MELBOURNE, FL—Benjamin Stern may look like a regular teenager, but he’s got an ambitious goal: to help make the hotel industry greener. And, while many people believe in conserving our planet’s resources—and even engage in activities like recycling bottles and newspapers to make that happen—Stern took it a step further.
“My family and I have traveled quite a bit, so I have observed efforts by the hotel industry to cut down on waste, especially water waste, by encouraging guests to reuse linens and towels. I have always wondered why the industry doesn’t do something proactive about all those sample-size bottles,” said Stern. He researched the problem and learned what those in the industry know: Guests prefer small bottles, as they appear more sanitary and individualized.
“At one point, after viewing a documentary covering the ins and outs of the plastic bottling industry, I had a eureka moment. I was watching my mother doing laundry and using the detergent tabs. Why couldn’t hotels offer the same individual use, sanitary pods for personal-care products?” continued Stern. “Nohbo was born.”
The Nohbo Ball is a water-soluble ball containing a single-use amount of any kind of shampoo, conditioner, body wash or other body-conditioning product. It is activated by running water and requires no bottle or packaging. “The bottle is eliminated and replaced by a water-dispersible, self-containing product. When combined with water, the semi-dry product lathers to produce either a shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream or a body-wash product,” said Stern. “This product can be stored in an attractive glass bottle or on a plate. On display, it is wrapped in a compostable plant-based wrapper.”
Stern noted that there are other environmental benefits. “In terms of transportation fuel, the cost is largely reduced as the Nohbo ball wrapper product is light, easily portable and offers significant environmental benefits over the plastic bottles that hotels currently use,” he said. “This will reduce shipping costs, and fewer truckloads filled with shampoo bottles will be dumped into landfills and oceans. The bottles can take up to a millennium to compost/dissolve. Nohbo takes seconds. Additionally, hotels can advertise that they are aligning even more so with the green vision.” Stern noted that people go out of their way to find environmentally friendly products and, “as long as these products fulfill the guests’ personal needs, they will enthusiastically embrace a product that reinforces their values, such as Nohbo.”
Stern continued, “Some say Americans are addicted to plastic, but change is a necessary part of life, especially when our environment is suffering the consequences from this addiction. I knew the second I thought of Nohbo that this could be big. After contacting a major corporation, who was intrigued by the concept and interested in a licensing deal, I formed the company, Nohbo, LLC.”
The CEO of the company, Stern got a job at 14 years old in a sub shop to help cover the expenses that a startup requires. In addition, he borrowed from his college savings account, and family members offered small loans totaling roughly $10,000. “After hundreds of hours of searching, and many quotes, I found a fantastic chemist willing to create Nohbo,” said Stern. “I remember how excited my family and I were when my chemist, Robert Ray of Hutton Labs, delivered the first prototypes in May of 2015.”
Stern also partnered with the Marbury Patent Law Firm, which offered him a pro-bono offer. “I won’t need to start paying them until we start taking orders (up to 20,000). They expertly drafted and filed additional patents, to secure the novelty of this product,” said Stern. “I wouldn’t have gotten this far without the experience and help from my business advisor, Ron Flavin, my attorneys and many more individuals who spent countless hours helping Nohbo grow.”
Stern noted that being a young inventor can be a bit tough. “At certain points, it was difficult handling school, all to go home to work on Nohbo,” he said. “From what I’ve noticed, if you are confident in what you say, and are a young entrepreneur, professionals won’t disparage or belittle you. You just has to believe in your product and have confidence in yourself, and amazing things will follow.”
Currently, Nohbo has not been offered for sale, as it is making final revisions on advanced-stage prototypes. “However, we have secured interest from two major hotel chains,” said Stern. “Nohbo is primarily targeting hoteliers that are committed to reducing waste and offering their guests green experiences that don’t compromise quality or function. More important, we are targeting hotel operators that share our vision of embracing cost-effective, environmentally responsible solutions that enhance the overall guest experience. Savvy hoteliers increasingly understand that investments in green amenities and experiences can have a direct positive impact on guest experience, which can affect both occupancy and the bottom line. Our marketing team is currently speaking to hotels, hospitals, frequent travelers, fitness facilities and specialty/mass market retailers… The first shipments of Nohbo should begin within the next several months.”