By Nancy Dahlberg

The arts & crafts marketplace hasn’t seen a lot of disruption. Shops that cater to artists, not typically online, offer high prices or low quality or both. Arteza wants to change that.

The North Miami-based startup offers affordable arts & crafts supplies via its direct-to-consumer e-commerce model, and early growth shows it’s working. Arteza offers more than 750 products to more than 2 million customers globally and has always been profitable.

On the heels of last year’s $24 million funding announcement – the company’s first VC investment — we wanted to find out more about the company. We talked with Lars Spaten, Arteza’s CFO, who left his job directing Latin America operations for a global tech company to join the scrappy startup. He had worked with Arteza’s co-founder Mike Koshatko, a friend, on other projects, so when Koshatko asked him to take a look at his latest venture “with pencils,” (pencils?) he reluctantly said he’s take a look.  “When they explained the business case and I looked at the numbers, I said, wow, this is fantastic. I ended up jumping ship.” That was more than two years ago.

Arteza, founded by Koshatko and Jurgis Plikaitis, started selling products in mid-2016. “In 2017 we did 6X and the following year we did 6X again, just massive growth rates,” Spaten said. “We are probably one of the fastest growing companies in the southern states.”

What’s its secret sauce? Arteza is a one-stop online shop for passionate, always dabbling hobbyists. “Whatever your thing is, we should have it on the shelf,” Spaten said, and those offerings will keep growing. Arteza also offers “great products, great prices” and the final key ingredient is customer experience. In addition to employees empowered to fulfill fast and resolve customer issues quickly, Arteza even has art students sitting in its customer service department to answer customers’  questions about, well, anything art. Its blog and Arteza YouTube channel provide free video tutorials and inspiration for its artistic customer base, Spaten said. “We want to wow the customer and we want them to love us.”

Arteza announced in November that it had raised $24 million in Series A funding from growth equity venture firm Boston-based Volition Capital, an early and passionate investor in Chewy, too. Other tier 1 VCs were interested, Spaten said, but “we liked Volition because they had experience with e-commerce, with branding and in Florida. We all know Chewy is a fantastic growth story and business case.”

In the past 8 months, Arteza has tripled its product offerings with more expansion to come, improved its website experience, moved to larger offices and quadrupled its employee base to 200, split between South Florida and Eastern Europe, Spaten said.

It’s all part of its strategy to take a fresh approach to what’s been a static space for too long, Spaten said. Today, through Arteza’s online channels, people want to share and they want to be involved.

“It’s a small part of the market but it is changing fast. It is a space ripe for innovation,” he said.  “The vision is to become the go-to brand of our core customers – people passionate about creating art.”

Photos provided by Arteza

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter and email her at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com.

Nancy Dahlberg
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