John Wise and Wombi Rose were already old friends when they were selected to go on the FIELD program to Vietnam in their first year at Harvard Business School. The 10-day experience, planned in partnership with WorldStrides, took them to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. It was the first time in Vietnam for both John and Wombi.
“One night [in HCMC], we were going to dinner together and we ran across this style of art on a table at a night market,” Wombi explained. “We just thought – this is really cool. And also, this is really similar to how you design a ship.”
As marine engineers by training, John and Wombi were fascinated by these cards, called sliceform kirigami, and they returned to the market later to better understand the Asian art form. They bought a box of the intricately cut cards and took them home.
“We spent that third semester learning how to design more ourselves,” Wombi said. John returned to Vietnam, even re-connecting with their tour guide, and within months, they had laid the foundation for their business, LovePop.
LovePop uses cutting edge software to makes the 3-D cards with hundreds of unique, modern designs. The cards are assembled by hand by a team of more than 250 in Vietnam.
John and Wombi recall their first time in Vietnam fondly as a bonding experience for their cohort, and a unique learning opportunity. “The really special thing is to take 45 of our classmates and plop them down into downtown Ho Chi Minh. There are relationships from that trip that are much stronger than they would have been just meeting at parties,” Wombi recalled.
And their love of Vietnam – particularly, the Vietnamese people – has only grown.
“When you are initially traveling, it’s such a different place,” John observed. “The more you work there, you realize, it’s exactly the same. Everyone there are people who go to work, who have fun, who have families. It’s kind of a universality, and the world becomes much smaller.”