This Startup Is Offering Independent Artists a Real Shot

Minted founder and CEO Mariam Naficy (Credit: Minted)

Minted founder and CEO Mariam Naficy (Credit: Minted)

Art has gone crowdsourcing. At least in the case of Minted, a design marketplace that connects the consumer to a world of independent artists and designers. Founded by Mariam Naficy in 2007, she has said, "we wanted Minted to be the enabler, not the decider." 

Enable they have.

The way it works is fairly simple. Artists and designers submit their work during monthly challenges and the community votes what they want to see sold. It’s art by the people, for the people, that's also chosen by the people. And it's making the independent art world a little less financially intimidating. When an artists wins a competition they are given a personalized storefront on the site, an upfront cash prize, a percentage of the sales (10% for art), and Minted fulfills the product orders. The company also offers customizable stationery, custom wedding design services, as well as home décor options. 

We spoke with three artists whose work is featured on Minted about being part of this community and why the brand has been invaluable to their online presence and confidence as artists. 

One of the ways Minted supports independent artists is getting the work in front of eyeballs. How else has the company boosted your presence as an artist? 

Kristi Kohut, Mixed Media Artist & Designer at Hapi Art

When I was just starting it was quite scary putting my work out there and not knowing how it would be received. The community and support Minted gives its artists helped me push through this and be inspired to keep moving forward. They really work hard to promote their artists through online editorial features, Minted catalogs and national print campaigns. This is a huge deal as an independent artist with a tight advertising budget!

Alexandra Nazari, Los Angeles-based Photographer

Minted has been great in providing web traffic, sales (the best feeling is walking into apartment buildings, offices, stores, etc and seeing my work hung by total strangers ! Before the only people who saw or purchased my work were either directly related or kind friend ) and an amazing community of very kind fellow artists from around the country I would have never connected with otherwise. 

Betty Hatchett, Graphic Designer & Painter

Minted’s reach is truly incredible. I’ve had both private and corporate customers connect with me from all over the world after seeing my work on Minted. Also the way they’ve combined business, community and education is brilliant. They’ve introduced my work to a broad audience of collectors, but have also shown me how to better market myself, as well as form strategic, mutually beneficial alignments with other creatives and entrepreneurs. 

What are some ways the company exceeded your expectations? 

Kristi: There really is a strong bold vision and team behind Minted and I'm so impressed with their continued growth and commitment to growing their brand and establishing a huge presence in the marketplace. It's exciting to be a part of and inspired by this kind of direction. 

Alexandra: Their attention to making sure my work isn't stolen or plagiarized (a huge concern when selling online) and supporting a community that is so genuinely kind and constructive. It never feels competitive! It's so hard to find a "troll-free zone" on the Internet, but Minted has really made the seemingly impossible happen! 

Betty: I’ve been floored by the community Minted has created, both within Minted’s staff and the designers who’ve connected and banded together around the world. My true hook after I dipped my toe in at Minted was participating in an independent fundraiser for victims of hurricane Sandy. Organized completely by Minted designers in their free time and supported by Minted staff with a donation of paper for all art prints that were sold, it showed me the core generosity that runs through this exceptional pocket of the industry.

What is important to you as an artist who sells digitally? 

Kristi: It’s important to me to be able to convey online what is created offline; the color, the quality, the feel of my work has to translate online so the customer can envision the work in their home. My hope is that the work matches or exceeds their expectations. 

Alexandra: Making sure that the work is printed and presented in a way that is high quality and enhances the work - unlike some other online stores that cut corners and print really poorly. In the end that makes both parties look bad- I never want to disappoint someone who not only a) wants to actually hang my work in their home or other special place and b) spent their hard earned money. Minted really prints, frames , and ships their products impeccably at a very reasonable price. Another thing that Minted is great at that is very important is protecting my intellectual property. As an independent artist hiring a lawyer to send a letter is a very expensive and difficult task. It's amazing to know that Minted is behind me protecting the rights to my own work and keeping it out of the hands of copy cats! 

Betty: My favorite art professor in college liked to use the phrase “Your passion is your edge.” Of course, this is true for any kind of artist, but especially as as an artist who sells digitally, there is no good reason not to mine to the very core of your joy and curiosity in the work that you do. If your town isn’t celebrating the kind of work you long to make…there is a corner of this world that will and you can find them online. Time and again I’ve found that the work I most wanted/needed to do, even though I wasn’t sure it would resonate beyond my own brain, has become the work that defines my voice as an artist and connects me with patrons and collaborators that fit.

"My favorite art professor in college liked to use the phrase 'Your passion is your edge.'”

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It’s hard to be an independent artist. What advice do you have for other women trying to make it and remain independent? 

Alexandra: Always have some sort of space even if it's as small as a desk in the corner of your apartment that is your own and strictly reserved for making art. I find this separation essential.

Betty: Find and nurture friendships with other creatives. There are very specific challenges and joys to being an artist as well as being an entrepreneur. We all need friends to remind us of why we love the creative process when we have hit a block, friends who understand the mental angst grappling with pieces that just aren’t “there” yet, the vulnerability we all will face if we are committed to sharing our work, as well as the joy of life illuminated by finding your voice through creativity. 

What do you want people to get out of your work? 

Kristi: Joy. My hope is that my work elicits a feeling that lifts the viewer out of the ordinary. 

Betty: The creative process allows me to slow down, listen to life’s stories, beauty, humor, questions and give as honest a response as I can muster. It's a push and pull between meandering and direction, control and release, mistakes to embrace and perfections to forfeit...much as life is. I feel more human when I make things, more aware of how strange and wonderful it is to be alive, more grateful. I hope my work can offer a piece of that wonder to other people as well.

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