeks partners that put great value on ethics and having “a high moral standard.” For capital patners in particular, Naficy chooses organizations that truly act on the “I’ve got your back” mentality that lends well to being a true partner in good times and bad – a quality she values most in Bryant Stibel.
Prior to launching Minted, Naficy first made headlines when she co-founded the first online cosmetics retailer, Eve.com, which she eventually sold for over $100 million. Since this time, she’s always kept her “own personal buying behavior and experiences as a shopper” in mind, which has served her well at Minted, where Naficy estimates they’re selling to “something like 80 to 90 percent female consumers.”
As a result, Naficy recognizes the power of the female perspective in the e-commerce space and has used this understanding to make Minted a platform valued by individual designers, consumers, and Minted’s staff. “For the vast majority of consumer spending in the U.S., the purchase decisions are made by women. As a result, I believe women can often identify fantastic gaps in what’s available on the market for consumers,” explains Naficy. “One thing you can leverage as a female entrepreneur is just being able to relate to this vast purchasing power, which is both important and unique.”
“The other thing that women bring to the boardroom is representing employees and community members who are female.” Naficy states that understanding a woman’s “perspective and their struggles” allows companies like Minted to best represent and strategize for their consumer base – especially considering that the majority of Minted’s design community and customers are women. With over half of Minted’s staff being female as well, this mindset is also focused inward as Minted is fully committed to bringing an “empathetic and sympathetic approach to how we manage the company” in terms of “work-life balance and everyday work experience.” It was a natural fit given about half of Bryant Stibel’s team is also female.
“What’s different with Bryant Stibel is that Jeff is a repeat entrepreneur himself and he’s walked in the shoes of the operator, scaling companies multiple times,” shares Naficy. “They have an instinct for understanding how they can add immediate value to me as a CEO… and their knowledge is superb. They have a really strong command over direct-to-consumer marketing, customer acquisition, marketing, lifetime value generation, and really all the internet consumer economics due to their actual operating experience.”
With the collaboration between both a large financial institution and a focused tactical team, Minted has been the beneficiary of top-tier guidance. According to Nacify, Bryant Stibel’s experience has served Minted in a myriad of ways – from finding strategic partners, to diving in on lifetime value drivers, to enacting high-level tactical initiatives, to envisioning manageable and healthy growth paths for the crowd-sourced design marketplace.
“While other VC firms tend to act more in an advisory capacity, Bryant Stibel provides advice while also leveraging their network of contacts to actually deliver changes and operational results for you at your request,” Naficy says of Bryant Stibel’s willingness to connect people and ideas.
It is the team’s understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur and operator that differentiates Bryant Stibel from others and makes them better partners in the eyes of Naficy. “Jeff’s experience actually implementing and understanding the pace at which some of these things move for a growing company gives him a very pragmatic approach to understanding what we can expect to do and how he can help us accept certain things or push them harder,” tells Naficy. “For Minted, he helped us in negotiating with a potential strategic partner. As an operator, Jeff understood the level of difficulty we’d face in getting the deal we wanted and the reality of how fast or slow a strategic partner would move and what would have to be done to actually achieve what we want to do.” Nacify believes Jeff was accurate in his assessment and “helped us cut to the chase” in negotiations and move into completing the contract phase.
“Bryant Stibel values the designers who create with Minted and the community we’ve created,” says Naficy, who appreciates the way in which the team proposes strategies within the context of Minted by focusing on maintaining the health and spirit of their design community throughout Minted’s expansion. “They’ve really thought creatively about how Minted’s assets can help the strategic partners we are talking with to offer goods of their own, featuring their own archive and heritage, and bringing it together with Minted’s great global community.” By bringing “those forces together to create fantastic commerce opportunities for the strategic partner,” Bryant Stibel has helped Minted “creatively deploy value” to create revenue for both the partner and Minted.
With Minted, Naficy embraces the concept that, “Entrepreneurship is finding a great product, but also one that could scale up as a very large, successful business. I think you have to have a certain amount of vision persistence to be successful in launching a business.” She goes on to emphasize that “ an entrepreneur must also be “somebody who can convince and persuade other people to follow them on the journey and get other people excited.” This quality, Naficy concludes, is what also makes Bryant Stibel successful at both leading and supporting their entrepreneurs.