Talking Shop with Marcus Milione from Minted NY
ICYMI: Sourcing Blanks 101
Last week, we rolled out another DROPS report: how to source blanks for your brand
In this report, we unpack the following:
What blanks are
A merchandising glossary
Ways to decorate your blanks
Great examples of fantastic-looking merch
A full list of suppliers to work source in different tiers
A guide for how to use merch as a brand marketing play
Comprehensive video breakdown of different blanks suppliers
A nationwide directory to use for finding decorators in your state
+ much more!
A new content series
We’re pumped to roll out our first-ever content series, Talking Shop
We use this series to spotlight brand owners building good shit on the internet and IRL, and up first is Marcus Milione of Minted NY, a lifestyle brand he started a few years ago.
Marcus is the perfect example of owning the creator-brand conundrum. Where most owners focus on building a brand while not wanting to be the face of it, Marcus has embraced that role, realizing that the success of the brand rests in how he’s been able to build a community through open and honest content.
Today we unpack his journey to launching his own brand, what he thinks about the idea of being a “founder,” why community is the future for brand building, and his advice to people early on in their journey.
Tell us the Marcus Milione story—
I spent most of my childhood in Northern Virginia. I grew up in a close family with parents who instilled a strong work ethic, the value of following your dreams, and the importance of integrity in me, my brother, and my sister.
When I was younger, I always played competitive sports (baseball, football, basketball, lacrosse) and focused on those during their seasons. Looking back, I think athletics taught me a ton about discipline and competition… all within the framework of effort and work ethic.
When it came to studying, I always had to work hard to make somewhat average grades. In high school, I focused on lacrosse. I have fond memories of my first days working out in the gym to get stronger and of all the time I spent outside of school/practice getting reps on my own, especially as the level of competition increased dramatically.
I also played lacrosse while studying finance, and after college, I moved to NYC, where I was on my own for the first time. I worked in finance on the debt side of the commercial real estate scene in NYC. When the pandemic hit and working from home became the standard, I longed for a creative outlet, so I started to post on social media about the things I enjoyed (fashion, fitness, business, etc.).
Posting on social media introduced me to an online community of like-minded people, and I really enjoyed that. As I started to explore my creativity, I became interested in developing something from scratch. It started with jewelry, eventually leading to clothing and anything else that piqued my interest. The rest is history...
What drew you to the idea of building Minted in the first place?
I wore my original pieces in my videos and always got tons of questions about them from the community. One day, it hit me that there was a market gap, and the pieces resonated with people, so I quickly created a Shopify site and began working on it in my free time.
I have always loved the idea of entrepreneurship, and creating Minted allows me to be my own boss, building in the areas I am passionate about.
Did you start with TikTok and stumble into the brand, or was it the other way around?
When I started making TikToks, the platform felt like a place that encouraged and promoted virality over community-building. Instead of making every post a grand slam, I focused on providing value in my videos, no matter how small it was. Essentially, my "for you" page at the time was smaller creators providing nuggets of valuable information, which I specifically enjoyed.
As the business and my TikTok account grew, the brand came into focus organically.
There's so much shit to talk about on the internet, it's overwhelming. What's your philosophy around sharing content, and how'd you land on your niche?
I want to make sure that what I post (i.e. fashion and fitness) reflects what I’m passionate about. I also want to provide accurate information with some potential value. As I started making content people asked me (and still do) to make videos about specific topics (in my niche) that I need to become more familiar with. This forces me into research, where I have to make sure I have the info to give people an educated perspective.
In addition, I always welcome differing opinions because, within fashion especially, there is a great deal of subjectivity. Over time, my content has evolved and I’m lucky enough to be able to document building the brand through my running journey, the businesses, and life.
You've bootstrapped your business since the beginning, which is rare in a world where we're surrounded by this nebulous idea of being a "founder" defined by how much money they’ve raised. Was that always the plan?
Initially, I was only building in the fashion/accessories space and knew that I did not want to limit myself in that way. My goal was to be grounded, dream big, and stay creative. I think that being bootstrapped gives you an advantage for a couple reasons: it forces you to be as scrappy as possible and also allows you to avoid personnel bloat.
Having a lean team that includes my brother (Shawn), sister (Kelly), and a design talent like Clay has been invaluable. It’s forced us to become profitable faster, which helps us avoid wasting time and money on frivolous things that have no immediate tangible impact on our bottom line.
RE: being a “founder”… I have many thoughts on this topic. Often, entrepreneurship and the life and role of a founder can be overly-glorified.
Sure, there are business opportunities that look glamorous to the public, but it’s a double-edged sword. There are many moments behind the scenes that people do not see that require a lot of work, time, and stress.
Business is tough, and many internal and external forces can (and will) push the company towards failure, so founders need to do everything in their power to ensure that that does not happen - and it STILL can happen!
You're all about world-building. We've seen merch, cut and sew, nutrition, running, and so on… What is the Minted world, exactly, and how do you go about world-building with your brand in general?
I am fortunate that the businesses we have built and the content we make spring from things I'm passionate about and are organically a part of who I am. I started making products I wanted and couldn't find, and that principle still applies to all of Minted’s products today.
Our goal with the Minted ecosystem is to be a brand people can turn to when looking for a quality product, no matter what market it is. For example, we’ve emphasized customer service from the beginning. It’s something we’re known for, and everyone within Minted holds the same belief. We will always operate that way. In the creative process, product testing, and production, I will always live and breathe our products to ensure the highest quality for the customer.
Looking back, what ideas or advice would you pass on to fellow creators and founders early on in their building journey?
The biggest thing you need is a passion for what you are building and discipline throughout the journey. The journey is unique, and the experience is rich, but the process is complex and can beat you down at any moment.
If you’re not passionate or disciplined to stay the course, it’s easy to burn out and ultimately bow out of the game. If you want to stay in the game—unrelated to business—form good habits for yourself, like getting enough sleep, exercising, and proper nutrition.