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Sarah Mirth is a St. Louis based designer who loves creating things — the idea of making something out of nothing has always excited her. Her background in architecture taught her the art of building buildings. She’s now translated that skill into building her business, Artifox, which designs and manufactures beautiful minimalist products for home and office spaces.
Sarah grew up with little exposure to entrepreneurship, graduated from design school and then went to work in the corporate environment. Instantly, she became curious about
what executive leaders were doing and how they were making decisions for the people who were designing the products they were selling. Her interest in the decision making process and business growth intertwined with the design process grew even greater as she continued working as an architect. Eventually, Sarah decided she wasn’t getting the access to the things she wanted and decided the best option for her would be to start her own business.
“It became scarier to me to think about sitting in a cubicle all day everyday without being able to create my future or get exposure to the business side than going out and doing it on my own.”
Along with her husband, Dan, they decided to jump right in. Dan started his own design agency after college and they were looking to outfit his space with office furniture and products that suited his needs. There were a lot of necessary tech related products they needed to have in the space but they also wanted the pieces to be beautiful and functional to fit their design aesthetic. They weren’t able to find products that satisfied both needs so they created their own.
As people saw what Sarah and Dan were doing in this space, they became really interested and wanted to know where they could purchase similar products. They launched the company in a product development global competition in 2014 with just one prototype of a single desk. They quickly received interest from customers as far as Australia and Tokyo. Sarah quit her job when it was clear that she needed to to go all in to get the business off the ground. They were able to fund their first line of inventory through Arch Grants, which really kicked off the brand.
Dan and Sarah Mirth, co-founders of Artifox.
Sustainability is important to the team at Artifox. Sarah’s grandparents own a farm in Missouri, where her dad plants walnut trees to replace the walnut hardwood they’ve used in their brand. They use post consumer packaging that is recyclable and are trying to put back what they are taking from the environment.
Sarah is almost always the only woman in the room, especially when it comes to manufacturing, a primarily male dominated industry. Early on, when she first launched Artifox, she felt that being the only woman in the room provided more challenges. “When we were unproven and no one knew if we were really going to do what we said we were going to do, I was looked at in a much more skeptical way. People said to me, ‘you’re just a designer, how will this ever get off the ground?’ I can’t see them saying that to a male designer."
After proving what they can do, Sarah says she doesn’t get that type of resistance any more. She wears that with a badge of honor. “The deck was stacked against us. We’ve proven ourselves and now that’s not an issue — let’s just keep moving forward."
“I’ve realized I don’t have to be a certain stereotype to be successful. I can do it in my own way and own space that people resonate with because it’s authentic to me instead of trying to be something or someone that I’m not.
Sarah, Dan, and their team have faced a lot of roadblocks in building completely custom products that have shapes, sizes, materials and processes that were unfamiliar to many manufacturers. At the beginning, there was a lot of frustration because things in the specs or drawings weren’t executed correctly on the manufacturing side. Instead of going in angry, Sarah came in with a focus on problem solving. She was open to hearing from the manufacturing side and determining how to move forward together, which has gotten them a lot further with supply partners. She feels that her ability to empathize in the problem solving process is an innate quality she has as a female.
“I’ve realized I don’t have to be a certain stereotype to be successful. I can do it in my own way and own space that people resonate with because it’s authentic to me instead of trying to be something or someone that I’m not.” Sarah encourages other female entrepreneurs to keep surpassing roadblocks they may face because the further you can get, the more it helps the next woman.
Sarah very much believes that the products and architecture that surround you can foster your excitement to come to work everyday and be successful. “There’s something really nice about a brand curating an experience or product for a certain lifestyle and being able to plug into that. We’ve been able to build strong relationships with customers and people have gotten really excited about our brand and products because it’s for that authentic person and style.”
Artifox lives and designs by a few principles: mindful, clever, subtle, symbiotic and lasting. Their products are designed for ease of transport with minimal assembly so that it’s easy and straightforward for the customer. The furniture is easy to be moved and disassembled so that the products can stay with you for a long time. Many customers compare opening an Artifox product to the same feeling you get when you open an Apple laptop. Artifox has been able to make what can be a really complicated product into something that is beautiful and functional. “We aren’t just here to make a buck. This is something that is innate to us and we’re thankful to be putting out in the world based on a belief system. We’re fortunate to work with a team and customer base who identify with that too.”
We encourage you to learn more about the Artifox brand and if it resonates with your beliefs and style, make a purchase! You can also follow Artifox on Facebook and Instagram. Sarah and her husband Dan live in St. Louis and are looking to connect with more consumer brand leaders. You can connect with Sarah by sending her a message on LinkedIn. Sarah completed her Pipeline Fellowship year in 2016 and is now an active Member of the organization.