Kaylin Marcotte making a half million dollar deal with Mark Cuban on “Shark Tank” for her puzzle company, JIGGY. — Photo courtesy of Shark Tank
While some people made sourdough and others binge-watched Netflix, millions of us spent the past year doing puzzles. The big trend of the pandemic – a trend that shows no signs of slowing down even as we re-enter the world – jigsaw puzzles saw a huge resurgence, selling out repeatedly and welcoming a new generation of puzzlers and puzzle companies.
If you’re picturing boring, cheesy images of bucolic landscapes and cuddly animals, you haven’t been on Instagram lately. The new puzzles are vibrant, eye-popping, sometimes irreverent and always relevant. They are not your Grandma’s puzzles.
In fact, none of the founders of these new puzzle companies are grandmas yet. But they are all female.
Why are so many women starting puzzle companies now?
“I think a lot of women-owned brands are emerging because it became obvious during the pandemic that the industry is in need of disruption,” says Kate Goodnough, managing partner of Puzzledly. “With sales soaring through the roof, consumers were even more limited on their available options and entrepreneurs started to notice how boring and outdated most puzzle artwork is. They saw opportunity.”
Lindsey Simmonds, founder of Wander agrees, adding, “But the macro reason, I hope, is that women are showing up with capital and feminine ideas in a world that has been full too long with only masculine ideas. I hope this is just a microcosm of a larger phenomenon yet unfolding.”
Here are the women-owned companies taking the puzzle industry by storm and changing the world one piece at a time.
“Reach for the Stars Sis” by Pink LoMein from JIGGY — Photo courtesy of JIGGY
You may recognize Kaylin Marcotte from “Shark Tank,” where Mark Cuban recently invested half a million dollars in her puzzle company, JIGGY.
“About five years ago, I was working around the clock at an early startup, theSkimm, and fell in love with puzzles as my nightly form of self-care and meditation,” says Marcotte. “Every puzzle I came across on the market, though, was outdated and uninspired, so I started dreaming up a puzzle that was modern, elevated and could serve as a piece of art. I knew that I wanted to tap amazing female artists to create the designs and support their work with profit-sharing.”
She launched JIGGY in November 2019 and the company really took off during the pandemic when people fell in love with the artsy puzzles and the fact that they come in a reusable glass jar with a print of the image, a tube of puzzle glue and a straight edge tool to spread the glue so you can frame the puzzle when you’re finished.
JIGGY now offers a monthly subscription puzzle, as well. Along with a percentage of each sale going directly back to the artist, JIGGY also donates a percentage of proceeds from specific puzzles to different non-profit organizations.
The ultimate ode to the art of a puzzle, “Meta” from Piecework is a puzzle of a woman doing a puzzle — Photo courtesy of Piecework
Jena Wolfe and Rachel Hochhauser never expected to start a puzzle company, especially since they were already business partners in a creative agency.
“In 2016, I rented a cabin in Yosemite to spend time in nature,” remembers Hochhauser. “But it rained the entire weekend, and I was stuck indoors. I found a closet full of old jigsaw puzzles and started working on one in front of the fire with a bottle of wine. And then another, and then another.
“I spent the whole weekend doing puzzles and was surprised to find it was super meditative. It was a lightbulb moment, reminding me of the feeling you get after a good yoga class – it was somehow both stimulating and calming. Shortly after, Jena and I went on a trip and I brought along a puzzle. The rest, as they say, was history.
“We started doing puzzles in our downtime. They were this perfect activity but there weren’t any out there that spoke to our aesthetic. Puzzles are so visual – you’re staring at them for hours on end. We wanted to create puzzles that we, as puzzle doers, would love.”
They launched Piecework in July 2019 and saw a 910% increase in sales in one month of the pandemic alone. Each eye-popping puzzle is accompanied by a playlist, and they pair philanthropic initiatives with certain puzzles.
Piece & Love by eeBoo
“Viva la Vida” from eeBoo Piece & Love started my pandemic puzzle obsession — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Mia Galison was living in New York with her artist husband and their one-year-old when she found out she was pregnant with twins.
“It seemed like extraordinary measures would need to be taken in order for us to prevail so I started my own business,” she says. Billed as “woman-owned and mother-run,” Piece and Love by eeBoo is all about fostering empathy, creativity and curiosity.
Beautifully designed with vibrant and meaningful images, each puzzle features original artwork commissioned from established and emerging female artists around the world.
“In everything we do, we try to embody old-school values of family, friendship, good citizenship, quality, learning and imagination,” says Galison. That means puzzles that build skills and encourage conversation, as well as sustainability. eeBoo uses 90% recycled board, vegetable-based inks and FSC certified paper.
Lost Walls Project
“Dali & His Ocelot” puzzle by Lost Walls Project — Photo courtesy of Mural Artist Zabou
Daniela Anavitarte Bolzmann’s earliest memories are of doing puzzles with her grandparents. Because she didn’t speak Spanish, it was a way to communicate and bond with them, and it instilled an ongoing love of puzzles in her. As an adult, puzzling became a form of self-care and meditative release, but she was disappointed with the selection available.
So, after admiring the murals in her community and wondering what happens to them over time, she decided to merge her hobby with the art, creating Lost Walls Project to archive street art and bring an art form typically only admired in the streets into people’s homes and hands.
In 2018, the company released their first small batch puzzle featuring Zabou, a female artist from London who creates large scale mural portraits, including the company’s bestselling “Dali & His Ocelot.”
Today, they offer six stunning puzzles, intentionally sourcing 50% from female artists because, as Bolzmann says, “diversity matters.” With every puzzle sold, Lost Walls Project gives back to Play Together Records to create art scholarships for BIPOC youth.
You can do a puzzle of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” thanks to Eurographics — Photo courtesy of Eurographics
After moving from Prague to Canada, Ingrid Sinyor founded Eurographics in 1995, combining her passions for art and business, as a way to support herself as a student. Ten years ago, the company, which originally just sold posters, started making puzzles which are considered some of the highest quality in the industry.
They’re especially known for their fine art puzzles featuring masterpieces by artists from Renoir and da Vinci (yes, you can piece together your own “Mona Lisa”) to Monet and van Gogh. They’re also known for their commitment to the environment, which they celebrate with their Save the Planet puzzle collection.
Eurographics uses local, recycled materials and has partnered with One Tree Planted, with whom they’ve already planted more than 1,000 trees.
Wander Puzzle Co.
“The Movement” from Wander Puzzle Co. — Photo courtesy of Wander Puzzle Co.
Lindsey Simmonds started Wander Puzzle Co. in November 2019 when, she says, “I simply ran out of puzzle images that inspired and excited me.”
She launched in January 2020 with what she calls “a terrifyingly large inventory for a new businessperson,” but was completely sold out by April.
“People were dealing with so much anxiety, and puzzles significantly helped them calm down,” she says. “Customers wrote gift messages encouraging each other to take care of themselves and expressing love and support for one another by giving puzzles. I felt honored to help create this peace and connection for others.”
Wander’s goal is to make puzzles that take you to beautiful places mentally and emotionally, to represent diversity and celebrate the beauty of the feminine. Simmonds has worked in public health for Africa for 15 years, and the company contributes to microloans for women in Kenya through their on-the-ground partner.
“How I Will Spend the Summer” puzzle by Maggie Stephenson for Ordinary Habit — Photo courtesy of Ordinary Habit
Mother/daughter duo Echo and Tre Hopkins launched Ordinary Habit in June 2020 after, having used puzzles as both a tool to take a break from their devices and as a form of tactile meditation, they realized there weren’t many options featuring artwork they wanted to have in their homes.
Combining Echo’s background in art history and artist management with Tre’s skills in graphic design and product production, they set out to create puzzles that are fun to do and beautiful to display. The apartment-friendly-sized boxes are magnetic, so they stay closed when they’re upright on a shelf. The real emphasis is on the artists themselves, whose bios are on the boxes and whose interviews can be found on the Ordinary Habit website.
The Hopkins’ other emphasis is supporting mental wellness, encouraging it with their puzzles and donating to the Loveland Foundation and other charities.
“Dream Garden” from Lemonade Pursuits — Photo courtesy of Lemonade Pursuits
“I’ve always loved puzzles because they help me manage anxiety,” says Abigail Imperati. “It is almost impossible to worry about anything else when you are working on a puzzle. When doing a particularly garish and uninspiring puzzle, though, I realized that too often the artwork gets in the way of the meditative qualities.
“After doing market research, it seemed like there was an opportunity to create extraordinary puzzles that feature artwork specifically chosen to create a meditative and joyous puzzling experience.”
She launched Lemonade Pursuits in August 2019 and sold out of her first collection in April 2020. She’s now on her third collection, with “Dream Garden” and “Spring Begins” top sellers in the 1,000-piece category, and “Forest Walk” the top-selling 500-piece design. 10% of all revenue supports female artists around the world.
“Fruit Lovers Dream” from Puzzledly — Photo courtesy of Soona
Kate Goodnough founded Puzzledly in October 2019 with her mom, sister and aunt after a family vacation where, she recalls, “of course, jigsaw puzzles were in tow. I wanted to find a cool, unique puzzle to bring along that year but couldn’t find a single puzzle that was actually cute and modern.”
The four women started Puzzledly with the goal of offering challenging but satisfying puzzles that are actually cute and modern. Filled with vibrant colors and contemporary patterns, their inventory sold out in three weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, allowing them to expand their product line to 25 puzzles in less than a year.
In honor of their grandfather, Puzzledly donates one dollar for every puzzle sold to Hilarity for Charity, to assist in the battle against Alzheimer’s.