The vision for the Nopo as a domain for conscious ecommerce, inspiring content and unique online experiences was just taking root as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, forcing the pair to cancel their scheduled trip to Morocco, the planned location in which to launch their venture.
There was, however, an additional layer of questioning given that they’d planned to launch their first market in a country with limited political and economic cooperation with Israel. In fact, Morocco and Israel had not at the time held official diplomatic ties, despite ongoing cultural exchange based on the close alignment of values, culture and identity that took place at the civil level.
As the Nopo team began reaching out to artisans across Morocco, Kelly shared a moment of hesitation, saying “I felt a bit nervous at the beginning, unsure of whether or not to put Israel out front or perhaps focus on the American market angle instead. But I immediately realized that in order to create trust, a fundamental component for collaboration, you have to be transparent.” While they may have started with a sense of hesitation, they immediately found willing partners on the other side, with some of the artisans even sharing a few words of Hebrew or their desire to visit Tel Aviv along the way.
Reflecting back on this stage, Kelly shared, “We were amazed by how open and trusting the artisans we contacted were. We had never met them in person, but they loved the idea, and it seemed they were craving not only the marketing and logistical support, but also being part of a community of artisans who share similar values and the standards of quality.”
The Nopo is more than an ecommerce site, as the platform invites you to meet the artisans behind each product, sharing the rich tapestry of stories that shape both their inspiration and the products themselves. The team maintains a rigorous screening process to ensure a high quality of craftsmanship across the platform, offering their operational support to help remove a number of the challenges artisans face in accessing the global market. It was precisely this process that transformed those early conversations from transactional to a collaboration rooted in a sense of shared mission.
Through the process of recruiting artisans to the platform, each conversation went beyond the crafts themselves, instead looking to the stories that shaped them. In each onboarding conversation, The Nopo team learns about the artists’ background, their family stories, and cultural influences. It was in the process of unraveling these stories that brought a deep sense of personal connection.
They met Zineb El-Kouhen, a young Moroccan painter who captures the essence of individuals in her portrait series. While her name suggests Jewish ancestry, she grew up as a Muslim and today seeks to highlight the juxtaposition and complexity of Moroccan society, citing her own “collage-like cultural identity” in relation to a culture enmeshed in tradition, conflict, and western influences.
Then there was Soufiane Aissouni, who grew up among western tourists as his parents worked in a popular Marrakech hotel. Today, at 30, he’s developed a line of lamps showcasing Moroccan heritage, citing Marrakesh as his inspiration. “The colors, the architecture, the scents; there is beauty everywhere. Often, I’ll walk down the street and have a stop to take a photo, witnessing something too beautiful to overlook.”
And there are many other talented artisans whose stories you can read online, each using the act of creation as a means to translate history, culture and tradition. As Jews we’ve long had a connection to artistic expression for precisely the same reasons – honoring our tradition, maintaining our identity and finding a way to sanctify the mundane – making space for more beauty in our lives. Hearing this story offered a piece of inspiration as it serves to remind us that there is more that unites us than divides us. The fact that two Israeli entrepreneurs were able to move from vision to reality in the midst of a global pandemic, creating a new kind of marketplace that fosters human connectivity, in partnership with Muslim artisans in a different country can serve as inspiration for us all.
Remarking on the journey, Kelly shared “The most exciting thing about this story is the incredible human connection created. We had to bridge language barriers, cultural barriers and logistical barriers, and in the process, we got to meet wonderful and open-minded individuals who actively supported the venture.”
Earlier this month, the ambitious duo launched their second destination, Mexico, and there are several more exciting destinations lined up for this year. “We want to take our customers on a journey, transporting them for a moment to the other side of the world. Through virtual sessions and beautiful and original videography and photography you’ll get the feeling of being in each of these exotic locations and connecting with the artisans themselves.”
Each market will be unique, enchanting in its own way, but I have a feeling Morocco will always be special. Not only was it the first, but it enabled the crossing of additional boundaries and barriers, offering space to honor our shared stories and traditions while simultaneously sharing them with the world.
Meet the people, witness the beauty of their crafts and their inspiring stories online atwww.thenopo.com