Naiva's Martha Pardo Naiva's Martha Pardo. el universal

Hand-painted silk now a global business

Naiva was a means of paying for university. Now it has customers around the world

A small business launched by a university student in her parents’ dining room with a 150-peso loan now exports its silk products around the world.

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In 1998, Martha Pardo, the founder and owner of Naiva, started making hand-painted silk cards and bookmarks as a means to pay for her university studies.

Family members placed orders to give to friends as gifts but the business didn’t really take off until Pardo attended a Mexico City exposition with her brother while she was still a graphic design student.

While her brother exhibited a line of furniture, she used a table to show off her wares.

“At that expo, a viejito [an older man] who turned out to be the buyer for the San Miguel de Allende Public Library showed up. There were five cards and 12 bookmarks and he thought they were very pretty,” Pardo remembers.

She told the visitor that she was only displaying a small number of products because of limited space.

While she believed the man knew it was a lie, she thinks he interpreted it as a plea for more business because from that point on she began receiving huge numbers of orders.

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After having more success at a subsequent expo Martha was able to employ five people in the first year of operations, at which point she decided to move the business to Querétaro, where she leased a workshop.

The company went from strength to strength, reaching a point when there were 28 employees. However, a downturn in orders associated with the flu pandemic of 2009 led to laying-off half the team.

But Naiva showed great resilience and today produces 280 different kinds of hand-painted silk gifts and souvenirs, and began exporting seven years ago.

It now has customers in the United States, Germany, Spain, India, Costa Rica and Panama, where it competes with similar products made in China and other parts of the world.

Most international customers were gained through relationships formed at trade expos and the company now tailors its products to better suit different foreign markets, although it also sells in the majority of Mexico’s tourist destinations.

Naiva is the only company in the country that produces hand-painted silk products.

While the firm continues to grow internationally and Martha Pardo has developed a line of hand-painted silk jewelry to be marketed under her own name, she sees big opportunities in the domestic market as well.

“I want my country to begin to value work that is made in Mexico by Mexicans for Mexicans. I feel that this situation we’re in with Donald Trump winning is one of those crises that set off a lot of good and positive things. I think the time of the Mexican product is coming, of handicrafts, of greater quality work and with more commitment to Mexican consumption.

“It’s a big challenge but I think my main market niche should be Mexico. I think that Mexico should place greater value on national design and products.”

Source: El Universal (sp)

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