MINNA is an ethically made home textile line that uses traditional craft techniques to produce ethically made goods with a contemporary edge. Founder Sara Berks designs the collection in collaboration with the artisan groups in Mexico, Guatemala, and Uruguay who produce the line. It’s a favorite of ours (case in point) and MINNA just launched their Spring Summer collection for pre-order (it’ll ship mid-April.) We talked to Sara to learn more about her journey founding MINNA and what she is most proud of accomplishing. And you can see some of MINNA’s line in the slideshow!
What was your career path that lead to founding MINNA?
I didn’t exactly have a very clear path to founding MINNA. I went to art school – the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and studied Graphic Design. I started working full-time in branding and digital design my last two years of school and continued to do so after I graduated. Five or so years in, I was burnt out and exhausted and decided to leave the full-time corporate world to freelance. That gave me a lot of freedom to figure out what I really wanted to be doing and the ability to start focusing on personal projects. During this time, I also realized that I wanted to be my own boss. Even though there is a lot of pressure that goes along with that, I really value the flexibility it allows me. I get to decide what my day-to-day life looks like and I’m free to travel when I need to/want to. This was also when I started weaving and became interested in artisan production. It was kind of a sudden, yet natural progression that turned into a business! We now wholesale our line to over 100 stores, work with a network of over 100 artisans in Central and South America, and have a brick-and-mortar in Hudson, NY.
You work with artisan groups to bring you products to life. What is your process for designing and creating your products?
Each product is completely handmade, start to finish. I chose artisan production because I wanted to work with people, not factories, and create products that are not only beautiful but also do good.
My process is pretty loose. First, I try to gain an understanding for the traditional weaving and textile methods in the communities we work in, and then flip this for a more contemporary aesthetic. I usually begin a new collection with a color palette and mood board, and then spend time drawing, sketching, make small woven swatches, until I think I’ve gotten somewhere. I have tons sketchbooks from college until now that I go back to, to reference small patterns and shapes. Then we begin sampling and refining, and from there build upon the collection.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your own company?
Well, I didn’t go to business school, for one thing! It’s been a challenge to teach that part to myself (with a lot of assistance and long conversations with my dad). MINNA is 100% self-funded. So, growing from literally nothing to where we are now was difficult. But, I think working on such a small budget also gave me no room to mess up so I really had to be confident in the decisions I was making. Something else I’ve been running into lately is struggling with being a boss – someone else’s boss. Delegating is so important and learning when to let go of things I don’t need to be doing anymore. I made a goal to find more of a work life balance in 2018, and learning to better delegate and empower my employees is pretty crucial for me to be able to do that.
What has been your proudest moment since starting MINNA?
I’m not always the best at slowing down and thinking about what I’ve accomplished. So, thanks for asking! I actually just compiled our first impact report outlining our direct investments and jobs created for 2017. Sitting and down and crunching the numbers felt really great and it’s so exciting to see our impact on paper.