Hillel's Tech Corner: The Nopo brings best artisans to global audiences

The Nopo maintains a careful screening process to ensure a high quality of craftsmanship across the platform, as it aims to become the go-to platform for artisanal and authentic crafts.

The Nopo (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Nopo
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Months ago, right at the onset of COVID-19, I remember feeling hopeful it wouldn’t actually be so bad.
That maybe the media was taking the sensationalist route. But as time went on, people worldwide fell dangerously ill, and far too many of them passed before their time. Then public spaces started closing and international travel came to a halt. That was the start of livelihoods beginning to change.
I was suddenly unable to meet with the masterminds behind innovative companies, which put my vlog on an indefinite halt.
The hottest industry events were canceled, or went digital. Life became overwhelming for people who rely on office environments and industry events as part of their livelihood, and started to take a toll on our finances.
But the workforce expands far beyond the tech scene. What about the artisans of the world who rely on heavy tourism to make a living? Their worlds have shattered, but who is looking out for them?
Israel-based The Nopo, that’s who.
The Nopo is an experience-driven e-commerce platform that connects online shoppers with exceptional artisans in some of the most intriguing markets around the world. But this company is more than a direct to consumer B2C start-up, they also have those of us who are consumed by wanderlust in mind.
Through original content and unique virtual experiences, The Nopo takes its shoppers to faraway lands and stimulates meaningful human connection all from the comfort of one’s home. They host excellent original content featuring their artisans and showcasing the local art and design scene.
I know, you’re probably thinking that The Nopo is not like most of the other companies I’ve covered, but the need and impact is there.
By now it’s clear that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the travel industry, but we’re thinking about, and hearing far less about the people and places that we were once accustomed to visit in far corners of the globe. Much of what makes our travel experiences so memorable are the people we meet and the unique crafts we fall in love with and take home.
Kelly Roth and Shanny Harel, The Nopo’s co-founders, met at the Kellogg-Recanati Executive MBA program in Tel Aviv. Roth spent the last decade managing cutting edge, multi-million-dollar ventures as an executive in an elite department in the israeli civil service. Harel started her career at Target Global, a German venture capital, after which she became the head of sales operations at Zap Group.
She is also the co-founder and chairwoman at ProWoman, a global female leaders’ community. It was at Kellogg-Recanati that the two began to develop their vision of a world in which people transcend their geographical and cultural boundaries to experience the true wonders of the world.
Both Roth and Harel insist that The Nopo isn’t a replacement for travel, but it can connect you to distant places and provide a feeling of the exotic while supporting local artisans gravely hurt by the current lack of tourism.
With restrictions on large gatherings and travel, the future of traditional crafts markets and bazaars seems bleak. It’s going to be a long time before the public will flock back to crowded markets. More than 20% of the workforce in Morocco, which is about 400,000 craftsmen and women, are completely dependent on the sales that come from incoming tourism. The numbers are even greater in other developing countries.
While artisans’ incomes have always ebbed and flowed with the seasonality of tourism, which was certainly a problem demanding a solution prior to COVID-19, the pandemic exacerbated their situation. While there are many artisans that have their own websites, most barely have any visibility or clout. Then there is also the issue of having a viable international shipping and payments setup. The Nopo has been providing great relief to the artisans of Morocco in those regards.
Roth and Harel both realized that sustaining the craft industry’s future is an economic, as well as a cultural necessity. When they started reaching out to artisans, they were amazed by how open and trusting the artisans were. The artisans responded favorably to more than just the marketing and logistical support offered by The Nopo – they also longed to be part of a community of artisans who share similar values and the standards of quality and sustainability. Roth and Harel now have new artisans contacting them every day, asking to join the platform.
The Nopo maintains a careful screening process to ensure a high quality of craftsmanship across the platform, as it aims to become the go-to platform for artisanal and authentic crafts.
The Nopo’s operational support removes a number of hurdles for the artisans in accessing the global market, but what elevated these interactions from a business transaction to a collaboration was the realization of a shared purpose.
Roth and Harel both share a deeply human desire, which is now matched with technology that allows artisans to quickly create professional content in English using advanced NLP and automatic transcription and translation solutions and effortlessly stream experiences from the far reaches of the world, instantly connecting them with previously unreachable audiences.
Lofty visions aside, the North American Handcraft market is huge and growing, projected to reach $402 billion by 2024. The driving force behind the rise in the craft economy are millennials reaching their prime spending years, and they are increasingly focused on how products are made, in what conditions, and by whom.
Purchasing handcrafted items allows them to participate in conscious, even humanistic consumerism. Unlike mainstream and mass-produced products, artisan products represent unique, affordable luxuries made with mastery.
As they look ahead, the team is preparing to launch in Latin America later this year, which will clearly be a godsend for the artisans of the region that have been impacted by the lack of tourism in recent months.
It’s comforting to know that in its own unique way, The Nopo is allowing those who wouldn’t normally have been able to work from home, actually be able to do so in the post-pandemic world.
Nope, this isn’t like every other company I’ve covered, but when it comes to social impact, it doesn’t get much more meaningful than The Nopo.