Mariam Naficy

Forget the big brands. She raised nearly $300 million to license and sell independent art and design.

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All Things Consumer
 Photo Credit: Courtesy subject

In the years leading up to the recession, well before the advent of Pinterest and Instagram, Mariam Naficy had an idea: Why not build an e-commerce platform that crowdsources designs from independent artisans rather than relying on major (and expensive) labels? She launched Minted in 2007 as a retailer of stationery, ultimately expanding into categories including textiles, art, and home décor. “Our model is fundamentally successful because of meritocracy,” Naficy says, with designers entering Minted competitions and consumers voting for the designs they want to see for sale. “It ensures that irrelevant factors such as education, wealth, and connections do not stand in the way of the best artists finding their way to the market.” Today, more than 12 years later, Minted continues to grow. This summer it launched a licensing arm with partners including Method, which makes soap bottles based on Minted designs, and Samsung, which has a line of TVs that can display a gallery of art and photos. Minted now has more than 400 employees, 15,000 designers, and revenue in the low hundreds of millions. The company is profitable, too. Last year, Naficy raised a mind-bending $208 million in funding—the most in a single round by a female founder, ever. --Zoë Henry