Business

Boca Business Helps Artisans From India

By Marcia Heroux Pounds
Sun Sentinel.

As a family, the Mehtas of Boca Raton would often travel to India and bring back crafts from local artisans.

But enjoying the crafts, which are made with ancient techniques in danger of disappearing, was not enough.

“I felt we should do something about it,” said Sonali Mehta-Roa, now 26, who in 2010 co-founded Mela Artisans with her father, medical-device entrepreneur Navroze Mehta.

The Boca Raton-based company sells artisans’ goods in the U.S., Europe and South America, while reinvesting in the artisan communities.

Mela Artisans designs jewelry and home decor that is crafted by the artisans and then distributes the goods to stores including Bloomingdale’s in Boca Raton and Aventura and Neiman Marcus in Boca Raton and Palm Beach. It also sells them directly to consumers online at melaartisans.com.

Products include picture frames and bowls made from buffalo bone, gold, silver and gem jewelry, silk pillow covers, cashmere shawls, embroidered bags and handcrafted trays, coasters, place mats and runners. Prices vary from around $25 to hundreds of dollars.

The company devotes 1 percent of its revenues to help sustain the artisan communities. One recent project provided safety equipment for artisans working with dust-intensive bone.

Mela’s business model so impressed Aavishkaar, a Mumbai, India-based venture and private equity group, that it earlier this year invested $3 million in the company. The funds are helping Mela reach out to a wider range of artisan communities in India.

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