It was just a year ago when Christie Frankenstein founded Thistle & Poppy, a company selling magnetic picture frames. Now, she has leased a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Bradenton, hired three full-time employees and applied for a patent for her Snap Point system. Things are moving faster than this 30-year-old entrepreneur ever dreamed. “The day after we moved in to the warehouse, we got our biggest order ever,” she says. 

These days, Thistle & Poppy frames have been featured on The Grommet and Frankenstein just shot a spot for the Home Shopping Network. The makers of Shark Tank are considering featuring the custom picture frames on the popular reality show, something that could put Frankenstein’s invention in front of its biggest audience yet. And all the while, Thistle & Poppy has grown capable of moving thousands of frames into the marketplace. Not bad for a product Frankenstein and her husband Jens tossed together in the garage just trying to find a way to save time.

The story of Thistle & Poppy actually starts with the picture and moves out to the frame. Frankenstein graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in photography and a passion for taking pictures. She took a job with Sony as a training rep, traveling around the southeast United States showing sales people how to work the newest products. Along the way, she met her software-developer husband Jens and became, as she calls it, a “real life Bride of Frankenstein.”

After the birth of her first child in 2012, Christie decided to open her own portrait studio. The new business, Frankenstein Photograffi, allowed her to make money taking pictures without traveling a huge geographic sales area. But in a world of smartphones and affordable digital cameras, she quickly learned professional photographers need more than a nice lighting wall to maintain a profit. That led her into custom framing, turning her Ruskin garage into a Frankenstein laboratory where she created colorful borders and attractive patterns for frames. The only problem, as Jens would point out frequently, was that profit proved elusive when you calculated the cost of assembling frames. It was a process to fuse joints together with protective glass and the traditional backing for photos. “I was hand-making and hand-painting every piece,” Christie recalls. 

The couple got to work finding ways to streamline the process. To do that, certain items were deemed unnecessary in a modern printing world. The glass on the front of pictures served no purpose considering photo prints didn’t scratch so easily. And by making frames where a front snapped onto a base, the traditional photo frame backs were also removed from the process. But the real genius moment came in the development of a magnetic Snap Point system.

“We just stumbled upon this magnetic idea—he just had these magnets on a work bench—and realized it was much easier to take frames off and not waste time,” Christie says. A custom frame had metal points put in place so that the entire border would snap onto a metal base. It seemed so simple the Frankensteins were surprised no one thought of the idea before, but since no one had, they filed for a patent. The product brought many benefits, for one having fewer pieces. Christie was able to continue offering a high-quality array of options for frames, something critical to her as an artist. “Limiting myself to 15 color options was the biggest struggle of my business career,” she jokes. She still offers those 15 colors, available on 10 bases and 19 frame designs, all of which can be purchased in 5-by-7-inch, 8-by-10-inch and 4-by-6-inch frames. The company boasts that those options allow for 42,750 combinations in each size of frame. The product also creates convenience for purchasers, who can swap photos as easily as they can move a DVD in and out of a case.

The company in February announced it had doubled its distribution outlets since last year, a development that came on the heels of a welcome reception at the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market. Selling products made of wood-styled MDF with a distressed look, Frankenstein says the product seems to move as quickly as she can educate people about it. And although the company would not share figures, business has been strong enough that Christie has turned all her time toward Thistle & Poppy while Frankenstein Photograffi retires into the annals of entrepreneurial history. That’s fine by Frankenstein. “I still love taking pictures of my kids,” says the mother of two, “but I don’t need to take pictures of other ones right now.”

Instead, the millennial mogul has a business to run and a world of photos to frame.