Piecing It Together
When Shark Tank viewers this past April watched New Yorker Kaylin Marcotte ’12 pitch her mission- driven Jiggy Puzzles business, mega-entrepreneur Mark Cuban not only made an offer of $500,000, he also agreed to match her 2021 fundraising efforts of $50,000.
Securing that kind of national exposure and funding, just 16 months after launching the business, is a testament to Marcotte’s tenacity and vision as an entrepreneur committed to empowering female artists. One of the defining features of Jiggy is its business model: Marcotte specifically commissions only women artists to illustrate the brand’s puzzles and then produces them with an all-women staff. In addition, most of Jiggy’s interns are Barnard students.
The first few pieces of the Jiggy Puzzles idea came
to Marcotte when she was still a student at Barnard, studying political science and psychology. There, she participated in Athena Center for Leadership programming, which provided her with “leadership skills of the real world,” she says. “And that really helped me develop just how to take a project from zero to one, and how to really create something and get it off the ground.”
In 2014, when she was the marketing director at theSkimm, a media company providing a subscription-only newsletter, she began assembling 1,000-piece puzzles weekly. “I was looking for a way to unwind and to get away from screens, and so I rediscovered them and started doing them every night as my form of stress relief,” she recalls.
The more she delved into the world of puzzles, the more she found herself imagining how she might design one: “I just started thinking, ‘What would my dream puzzle look like? What would it be like? What would the art be? What would the packaging and the branding be?’” Five years later, Marcotte has turned this pastime into a professional endeavor, becoming a full-time curator of puzzles that can double as decorative art.
The idea to focus on emerging female artists stemmed from her own personal experience. With a mom who works in arts education and Barnard friends who later struggled to earn a living as visual artists, Marcotte had a front-row seat to the many challenges that women artists face — from selling their work to receiving credit for it. When family friends with whom she was visiting a museum one day couldn’t name five female artists, Marcotte realized she could address some issues by launching a career that both educated the public and shared profits directly with artists. After frequenting art shows and scouring the internet to find women illustrators, Marcotte soon made her vision a reality.
“My experience at Barnard has definitely shaped how I built my team and structured Jiggy with our artists,” says Marcotte.
Since its launch, Jiggy has produced artful puzzles that speak to self-care, girls who reach for the stars, and more. This June, the company produced a puzzle set to commemorate Pride Month. And there are more designs coming down the pipeline.
“I want to work with so many more artists and really continue surprising and delighting our customers with new puzzles and new designs,” she says. “And then for myself, this is probably my first but not my last company.”