Our Story

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Montevideo’s co-founders, husband and wife team Nate and Nobuko, moved to South America near the beginning of this decade for family-related reasons. Living in a country where the average monthly income is around $300, daily life was not easy. However, they worked hard and kept pressing on.

After working three odd jobs seven days a week for three years, Nate convinced Nobuko it was finally time to start their own business. In 2013, they launched a company to support students in South America in their efforts to study at universities in the US. They put everything into making their first business a success but, after two years in operation, they had to shut down.

While this was definitely a painful experience, they realized that if they were ever going to start another company again in the future, it would have to be something related to their greatest passion: inspiring people through art and culture.

New Beginnings  

They spent the next couple of years ideating, prototyping, stumbling, and starting again. They launched a digital storytelling project focused on telling the unheard stories of common people. Working on this project reminded them how fortunate they were to have developed friendships with artists from a variety of disciplines across the globe.

After the birth of their first son, they decided it was time to move back to the US. While still working their day jobs and learning how to become parents, they already knew their passion for art and culture and their friendships with artists from around the world were the building blocks they needed to create an authentic, purpose-driven company.

In their spare time, they began creating products and designs that they themselves wanted to buy but couldn’t find in stores. Their goal was to create and source design-driven products that 1) celebrate the colors, voices, and people of different cultures; 2) that encourage engaged global citizenship; and 3) that are rooted in their belief that a single person’s life is more valuable than every gold coin ever minted on earth. 

Taking the Leap

With a combination of joy and nervousness, Nate and Nobuko officially launched Montevideo in 2017. Now based in Los Angeles, we’ve quickly grown into a vibrant collective of writers, artists, friends, and filmmakers, spanning different continents, languages, and ways of seeing the world.

True to the founders’ vision of starting an authentic, purpose-driven company, we are guided by the belief that each person is a global citizen rooted in a local community with an important story to share and deserves to live a healthy, safe, and dignified life. Click here to learn more bout how your purchases enable us to put this belief into practice.

Our stories—not just as artists, but as human beings—infuse each of our creations with life. Just like you, we carry stories that are complex, interesting, and merit expression.

Looking to the Future

 While living in South America and thinking about the role art can play in building bridges between different cultures in the 21st century, Nate and Nobuko were inspired by the late, great Uruguayan writer and activist Eduardo Galeano.

That’s Eduardo in the photo above standing in front of Café Brasilero, his favorite café in Montevideo.

In fact, Nate learned Spanish—and thus how to survive and make friends in South America—by watching videos of Eduardo’s interviews and lectures on YouTube. In 2014, Nate met a journalist who was friends with Eduardo and who said he’d be willing to help arrange a meeting for Nate to interview Eduardo for their digital storytelling project. Just several months later, however, Eduardo passed away from cancer.

The name of our company—Montevideo—pays homage to this great writer and activist, often called the conscience of Latin America. It celebrates the city Eduardo loved and returned to after democracy was restored to Uruguay. More importantly, our company’s name represents an ideal: of striving to achieve our dreams for the future even during the most difficult periods in our lives.

After being exiled from both Uruguay and Argentina, nearly dying from a heart attack, and surviving imprisonment at the hands of the military dictatorship, Eduardo had this to say about fighting to actualize your ideals no matter how impossible doing so might seem:

Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.

The future is uncertain, but this much we know: art has the power to inspire, help us see new possibilities, and take one more step toward the futureThat's why nothing makes us happier than if something we've created inspires you to take a step—no matter how big or small—toward your own dreams on the horizon of this crazy, immense, noble world we call home.

Thank you for supporting our company and the choices we think matter. You are the creators, dreamers, artists, activists, students, teachers, friends, parents, movers, and shakers that inspire us to keep moving forward and create something new every day.

-The Montevideo Team