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A Company That Almost Wasn't

Biz Rev 2022

A serial start-up company entrepreneur, Mariam Naficy, found that just because one company is an overnightsuccess doesn’t mean it will happen to the next startup. She tells us what she discovered in the process.

A COMPANY THAT ALMOST WASN’T

I’M CJ JACKSON AND THIS IS THE BUSINESS REVIEW.

MARIAM NAFICY’S FIRST STARTUP EXPERIENCE OVERNIGHT SUCCESS, BOASTING BIG SALES IMMEDIATELY. HER NEXT START-UP, MINTED, A CROWD-SOURCED DESIGN BUSINESS THAT OFFERS STATIONERY, HOME GOODS, AND FINE ART, PROVE A BIT MORE CHALLENGING.

Minted unfortunately was the other kind of success, a really slow slog that took … ten years plus…When we first opened our doors nothing was selling at all … not a single sale probably for two months. I thought I would shut the company down and give back the rest of the money that I had not yet spent to the friends that I had ... raised money from.”

JUST AS NAFICY WAS ABOUT TO GIVE UP, SHE DISCOVERED A KEY THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING.

I noticed a tiny sign of life in some designs that we had quote unquote crowd sourced through a competition of designers because in the beginning we weren't sure we were … going to get anything submitted by competition so we had a blend of product, some that we were resellers of and others that we were sourcing uniquely from through competitions.”

The idea was to bring better, fresher design than was available in stores…the fundamental premise -- is that better design was out there than what was being made available in the world of custom online cards and stationery.

We thought we had a product problem, but we actually had a marketing problem. We almost shut the whole thing down because we didn't have enough data to really accurately assess the business.

NAFICY RECOMMENDS ESTABLISHING BASELINE DATA EARLY, EVEN FOR A SMALL BUSINESS. WHILE HER QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN REFINED, THE HEART OF WHAT MINTED ASKS CUSTOMERS REMAINS THE SAME.

I just find that whenever I have a strategic question, asking customers for their opinion shines this really clear light on the path ahead of us. You can get into an echo chamber inside companies where you can convince yourself of anything.

THE BUSINESS REVIEW IS A PRODUCTION OF LIVINGSTON & MCKAY AND THE HANKAMER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY.