In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re paying tribute to women who challenge the status quo.
Introducing Kaylin Marcotte, CEO, and Founder of the multi-million dollar puzzle brand, JIGGY.
Not only has Kaylin defied our culture's expectations of women in the workplace, but she has created a celeb-loved empire without a business degree.
Yes, you heard us, correctly. A female business maven who didn’t go to Ross or Wharton? *Gasp*.
The definition of a one-woman show, Kaylin bootstrapped the company - starting with $25k of her own money - and became profitable almost immediately.
At just two years old, JIGGY is already a cultural phenomenon, loved by Kacey Musgraves, Chrissy Teigen, Allison Williams, Demi Lovato, amongst others.
We sat down with Kaylin herself to discuss her unconventional path to success.
You quit your job at the Skimm to work at Jiggy full-time, despite having no business background. How were you able to acquire the critical skills needed to run a successful company?
I’m a total believer in learning as you go, being scrappy and self-taught, and also knowing when to raise your hand for help. I was so fortunate to build a strong network in NYC starting with going to college here, then in management consulting, and then at the Skimm, of course. Some particular skills are definitely transferable and there are many more I could have had going into JIGGY, but more than any one skill set or prior experience, I credit success to a mindset of adaptability, which is crucial when running a startup and having a constantly moving target.
I have always been fairly comfortable with unknowns and things not going according to plan. You don’t have to have an MBA to start a company -- you just have to be curious, adaptable, passionate, and determined.
What steps were taken to turn your passion project into an extremely profitable business?
It definitely started as a passion project; when I was stressed and burning out, I fell in love with puzzles as my form of meditation and nightly unwind, but the designs were so outdated (and frankly lame!). So I began dreaming up a new kind of puzzle: an elevated, modern take on the classic jigsaw and supporting emerging artists at the same time. I started going to art fairs and shows in NYC and curating art from female artists that would make for a great puzzle experience - which is why each box comes with puzzle glue and a straight edge - so it can look good hanging on the wall after it's complete!
I dove headfirst into the world of manufacturing, freight, logistics, e-commerce and just one step at a time navigated through it, while really focusing on building a community around the brand. I think the steps I would encourage others to take are discovering your “why”, making it bigger than yourself, and then being resourceful, adamant about your vision and product experience, and ultimately - betting on yourself!
In what ways has your unconventional path to success shaped who you are here today? What example are you trying to set for other young female entrepreneurs?
I hope to show by example that you don’t have to have a business degree, an MBA, or a specific prior experience as a requisite to chase your goal. It also doesn’t need to be a total zero-to-one, novel technology - it might be right in front of you! Take something you love and see opportunity in, come at it from a fresh angle, bringing your unique lens and it can be an amazing experience and powerful business.
You also don’t have to go out pitching investors, raising the next biggest round, or promising a unicorn. You can do it your way, slow and steady -- start with what you have to invest yourself, rally your village around you and your idea and go for it in a way that’s authentic. There’s no bad outcome to that, you will learn so much either way.
How does your product fill a critical gap in the market?
There is an appetite, especially in today’s tech-centric time, for a tactile, screen-free way to unwind and unplug. Puzzles are such a classic pastime, so I bet on the idea that there was still a market for them to be done in an elevated, modern way.
For me, the biggest gap in my own experience with puzzles was the art itself - all I could find was cheesy, outdated stock photography - and what to do with it after? So our original art designs and puzzle glue, with a reusable glass jar, chic packaging makes it a perfect gift or treat for yourself to be more mindful and present - exercise your brain and build some art you can keep and hang on your wall forever!
In what ways have your puzzle designs provided a platform for emerging female artists?
It has been such a joy to be able to use our brand and product to highlight artists and let people discover and engage with their art in a whole new way. We’ve seen our customers become avid fans of our artists, following them on social media and purchasing more of their works. We also try to tell our artists’ stories as much as possible, and it's been wonderful to be able to see them alongside us in publications and big pinch-me moments, like having a celebrity do their puzzle or appear on display on the TODAY show.
Can you talk a bit about your selection process when it comes to choosing artists? What specific qualities do you look for in these women, aside from their inherent talent?
Pre-launch, I scoured art fairs, shows, and Instagram, and found art from female artists that would make for a great puzzle experience AND would look excellent hanging on your wall afterward (which is why each box comes with puzzle glue and a straight edge, for an easy-to-hang experience). Once we launched, almost immediately we had artists start to reach out to us, so we created an open submission process as well.
Now, our collections are about 50/50 between artists we find and those who submit their work. We actually just ran our first JIGGY Puzzle Art Contest recently and let our community vote on which designs they wanted to puzzle next. We had almost 500 entries and 65,000 votes, which created a ton of engagement for JIGGY and for the artists! The winners of that are being released as our Spring collection at the end of March!
How would you describe your brand’s mission statement? How does it tie into Women’s History Month?
Here at JIGGY, we are reinventing the humble jigsaw puzzle, supporting the work of emerging female artists from around the world, and reconnecting people with both mindfulness and art, in a whole new way - one piece at a time. We are here to spread puzzle joy, help artists make a living, and inspire people to unplug and find *piece* of mind.
We love celebrating Women’s History Month, since JIGGY is female-founded, entirely female-run, and built to champion women artists each and every day. Throughout this journey as a first-time, bootstrapping founder, I am more aware and grateful than ever for the trailblazing women who came before me and for the powerful impact of sisterhood on every aspect of my life.
Can you talk a bit about the positive mental health benefits of puzzles?
Absolutely! Personally, I immediately felt the meditative and stress-relief aspects when I started puzzling, and once I looked into it, found numerous studies connecting them to everything from improved memory and sleep, to decreased chances of dementia and Alzheimers.
There have been articles exploring puzzle’s use in treatment for patients with anxiety and PTSD, and recommended in grief support groups. One thing that has been so gratifying about having a product people truly connect with over the past couple of years is seeing the impact it’s having for them and helping provide even a small moment of escape and joy during the pandemic.
Women are oftentimes seen as less than in the workplace. How does the success of your brand challenge that notion?
I hope to provide an example of how outdated that thinking is! Diving in as a first-time, solo, bootstrapping founder with no prior ecom or physical product experience, I certainly faced both internal and external doubt, and while there have been a million challenges along the way, I’m so proud of some of our milestones that challenge that notion.
I broke even on my initial personal savings investment in 5 weeks, we have done profit-sharing with our artists from the beginning and distributed tens of thousands of dollars, built a community of over 100k puzzlers in a couple of short years, and are now a multi-million dollar business with a small but mighty, all-female team!
Photography by: Courtesy JIGGY