If you’re planning to stay home this summer or just taking local trips, an online marketplace called The Nopo might just satisfy a bit of your wanderlust. While shopping online doesn’t exactly expose you to the same sights, sounds, and tastes, this platform allows consumers to purchase a variety of items including home decor, rugs, textiles, and fashion accessories created by international artisans.
Founded in March 2020 by Kelly Breakstone Roth and Shanny Harel, The Nopo, which is short for “The Nomad Pop Up,” offers a curated selection of handcrafted pieces. This includes everything from tea sets to pillow covers and even pet beds. While the items currently sold on the site are from Morocco and Mexico, Colombia and Israel are launching later this year. Additional marketplaces are planned for 2022.
A Platform For Artisans
While the brand is highly particular about who is featured on the site, they are surprisingly less stringent about what products are sold. “The Nopo maintains a careful screening process to ensure a high quality of craftsmanship across the platform, through interviews, referrals, and a local partner that manages quality assurance. Once an artisan has been vetted in terms of their aesthetics, skill, quality of materials, authenticity, and values, there is rarely a need for us to intervene in product selection,” says Roth.
MORE FOR YOU
“The beauty of our collection is that is diverse in terms of style, while consistent in terms of quality. We’re tapping into the most creative population on earth, and they are the best curators. Thus, in most cases, artisans choose the items independently.”
The Curation Process
While Roth and Harel planned to travel to Morocco the year they launched, the shutdowns due to the pandemic forced them to have a Plan B. “Initially, traveling to Morocco was a critical part of our plan. How else were we supposed to find these artisans who are virtually invisible to search engines? But, once we realized a trip to Morocco was out of the question, we had to figure out new ways, not only to source artisans but to validate them.”
During the first month in business, the women spent countless hours scouring through Instagram accounts. “It felt like looking for a needle in a haystack, but we kept plugging away and after about two weeks we found our first— Soufiane Aissouni, a lamp designer from Marrakech who creates beautiful handwoven raffia light fixtures working with a collective of craftswomen from a village nearby. We DMed him on Instagram, and he was instantly sold on the idea,” explains Roth.
Once the founders connected to their first artisans, they realized they opened themselves up to an entire community. “Artisans refer us to new artisans all the time, and these referrals provide the best quality leads. This is because our artisans, who are all highly skilled, deeply care about who they are associated with and want to preserve the level of quality throughout the platform.”
A Platform For Artisans
However, as the women dug deeper, they realized that there was something much much important at play here. “Over 65 percent of the world’s estimated 200 million artisans live in the developing world and don’t have access to the same logistical and technological solutions available to vendors in the US and EU, and so they remain locked out of the global handicraft market,” reveals Roth. “We were driven by the possibility of truly democratizing e-commerce and creating a world where artistic excellence is borderless.”
The artisans The Nopo partners with generally lack the resources or know-how to operate or promote their own websites, as well as the ability to manage the logistics selling internationally, shipping, etc. They do, however, have smartphones and manage active Instagram accounts. So, this platform gives shoppers access to foreign craftspeople they would only likely encounter by meeting them in person.
The Nopo takes responsibility for all international shipping and payment processing, as well as customer support. “We are 100 percent accountable for customer satisfaction, so in the rare situation in which an item was damaged during shipping or the customer wishes to return the product, we take full responsibility. This increases trust and frees the artisans to focus entirely on the creative process,” says Roth.
The Nopo also empowers artisans by giving them the recognition they deserve by not only telling their story but also by helping them communicate the value of their work in a way that’s compelling to American customers. But more importantly, when family and friends inevitably ask The Nopo’s customers, “Where did you get that?,” they can bring similar handmade items home without getting on a plane.
“When we started developing the concept of The Nopo, our motivation was to make this experience more accessible, to bring the joy of discovery to people’s everyday lives. We wanted to create a platform that would enable people to virtually travel the markets of the world, meet spectacular artisans and decorate their lives with beautiful items that tell a story and reflect their values,” says Roth.