The NEVCA is proud to share the stories of our 2018 NEVY Awards nominees through their own words. Hear their experiences of success, failure, and everything in between — most importantly, what has driven them forward to build and grow their vision, starting with the very first spark of inspiration.

Wombi Rose didn’t set out to make magical things out of paper.

A trained naval architect, Wombi spent the beginning of his career working on major vessels, optimizing shipbuilding and thinking on a scale much larger than what could fit into an envelope.

A Harvard Business School trip to Vietnam with his best friend and fellow shipbuilder, John Wise, was a turning point. There, the pair discovered the ancient art form of kirigami, in which 3D structures are created from sliced paper.

Looking at the intricate creations, Wombi and John saw incredible potential. By incorporating the sliceform structure used in ship design and kirigami’s traditional paper-folding techniques, Slicegami™ — and Lovepop — were born.

“We saw this beautiful art form and realized we could make anything out of paper,” explains Wombi. “Our paper art design is actually the same way that you design a ship. You have all the transverse structures and all the longitudinals, and a ship’s grid structure is built in the exact same slices as our cards.”

The art-meets-engineering innovation, however, was not the Lovepop breakthrough moment. “Not at all,” says Wombi. “While we were excited about all of the different things we could make, it wasn’t until we saw other people excited that we had a real breakthrough.”

Upon returning to HBS, Wombi and John handed their designs to friends and family, and received an incredible reaction. Enough to introduce their early designs to the public.

The breakthrough that crystallized their goals during the company’s inception came soon after. While selling their cards out of backpacks at local fairs and markets, John and Wombi decided to interview potential customers in Boston Public Gardens.

And that’s the day they met Kyle.

“We walked up a woman and asked her what she might do with the Lovepop willow tree we handed her,” recalls John. “She said: ‘I know exactly who I will give it to. I’ll give it to my mom, and I will give it to her today. It’s the fifth anniversary of my father passing away, and this will make her day. It’s like a tree of life. It’s so beautiful.’

It was that instant that we knew we were onto something bigger. We weren’t selling paper. We were selling magical moments.”

Since that day in the park, Lovepop has grown from that team of two to more than 800 people worldwide. A national introduction on “Shark Tank” in 2015 resulted in a vote of confidence (and hefty investment) from Shark Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary, and a whole lot of online sales.

In the last two years, Lovepop has grown exponentially. In 2017, they partnered with HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the legendary Beatles to create licensed cards; launched a custom wedding invitation business; and created original Slicegami™ art to replace the winner envelopes at the Billboard Music Awards.

Just last month, Lovepop shipped their one-millionth online order.

And still, one thing that hasn’t changed since that breakthrough moment in Boston Public Gardens is Lovepop’s goal of those magical moments.

“Building boats and big architecture is exciting, but there is something very real about the stories of how people are using these cards to connect with people they love,” says Wombi. “Knowing that we’re playing a part, that we have a hand in some of the most special moments in people’s lives, is really powerful.”

Every nominee is a winner in our eyes, but be sure to nab your NEVYs tickets now — and bring your team — to see who takes home the ultimate prize.

Follow Lovepop on Twitter: @lovepop

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New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA) members support entrepreneurs winning. Great VCs depend on great entrepreneurs.

New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA) members support entrepreneurs winning. Great VCs depend on great entrepreneurs.