Saw.com‘s Brooke Hernandez recently interviewed the founder of Nohbo.com, Ben Stern. At just 14 years old, Ben Stern conceptualized Nohbo, which designs and develops sustainable, single-use plastic-free personal care products with the goal of eradicating unnecessary plastic bottles.
In the interview, Ben discusses the origins of his company and brand, including his appearance on the hit TV show Shark Tank. He also talks about the importance of his brand and the need to acquire Nohbo.com for a direct to customer business line. Before reaching out to saw.com for domain broker service, he was unable to get a response from the owner to put in an offer for the domain. With Brooke’s help, he was able to acquire his coveted dot com domain for his brand.
Ben: Doing well, and yourself?
Brooke: Doing good. Again, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day. I know you guys are busy, so let’s right into it. What does your company do? And just give us a little more details about you.
Ben: Of course. Our company Nohbo encapsulates and pods beauty and personal care products in water-soluble films to eliminate the need for excess plastic waste. In hotels, bathrooms, just any setting where you need to take a shower. We try and replace the pesky bottles that follow, so do this through encapsulations of beauty and personal care products like shampoos in a polyvinyl alcohol film that just melts away with water instantly.
Brooke: That’s awesome. I am so into what your company does. I love the idea of eliminating plastic, it’s just such a great concept and something that is really needed because of all the waste of plastic. When did you guys first conceptualize your brand? And what were the main factors that you’re trying to portray to potential customers?
Ben: Sure. Sustainability is at the forefront of what we do. It’s our ethos; it’s our vision to create a more sustainable ecosystem. I was 14 at the time when I came up with nohbo. I was sitting in a biology class watching the ins and outs of the plastic bottling industry and was just so distraught to see so much plastic waste flooding the landfills and the oceans. Where I grew up in Seattle, there was a cyclical like message (reduce, reuse, recycle), but I was a little stubborn and I sort of wanted to replace the need for products outright. So I went home, used a shampoo bottle up, and realized the farthest room away from our bathroom in our house was the kitchen which housed the family recycling bin. It hit me like “eureka” to encapsulate products in a pod to eliminate these moments where I was throwing out, or in certain cases recycling, a bottle in a more environmentally suitable fashion. So everything was built around the sustainability ethos, but sustainability, as we’ve grown and as we’ve evolved, has become not as much of a centerpiece but as an additional benefit to an already good, really well-functioning product.
Brooke: Yeah, definitely. I find it crazy when you realize how often you use the plastic bottles and how much that actually builds with your shampoo with your body wash. It is very interesting to see how a little change in the sense of how your product is made can make such a big change in usage. And like you said, not just reusing it but eliminating it. I love that. So, when naming your company, which you know is a big big challenge, what was the process that you took as a company to decide on nohbo?
Ben: Sure. The company at the time was just me. It took probably, I thought of the idea and it took weeks of finding and like playing with names. And just with scribbling on a few notebooks, all sorts of name combos, I settled on nohbo. It was an acronym for NO Hair BOttles since we were focused on shampoo. At the time it seemed fitting. Also, I will say it did sound startup-y. Yeah, people seem to like it except for the HBO marketing team.
Brooke: [Laughter] Oh that’s funny. So, who really is your clientele? And right now, what benefits do you think your new domain is providing or will provide? What are the items that you’re really looking at with that?
Ben: Sure. So our clientele is environmentalists, travelers, people that have and prefer to have these home away from home experiences. So our main clients are the main businesses and hospitality. Unfortunately, given COVID, hospitality has had quite a seismic shift and hit to the general business. So, to double down on a direct to consumer line and open up our website and allow for people to just order online. That sort of has been where we’re heading and the direction we’re heading. But our main clients are environmentalists, sustainability-oriented consumers who prefer to purchase eco-friendly products that perform on par or better than their standard.
Brooke: That makes sense. Well, it’s good to hear you guys are like many companies during this time that unfortunately is having to pivot. That seems to be a very popular word in the industry, in all industries, is figuring out how to change the structure. Maybe where you were first thinking of going, and then being able to build off of that. So it’s good to see that you guys are going more that way. For me, because I think home use is just as important as the hospitality. So I know you guys had been on Shark Tank. Could you give everyone a little story… your take on that? I know Mark Cuban invested in with you. So could you give just a little detail on that, and give a little back story on how that all took place and how it all went for you?
Ben: Of course. So I was on Shark Tank twice. The first time was season 7 episode 18. This was when our first episode aired. At the time, I had just conceptualized Nohbo months prior. We had a little old product that was called a Nobel ball that functioned in a way similar to a bath bomb, just for shampoos and conditioners. So we had this product, I went on with the show and we were fortunate enough to close a $100,000 investment from Mark Cuban for 25% of our company at the time. So he’s been a very active, very vocal, and very supportive shareholder ever since. We speak probably once a week and we have for the past however many years. He’s an interesting guy to work with, but I like him a lot. He just came down to Melbourne back in January to do a factory tour and the new episode aired in January. It showed the factory tour and an update for Shark Tank which here it’s season 11 episode 12.
Brooke: So what was that experience? Were you nervous? Was it good?
Ben: Oh, I was freaking out. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was very surreal. They flew us out to Culver City, California, myself, and my grandmother. She was like my model, I called her bobby. We went and we spent days rehearsing in front of producers, and we were taken to the back of a big warehouse studio where the Wizard of Oz was filmed. Then they just said it’s your turn. So we walked up the red carpet and then after 45 to 50 minutes got a handshake deal. And we eventually closed a few months later, but it was amazing. It was definitely the highlight of my year. It’s very helpful, I mean they don’t solve all your problems obviously, but the Sharks really can make or break a company, so just the exposure alone is incredible. So afterward, I was recovering from the email overdoses for probably eight months.
Brooke: I’m sure. I’m sure you became much more popular than had anticipated from that little showing.
Ben: Well I really appreciate it.
Brooke: I really just love watching what your company is doing. I am supportive of it, love to order it, and just wish you guys the best and continued growth. I love hearing that you’re changing direction during this trying time, but still making it successful and still making that difference. That’s really great news. Last question, would you use or recommend saw.com to assist acquiring a domain again?
Ben: Of course. I think when you first reached out to me, I saw your email I was like, “She’s never going to be able to get it. She’s never going to be able to get this domain. I’ve reached out to this person probably 30 times, gosh knows how many times, just with a blank figure.” There were no responses, it was a florist in southern California holding this domain hostage from us. But you got it done. Kudos and I would definitely use you guys again.
Brooke: Oh, well thank you so much. And again, I appreciate the time, Ben. And I wish you nothing but success, not that I need to wish it for you, because I have a feeling we’ll continue to see your company grow and make the difference we are all looking for with plastic. Thank you so much.
Ben: Appreciate it, thank you.
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