NOTE: This interview with Johnny Noble, the founder of Noble Body, was originally shared with my email subscribers in November 2018.
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Noble Body is a cosmetics company focused on creating the highest quality, all natural face, body and hair products.
I also met Johnny face-to-face (no pun intended) in Scottsdale, Arizona during Christmas break, 2018.
I was inspired by his entrepreneurial story so I'm excited to share this interview with you today.
Johnny - excited for our interview.
Let’s start from the beginning for readers who might not know your story.
Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?
Thank you for this opportunity Dennis. It’s my pleasure.
I was born and raised in rural Northeast Pennsylvania, basically Appalachia.
My dad owned a bar/restaurant that was in my family from at least the 1920s.
My mom was a talented professional singer.
It’s obvious to me in hindsight that they gave me this strong unconventional and entrepreneurial spirit that still drives me today.
Growing up in rural PA was amazing.
I worked on farms; I cut acres of grass; I played little league; I ran hurdles on the track team; I played football; I hunted and fished with my dad and his buddies; and I grew up in a bar, which in itself, was an amazing experience in the study of human nature.
It was a magical place to grow up.
By default after high school, I went off to a (relatively) close college and earned my degree in communications and journalism (especially speech communication, argumentation, and persuasion).
Between junior and senior years of college, I headed to Atlantic City and worked in a casino.
My first job in AC was in the gourmet French restaurant in the Playboy Club called Chat Noir.
Now THAT was an eye opening experience. I enjoyed it so much, I went back right after I graduated.
In total I worked in 7 casinos, including Trump Castle.
So, YES, I worked for both Hugh Hefner and Donald Trump.
As I got tired of watching people destroy themselves with coke, booze, and gambling, I made a push to go to law school, which I began 3 years after I finished college. (I also did not want to end up as a miserable and burned out 40 year old waiter with back problems!)
I went to law school in Detroit and lived in the ghetto. (Cass corridor).
Now that was an experience.
I’m glad I did it and I’m glad I lived!
After law school I returned to PA and took the bar exam, practiced for several years and decided to take the Arizona bar.
I later moved to Arizona and never looked back.
I practiced here in Phoenix for almost 20 years mostly as a construction litigator.
I got horribly burned out on the stress and pace, got divorced, and stopped practicing law. (Hopefully for good!)
Now, I’m the founder and manager of Noble Body.
My family lives in Scottsdale and apparently so do you.
Have you always lived there? If not, what brought you there?
I think Scottsdale is an incredibly underrated city.
I originally came to Arizona because my brother, first cousin, and some other friends from both high school and college were living here.
It was an incredibly strange coincidence. (I know, there are no coincidences…)
I would visit my brother and we would go see the Eagles play the Cardinals because they were in the same division.
I was immediately taken with the weather, the overall beauty of the state, and of course the gorgeous women.
I decided that I would move to AZ during a giant blizzard in PA.
It took me two full years to get here, because I was not going to move without first being a licensed attorney here.
So, when I moved here, I was in my young 30s. I still love it here.
This is the corporate headquarters of Noble Body LLC and it always will be, so long as I’m running the show.
In fact, I’m just beginning a search for a commercial/manufacturing space in this same area that I can move Noble Body into.
I’ve now lived in the same neighborhood in Phoenix (within ~2 square miles) since 1996 when my (now X) wife and I bought a house together.
I think it’s an incredibly underrated city on many levels.
So you used to be a trial lawyer.
What led you in that direction?
When I was working in AC, I had this incessant and nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I was not fulfilling my true potential.
Sure, it was fun living on the beach, making lots of money working 4 days a week and partying with my friends, but I started to see it as an ultimate trap or dead end.
I had this epiphany when I went to visit my mom during that time.
We were watching Jeopardy and I sat there answering every single question correctly.
I looked over at my mom (thinking she would be so proud and impressed with her son…) but she was glaring at me, fuming mad.
She said: “It would be such a horrible shame if you let that amazing mind go to waste. You have to do something more with your life. You have to push yourself.”
(That specific moment in time continues to haunt and drive me. She was right. She died on December 1, 2017.)
I had a couple good friends that had gone to and were close to finishing law school.
I was always good with words and persuasion, so I made the decision and started that somewhat agonizing process of LSAT testing and then application.
(I’ve remained close friends with those men that mentored me through that process.)
Remember, this was pre-internet days, so the traditional routes were the only routes to take.
Fortunately, it was way cheaper to do then.
Now I can’t even imaging going to and paying for law school. It’s almost an insane decision.
I’m going to ask you about your e-commerce business, but I want to stick with law a little longer.
It’s not like I jumped into my online business either.
I worked the 9-5 for about 15 years, so I want to get a better understanding of what your law career was like before you made the jump.
What were the highs and lows of being a trial lawyer?
I’m proud of my career. I accomplished many things in many different places.
I’ve done everything from capital murder trials to giant construction cases over wastewater treatment plants.
It’s funny, when someone gets out of law school, they think they know everything, but you really don’t know much about anything. Kind of like life in general.
Law school is not that difficult. It essentially teaches you how to read and process a lot of information in a short period of time.
The shit really hits the fan when you start your first real legal job and a partner hands you a file and says: “you have a trial in bankruptcy court tomorrow morning.”
I said: “where’s the courthouse?”
Then you settle into the drudgery of long days, stress, large stakes, billable hours, and many difficult personalities.
It can be a very rewarding career, but man it’s rough.
There were times in my career that I was unstoppable.
My attitude was that I would win everything, but with honesty and integrity. That’s a tall order.
Also one of the factors that led to my burnout.
One day early in my career a partner (who was also a magistrate judge) handed me a case and said: “You’re going to lose, but try to minimize the downside.”
My exact words were: “F*** you, I’m going to win and if I do, you’ll give me (X) bonus.”
He agreed. I won.
I actually had to cross examine a priest during that trial.
The pinnacle of my career came when I realized I was fearless to take on any case or issue.
Concrete runways at an Airforce base? No big deal.
Medical gas piping in a hospital? Whatever man.
Huge delay claims on a prison project where one of my client’s employees was electrocuted? Child’s play.
100 million dollar++ contract dispute over a wastewater treatment plant? Got it covered.
Many times, I felt like I had superpowers. That I could assimilate any issue, understand it and prevail.
It was a fascinating rush.
So let’s talk about “the moment.”
When did you first think about leaving law?
And was your first idea to start an online business or were you considering some other career options?
I had a 2-week trial that was agonizing.
A very long battle between a general contractor and my client, the HVAC contractor.
The project was a hospital in the western side of the state, over by Lake Havasu.
I got a large verdict in my client’s favor and I believe it’s still the largest verdict in the firm where I was a partner.
At that time, I had been married for about 12 years and my boys were 6 and 5. My X and I were not on the best terms, but trying to make a go at it.
The trial ended, I got the verdict and had this amazing rush of adrenaline and even joy, I guess.
While sitting at my desk, I put away all of those files and slid another file on my desk.
I had this stark “is that it?” moment.
That was the apex of my career.
From there it all started to slide. I was completely and utterly burned out.
I struggled for a few more years and one day I had this epiphany that I needed to move on from both my firm and my marriage.
That was a rough day, but I knew it was time.
A series of agonizing decisions and a very long story about my road through hell and my eventual evolution.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time on it on Twitter, mostly just to purge it from my soul.
I want to ask you about your thought process when you were starting Noble Body.
Was there a part of you that was like “OK so I’ve been a trial lawyer for X years. Who the hell am I to start a cosmetics brand?”
Everyone has these doubts that hold them back so I’m curious how you pushed through them.
What do you think you’d be doing right now if you HADN’T started Noble Body?
Your question is spot on.
I knew I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Really.
Sure, I had dabbled in natural oils and other skin remedies because of my own skin issues over the years.
But to take that limited knowledge and transmute it into a cosmetics brand?
It felt crazy. Like bat-shit crazy.
I questioned myself for the first 2 years.
But my attitude was this: “I will figure it out.”
Right now, I estimate I have 11-12,000 hours into this project. Honestly, that’s how I did it.
I sequestered myself in a room and I studied. I just had the attitude that I will absolutely not be stopped.
At first the doubts were intense.
I would pop awake and stare at my ceiling fan and think: “What the F*** are you doing?!”
And then I would get up and push forward on whatever I was working on.
It really came down to just not quitting and refusing to stop moving forward.
As I progressed down this road, some truly amazing things started to happen.
It’s as if a glowing thread was floating by in the universe and I grabbed it.
I still haven’t let go of it and I don’t plan to.
The universe conspires with your objectives, but you have to believe and take unrelenting action.
If you want something bad enough, just go get it and refuse to admit defeat.
This test has honed my mindset abilities like the edge on a Katana sword.
There are days where doubt creeps in. It stalks me and it lingers.
In my mind I stare right at it and then I push it away and I move beyond it.
In my mind, the only failure that exists is if I relent. If I quit.
Other than that, I feel like I’m bulletproof.
I honestly don’t know what I would be doing other than Noble Body.
Really. It’s hard for me to even entertain that possibility. (OK, how about drop shipping!!!)
Did you know anything about branding, sales, copywriting, online marketing, e-commerce, etc. before starting Noble Body?
People love to make excuses, so how did you figure this stuff out?
Well first, I’m still figuring a lot of it out.
My plan for this company was to learn everything along the way so I intuitively understood every step as I move Noble Body forward.
Everything from the chemistry, formulas, branding, packaging, marketing, sales, shipping, scaling, distribution.
I always had an intense interest in branding and sales.
I’m fascinated by what makes successful companies and why some just suck and fail.
The aesthetics, logo, tag lines, overall branding, everything.
I’ve closely studied many brands (both good and bad) during this process to assimilate the good and avoid the pitfalls.
Or at least as many as I can.
I’m still neck deep in studying all of it to take this company up to the next level.
At this moment in time, all of the pieces are in place to scale traffic and then deal with the challenges of manufacturing and distribution on a larger scale.
My attitude with all of this is simple.
No matter what the issue (or problem) is, I will find a way to make it work.
There are no excuses in my world.
An excuse is a failure.
It’s a complex rationalization that you just don’t want something bad enough.
So why cosmetics? And why e-commerce?
What attracted you to that niche and business model?
As far as e-commerce, what I’m doing was not even possible until just recently. (Really about 5-10 years.)
The platforms simply did not exist to reach the entire world with a brand and physical products.
That notion alone fascinates me.
The idea that the entire world is now your audience and your market.
It’s astonishing, really.
I actually started and had the notion to get products into spas, salons, and retailers.
That process is quite agonizing and cumbersome. (I had a protracted experience trying to get product on the shelves in a local Whole Foods before the Amazon takeover was announced. That was a view inside the belly of a monolithic retail beast.)
The retail process can be a real headache.
Spas and salons are usually beholden to a larger brand via co-marketing/branding agreements.
I’ve had several spas and salons that wanted to carry my products, but can’t because of those agreements.
As I’ve started to make sales and ship product all over the world, (~15 countries to date. International shipping is an absolute labyrinth I’m still working to fully understand.)
I began to change not only my conceptions on what was possible, but how to actually implement marketing ideas to mostly focus on e-commerce and put the retail ‘on a shelf’ for a while until I get bigger.
It is indeed a work in progress, but now that I’ve had a taste of the possible demand for Noble Body products worldwide, I’m going to focus on how to get these products in front of the right audiences that can use, enjoy, and benefit from them.
My choice to go into cosmetics was grounded in many factors.
As I struggled with exactly what type of business I would go into, I kept coming back to the notion of creating something great; a legacy project that had the potential to touch many lives over a long time line.
As I had been experimenting and working with natural oils, health, diet, fitness, and skincare for many years (because of my own skin issues) the choice just fell in my lap.
I began with making high quality sugar and salt body scrubs.
Cosmetics, skin, and hair are gigantic markets worldwide.
Every person is a potential customer.
It just amazes me because it touches so many factors of life on Earth:
Beauty, health, aesthetics, chemistry, science, nature, the human body, creativity, all of our senses, medicinal aspects, botanicals, ancient compounds and remedies, and on and on.
It’s also a well-established market with everything from massive global companies to smaller, regional niche players.
I just saw it as an area that I could find some footing with certain products and then see how far I could take it.
Of course, my vision has changed as I progress down this path, but it becomes clearer every day as far as my objectives and how to attain them.
So how long did it take you to go from idea to launch?
How long did it take from thinking of starting Noble Body and making your first sale?
I want to get a sense of the timeframe.
I hatched this monster project in about mid 2014 shortly after my divorce was finalized.
In hindsight, I was really struggling, but I was doing a lot of the right things.
I was still practicing law in a new office.
I was hitting the gym a lot.
I was eating and sleeping right.
I was trying to be the best dad to my boys as I could.
There’s no sugar coating it. It was a very confusing, trying, and frustrating time.
I began to work on body scrub formulas and I first started another company called “Scrub Junkies”. (Late 2014-early 2015) You can look it up.
I had an online store and I had products on retail shelves here in Phoenix. (That was my Whole Foods retail experience).
My first sales and retail sales were in early 2015.
Just after I launched it in Summer 2015, I came to the hard realization that it just would not be good enough. (And, I was working on other products that were not body scrubs! Ugh. It pains me to think about it.)
I could call that a failure, and in a sense it was, but it was really a springboard to where I am now.
In October 2015 I scrapped Scrub Junkies and got back to work on a new company idea that would be able to reach the levels I was shooting for. (Another painful decision and process.)
I got it in my mind that I was going to create something great.
I dove in hard in late 2015 to come up with the branding.
I was also studying formulation and testing like a madman during that period of time.
Here’s the crazy part:
Noble Body took from that point in very late 2015 until late 2017 to have my first retail sales under the Noble Body branding.
There were so many holdups, hurdles, and challenges to pull this off that I don’t even know where to begin.
Coming up with a viable company name that led to the branding in itself was an incredibly difficult process.
Think about everything you need to cover to pull this off: trademark, domains, social media, not to mention the actual brand and your target audiences.
There’s just so many issues.
I laugh when people say things like “dude, just pick a name.”
Yea, sure. You do that, but with your time and money.
Noble Body just received its official trademark registration on November 6, 2018.
I first reserved that name to be trademarked in March 2016.
That was a major event for me that I’m extremely proud of because of the difficulty to finally get there.
What made you go with the Noble Body name?
In short, Noble Body was one of the best choices out of many.
I began with a list of maybe 75-100 names that I was screening.
I made a spreadsheet to chart them and get recon.
I was also conducting preliminary trademark and internet searches to find the cleanest names.
I narrowed the list to about 12-15 solid names and then dove in deeper.
It just felt right.
People liked it.
I actually did a Typeform online survey that I sent to lots of people.
That gave me much valuable information on this name as a possible brand.
For fun, here’s some of the front runners at that time:
Body180; Bios180; Rejuvativ; NeoYou; NeoXO; Kalos Elite; and others.
Like I said, it was quite a process, but I wanted it to be right.
Another major factor was that it needed to appeal to both men and women.
I was convinced that there were major untapped opportunities in the men’s market that I did not want to neglect.
Yes, it is an industry driven by women, but I firmly believe that notion is changing—rapidly, especially now that I have more recon on the brand and the products.
That explains the branding color scheme too:
Women’s products are gold; men’s products are platinum; products for men and women are a cool (royal) purple color.
What made you decide to create THE first true face oil for Men on Earth?
Educate me and the readers a little bit.
What’s wrong with other face oils for men?
What are you offering that your competitors aren’t?
I noticed from your website that you suffered from eczema and I’ve also dealt with really dry, itchy skin, so I’m very careful about the products I use.
Well Dennis, that’s what really entertaining:
THERE ARE NO OTHER MEN’S FACE OILS ON THE MARKET!
I was working on a very high quality women’s face oil and doing ungodly amounts of research, testing, and recon.
I was getting very comfortable with what goes into a very high quality product like this.
The women’s market is well evolved with many products like this, many of them are extremely expensive.
One day in probably early 2017 I did a search for similar men’s products.
I found exactly NONE.
(Well, unless you want to count Jack Black MP10, which I would not even count).
At this time, there still are few or even none men’s face oils of any quality on the market.
Being first on this product was important for me and Noble Body.
(Kiehls has a face oil product that’s popular, but they don’t direct it right at the men’s market).
That was a watershed moment.
I even ramped up testing and recon and started to pass out samples to many men and women.
(I also did more Typeform surveys to get good information on the products. Sample jars would have a scannable QR code that led to the surveys.)
I’ll forever be grateful to a handful of select men and women that gave me the information and recon that led to these final formulas.
It’s such a tricky balance point to hit with products like this.
You have to hit it all: fragrance, sensory profile, absorption rate; results on the skin.
Those long days of testing and recon led me directly to the market-worthy formulas of today.
That process also educated me on development of other products.
My own dry, flaky, itchy, red skin was a major driver for me.
I’ve used all kinds of expensive lotions and wondered why the hell they really did not do anything.
That’s what led me into the study of natural oils and essential oils for healthy skincare.
I’m working on an article about the benefits of natural oils for skin health.
It will be on the Noble Body blog in the future.
How did you make your first batch of products?
And how did you go about finding suppliers?
I wouldn’t even know where to start.
This may sound simplistic, but I just started doing it.
My first rudimentary batches of scrub were 15 years ago because of my horrible skin issues I was dealing with.
In 2014 I wrote down some basic formulas and just started testing.
I would always use tests on myself first.
If I thought it had some promise, I would pass some out. Interesting things began to happen.
Out of the blue, I’d get a call or text asking for more of whatever formula.
That started to happen more and more.
Like I said, the feedback was like gold.
I learned what viable and market worthy from the recon people were giving me.
As my formulation ability evolved, so did my ability to recognize the raw ingredients of the highest quality and consistency.
That in itself is a tricky process:
Finding suppliers that will be reliable and consistent so the integrity of the Noble Body formulas remains constant over time.
At this time I have about 10-12 raw material natural oils and cosmetics wholesale suppliers that I rely upon.
It’s always an issue, but I’m much better at it now.
What’s been your approach to building the Noble Body brand and packaging?
Did you do that all yourself or hire a freelancer or agency?
What did you want Noble Body to stand for and NOT stand for as you were developing the brand?
I’m curious about what you saw as the opportunity you could capture in the marketplace?
As you can see from the branding and packaging, I’ve worked with talented professional designers.
That in itself is quite a process.
The fonts, colors, aesthetic features, the logo.
Everything matters with a company like this.
I studied many of the established players to glean the most important factors.
People have told me I spent too much time on it.
I disagree because I believe it to be absolutely critical to the survival of the company in very competitive markets.
I don’t just want to compete, I want to thrive and take over parts of it.
Building a brand is an amazing study.
I just completed a round of changes to the web site and some other aesthetics based on the information I’m getting from people I trust and of course the market itself.
I’m convinced at this point that none of it is ever done and you need to be chameleon-like in the approach.
Just yesterday, I changed the tag line on the web site to “Embrace Your Evolution.”
This company represents an evolution of my life into something better.
I was in a very dark place and I took that energy to create something great that many people can relate to.
That has become a core value of Noble Body.
The medium to reach the world are the products that can help people look better, feel better and enjoy life at a higher level.
An overall aesthetic and sensory experience that can touch many lives in a positive way.
Many people want to evolve into a better version of themselves.
I know I did and I believe I have.
With all of these pieces I place and a very high quality roster of products, the opportunities are limitless.
What’s your product development strategy?
Did you start with the men’s face oil?
How have you decided which products you want to create next?
When I’m in a better position to delegate, I plan to focus heavily on product research and development.
I have an informal rule on new products (because I’m always testing).
When people start to ask me for more of it, I know it has viable market potential.
I started with body scrubs and then moved into the realm of face oils.
Technically, the women’s face oil formula was first after scrubs.
I also spent an unreal amount of time developing a high-quality beard oil formula.
I think it took me 2 years.
My goal was to develop a true legacy fragrance with substance.
I’ve gotten many compliments from men that I greatly respect.
It’s a completely natural fragrance composed of 11 essential oils.
My strategy is simple:
I am absolutely relentless on recon and testing.
A product absolutely will not end up in a bottle or jar with a label until I’m sure it can be a winner.
I actually posted a blurb on twitter about my checklist for a viable and winning product.
As an example, I tested the Noble Body face oil formula 22 times before it hit the market for sale.
22 test batches!
In fact, the batch numbers on the packaging were a continuation of my test batches.
I believe the latest Men’s batch number is 36.
I’m super excited about a few products I’m working on.
The next three up are a very high quality (natural) body oil that smells amazing.
It’s in final testing.
I’m on test batch number 16 with that formula.
I’m also working on a true (natural) oil cleansing formula.
(The pretty well-known “Oil Cleanse Method” for skin cleaning. That formula is also in final testing.)
Third up is a product I started working on 2+ years ago.
I’ve always been really into health/sports/fitness.
It’s a sports/therapy CBD balm that’s getting pretty close.
The balm part is easier, the CBD part is much trickier.
Not just the formulation, but also the state and federal legal/regulatory issues that go along with it.
I’m also working on a CBD oral supplement formula.
I’ve seen so much bullshit and outright misrepresentations with those types of products, I want to produce one that actually performs as promised without any of the bullshit.
Now let’s talk about distribution.
Are you doing all your sales through your website right now?
Are you planning on selling your products on Amazon or any other channels as well?
As of now, my main avenue for distribution is the Noble Body website.
I’m also in 7 or 8 retailers, salons, spas in the Phoenix metro area.
I plan to put more time into expanding that early next year.
Funny you mention Amazon.
I was just doing the leg work necessary to get products listed on Amazon.
It’s a good source for organic traffic generation.
I’d like to have that done before the end of 2018. (I need 2 of me at this point…)
Let’s talk about online marketing.
What made you get into Twitter?
Note: You can click right here to follow Johnny on Twitter.
What’s your social media strategy?
Also, what’s worked and what hasn’t instead of building your brand through social media?
Twitter is funny.
When you first get on, you feel like a nerd wearing a bowtie that mistakenly strolled into a hostile biker bar.
Then you get used to it and have a conversation with yourself for a while.
Then you start to find voices that resonate with you and vice versa.
I’ve met some incredible people on Twitter, and many of them in person at this point.
In fact, it morphed into my primary strategy to connect with people and expand brand awareness for Noble Body.
(And also make friends and connections with some very cool and talented people.)
I have Noble Body set up on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
I have not been super active on them yet, but all of the pieces are in place.
I think Instagram is next up to advance the aesthetics of the brand and also to promote new products.
I’m working on a few things over on that platform.
I planned to avoid Facebook, but I’m working on a plan with some of the younger gunners I met on Twitter to drive some paid traffic.
I felt like I needed to clean up some lingering issues first with the website and some of the aesthetics before I started to drive larger audiences to the website.
Twitter has exceeded my expectations as a platform to build brand awareness and to engage with influencers and to sign up affiliates.
I’ve been very judicious with the influencers and affiliates because I think it gets overplayed.
I’m set on authentic and genuine promotion of these products, so I’ve taken process a bit slower.
I’ve also spent a lot of time doing podcasts, the Men of Character conference/webinar, and of course interviews like this.
It all adds up over time and I’m on a long time line.
Let’s wrap up.
What are your plans for Noble Body’s future?
Where would you like to be by the end of 2019?
5 years from now?
As you probably have gathered, my plans for this company are quite ambitious.
I’m building a global cosmetics brand that can compete on the world’s stage.
It’s going to take some serious effort, but all of the pieces are in place and I’m definitely up for the challenge.
As we segue into next year, I’m preparing to make the jump into scaling, manufacturing, and distribution on a wider scale.
That ties in directly with driving more traffic to the website and awareness to this brand and the great roster of products.
That feels like forever, but I know it’s only the wink of an eye.
Ok, here goes:
International recognition as a global cosmetics powerhouse brand with great products and a large and ever-growing fan base.
My picture on the covers of both Entrepreneur and Forbes magazines, and a trip to Shark Tank under my belt.
Why dream if the dreams aren’t grand?
Click here to visit the Noble Body website