Our Story

Inspiration for NOVICA's
social mission comes
from Roberto's
Missionary grandmother.

Missionary grandmother

Inspiration for NOVICA's
love of all things handmade
comes from Roberto's
Artisan grandmother.

Artisan grandmother

The idea for NOVICA came to co-founder
Roberto Milk in a flash of inspiration during a
Portuguese language class at Stanford in 1995.

Inspiration

The sudden death of his Portuguese Professor several weeks later
made this fledgling idea all
the more important.

Roberto Milk

Affirmation the idea was good
comes from Mina Olivera,
Roberto's girlfriend (now wife), and
her mother, Armenia Nercessian
who was then a Human Rights
Officer with the United Nations.
Confidence to push forward with
NOVICA also came from a strong
family heritage of championing
social causes and artisanship, along
with enthusiastic support from
The 3 Amigos!
Armenia Nercessian
Armenia Nercessian
"If Rob gets it started,
I'll consider leaving
the UN to help
launch NOVICA".
Mina Olivera
Mina Olivera, an early
advocate for the idea,
is now the face of
NOVICA, and
company advocate.
Andy Milk
Andy Milk was also
an early enthusiast
for handmade crafts,
and is one third of
The 3 Amigos!
Charles Hachtmann
Charles Hachtmann
is the childhood friend
and co-adventurer of
Roberto and Andy, and
one of The 3 Amigos!
With our team of dreamers
assembled, our mission was now
clear - we were going to reinvent
the import / export process for
artisans and find a better way to
sell their products to the world.
We incubated the idea for 5 years
and launched NOVICA in 1999.
Jose Cervantes
Co-founder Jose Cervantes
leaves a prestigious consulting
job to start NOVICA's Mexico
office in his grandmother's
garage.
Novica was born
WAS BORN
May 1999
Michael Burns
Co-founder Michael Burns
joins us in 1999 as one of our
1st investors, and becomes a
rainmaker to secure key
funding and partnerships.
By mid-summer 1999 we launch
our 1st 4 regions, and over 200 artisan groups
start to sell their products on the website!
In July 1999 it was time to celebrate - But only for a moment!
Our new office in Brazil hosts an incredible gathering of
investors and new team members from around the world
for the wedding of Roberto and Mina in Rio!
Wedding - Roberto and Mina
After the wedding it's back to work. In
the last half of 1999 we open 2 more
offices in Thailand and Indonesia,
forming relationships with over 300
additional artisan groups.

Scripps Ventures invests in NOVICA's first
major funding round, providing capital for
a large ad campaign. NOVICA billboards
soon appear throughout New York City.

This captures the attention of National
Geographic, who think our ads look a
little too much like their famous yellow
border. They ask us to use other colors.

Novica Billboards in New York City
National Geographic is on board
Soon after, National Geographic comes
on board as a major investor, giving
NOVICA instant brand recognition,
and allowing us to reach a wider
audience of art and culture lovers.
Novica India region
India Team full view
Our India region opens in July 2000,
bringing our total region count to 7!
Los Angeles Times
Extensive coverage of our
innovative business model by
news outlets such as NPR and
on Los Angeles Times brings even
more exposure to artisans.
Los Angeles Times
Investments from the IFC, a member of the
World Bank, and Foursome Investments
(now Frog Capital) brings an end to the
first wave of funding in 2003.

$5M

By November 2003, we
have sent $5 million to
artisans around the world!
Ney Cardoso
As we hit the $5M mark,
artists like Ney Cardoso
(pictured left) celebrate
increased sales, and a
feeling of pride that their
work is being enjoyed by
so many people around
the world. The NOVICA
system is a success - and
the impact is clear!
Unicef, Novica Growth consolidation and feature in Eat Pray Love.
In 2006 we begin selling
in UNICEF catalogs,
giving NOVICA artisans
greater exposure
throughout the world.

GROWTH & CONSOLIDATION

2003 - 2009

Our lean start-up philosophy helps us
weather the dot-com crash and build a
rock-solid foundation that sees us
through the recession of 2008.

Our secret?
Failure was not an option...
Too many artisans
depended on us!

In 2004 Armenia meets
Liz Gilbert and they have
adventures together
in Bali (later, Armenia
was featured in Liz's
book, Eat, Pray Love).
Artisan Story
Background Image
$25M
By October 2009, we have
sent $25 million to
artisans around the world!
In 2010, contributions
from customers and
funding from the GBF
help us open an office
in Guatemala,
bringing the total to
8 NOVICA regions!
Grassroots Business Funds
Santa Monica Headquarters
In November 2011, the HQ team in Santa Monica
celebrates a milestone for the new microcredit program.
With help from customers we raise over $100,000 in the
space of a week. This provides hundreds of artisans with
0% interest loans, with which they can use to buy
materials for restocking before the busy holiday season.
Partnership with Kiva
In June 2012, we partner with Kiva to
expand our existing microcredit
program, giving our artisans access to
Kiva's 1 million lenders, and raising
over $240,000 at 0% interest
in the first 12 months!
Elizabeth Gilbert
In August 2012 New York Times
bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert becomes
our featured curator, helping us
launch NOVICA curation to the world.
Nationa Geographic Expeditions
In November 2012, we teamed up with
our friends at National Geographic
Expeditions
to run our first ever
curation contest - with a trip to Machu
Picchu as the grand prize!
Winning curator Jenni Siri with Ubaldina Paucar
In October 2013, our winning curator, Jenni Siri
(curator name Koshari) travels to Peru with
National Geographic expeditions. While there,
she stops by our office in Lima to meet some of
the artisans she has impacted. Jenni is pictured
here with ceramic artisan Ubaldina Paucar.
Winning curator Jenni Siri with Ubaldina Paucar
SPREAD
HAPPINESS!

In 2014 we launch our enhanced
mission
to spread happiness around
the world.

In the coming years we are looking
forward to growth, happiness and
ever increasing levels of artisan
empowerment!

Background Image
$50M

By June 2014, we have sent $50 million to artisans around the world!

NOVICA 15 Year Celebration

At the same time as celebrating our $50 million milestone, NOVICA turned 15 years old! Our teams around the world gather to celebrate, including our team from the Andes (pictured above).

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