Season’s greetings, cuties! Ahhh I am so excited to share some really cool news with you that I have been keeping under wraps: I recently curated a collection of artisanal treasures for the amazing site The Nopo and the collection launched recently and is ready to shop!
“If you aren’t familiar with The Nopo, here’s the scoop: It’s a retail site that partners with artisans in emerging markets all over the world and helps them handle things like shipping, returns, content, and marketing so that they can focus on actually making their wares.”
It’s a beautiful mission and when they approached me about curating a collection of my favorite pieces from their assortment, it was a no brainer! Literally two of my favorite things are supporting other creative entrepreneurs and finding inspo from things like travel and art and design.
Long story short–I’m obsessed with everything in the collection, and I also had a blast working with the team at The Nopo. Anyone who knows me knows I geek out over meeting other female founders and CEOs…and Kelly Breakstone Roth, CEO and co-founder at The Nopo, is just about as cool as they get! I’m in awe of the platform she’s built, so I took some time to chat with her for a The Kuotes Q&A so you all can get to know her!
Photos by Andrew Day
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The Nopo: Breaking Barriers & Making Connections
Hi Kelly! Okay I want all of The Kuotes readers to know everything there is to know about The Nopo…how you got started, what the most important services are! Literally, tell me everything!
Kelly Breakstone Roth: Our platform today provides an end to end solution to artisans in emerging markets wishing to participate in international e-commerce, and the main barriers that they were facing were logistical–anything that had to do with international shipping or international payment processing was overwhelming for them.
International shipping doesn’t end the day that you pass the package to the carrier–there’s also customer support, there’s refunds, there’s damaged goods, there’s returns. Our partners aren’t business-people–they’re artists and creators–so they don’t always have the tools or know-how to manage a business, especially with international aspects.
“Our platform is the kind of platform that is as much a discovery and exploration platform as it is an e-commerce platform and we would like our customers to experience it that way. Shoppers are coming to us so that they can connect to a different country.“
The second problem that artisans were having was around content. Today, e-commerce is very connected with how you tell the story; people want to understand the value of the product you’re creating, and that has to come from the ability to put into words and concert that in a way that’s appealing to the customer.
And the final thing was to be able to give customer support–there’s a difference in time zones, there’s a difference in access to technology, so we give 24/7 customer support. What we guarantee is that, if a customer isn’t happy with the product, we will refund them or allow them to return while the artisan still gets paid. We have to do quality assurance and make sure that the customer is happy, but we take off the financial and time burden of handling that part of the transaction.
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I love, love, love that The Nopo has this heart that’s all about connecting purposeful shoppers with purposeful makers–how do you find the artisans that you partner with?
Kelly Breakstone Roth: When we look for artisans, we are looking for three things:
- First, we’re looking for a unique voice–who’s going to create something that’s different and that has a combination of ancestral techniques but that’s still connected to modern wants and desires.
- Then of course, we’re looking at quality–we want to understand what materials they’re using, we want to understand the creative process and what’s involved in that, we want to make sure they’re not using any hazardous materials.
- And the final thing is that they’re aligned with our values. We want to know that, if they’re hiring other employees, they’re giving them fair conditions and prices; they’re sustainable and giving back to their community in a sustainable way.
Our vetting is a combination of outreach with local sources that we have and the artisan communities themselves. The best method is having artisans refer other artisans to us–that allows us to get to places where we otherwise wouldn’t have known to be looking.
“These people are passionate about what they do and they want to be part of a community that is just as aligned with that. Our artisans wouldn’t refer anyone to us who they themselves wouldn’t be proud to be associated with. That’s probably one of the best practices that we have–just that word of mouth. That’s the first filter.”
Okay, it’s no secret that I am completely over the moon about every single item in the collection I worked on with you! Each piece is just so special…what do you love about the product The Nopo sells? Is anything in particular really popular right now?
Kelly Breakstone Roth: All the products on our platform have a story–you can see who the artisan is, you can learn about the creative process. The gifts we sell are not just given because of functionality or even beauty–but it’s about culture, and the story, and that human touch involved.
What’s beautiful about our platform is that it’s really diverse in terms of the types of products that we have. It’s not just one particular style. Here, we give the stage to a lot of different artisans with different styles and different tastes.
“The thing that unites our artisans are the standards of quality and the values behind them, but there’s all this room for different people to express themselves there. If I’m talking about a trend, the trend is towards buying products that are made in small batches, that have a story, that you know who created them–rather than a specific color or design style.”
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KKH x The Nopo: Entrepreneurship, Craft & Creativity
For me, this partnership was a dream project and our brand values are just so aligned–like it’s kind of crazy actually! What was going through your mind when you first approached having me curate a collection?
First, I have to say that I’m a little bit in love! Kathy, you are just super professional and amazing, and you’re an inspiring entrepreneur!
“For us, we’ve been trying to partner, from the very first day, with people–and most of them are women–who we really look up to, and we see the way that they’re managing themselves and the way that they’re building their business–whether it’s a micro business or a larger business–these are people you want to go out to coffee with, people that you really admire what they do. Kathy Kuo Home is that.”
Your sense of aesthetics, and sense of business, and desire to promote other women and promote craft–those were things that were appealing to us from the very first moment. We’re so proud to be doing this partnership with KKH. When we put people up front and say that they’re our collaborators, it’s like: “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”–that’s exactly it. Kathy, you are a friend we all want to have and have you be a part of our community!