Walk alone. This step is a lead to all the other lessons. Walking alone without headphones has helped me through all choices, crossroads and thoughts I have had in my life. Most of my ideas regarding Noblo, my family and my life have come from walking alone. I trust my mind to guide me, I feel it has been studying the planet for years and understands, it will always guide me to ‘success’. Walking alone allows the brain to sort through and comprehend input. I truly feel that walking alone, even if just for a few minutes every day is the most important thing I can do to maintain my successful life.
I had the pleasure to interview Kathleen Pisano the founder of Noblo. Kathleen Pisano is a mom, nurse, former forest firefighter, beach lover, and business owner from Eatontown, NJ. Having witnessed one too many injuries of people on the beach from flying umbrellas not well anchored, she started the Noblo company in 2009 to help keep beaches safe with a unique innovation called The Noblo™ Umbrella Beach Buddy Anchor (Noblo™). Committed to helping others, Noblo, which is made in the U.S. is packaged by adults with special needs, and a percentage of proceeds from the product are given back to the United States Lifesaving Association.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was sitting on the beach with my child one day holding the umbrella down while watching other beach umbrellas dislodge from the sand and fly away. I realized that if I wanted to come to the beach, I needed an umbrella that would remain secured. I also realized that my child and I could easily get hit by other people’s umbrellas and worried about our own safety. So, I put together a few things the next time we went to the beach, with a bag and an old boogie board leash. I filled it with sand and attached it to the umbrella and it kept it anchored despite windy conditions. I even felt comfortable to get up to walk to the water and collect seashells without concern that the umbrella would fly away. I would proceed to do this many more times until one day another mom on the beach approached me intrigued by my contraption. She tried to convince me to make it into a product people could buy. She had witnessed a beach umbrella go all the way through a woman’s leg in Florida and thus was naturally terrified of a beach umbrella flying into her or her kids. Eventually, she convinced me. I was a mom with three small children. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t want to risk putting my family into debt. Fortunately, I kept trudging ahead and The Noblo™ Umbrella Beach Buddy Anchor (Noblo™) was created. It’s a simple company and a simple product.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
An interesting and important part of the beginning of Noblo was my quest to find a manufacturer. I reached out to as many manufacturers as I could, and all required a minimum order of at least 5,000 pieces. I was not ready for that kind of commitment, and risk. As a stay at home mom, and my husband working hard to pay the bills, I was concerned about putting us in to financial jeopardy. The manufacturers I connected with were not very receptive. Understandably, no one had time to make just 100 Noblos. There was one contact in New Jersey, one of the few people I spoke to for more than a minute, who said that 5,000 pieces was the minimum. When all else failed, I tried him again thinking maybe he could share with me a lead to someone who might be able to help. He listened to my plea and offered to take on an order of 1,000 pieces. While this was still many above my initial ask, I felt like this was doable. The offer was appealing too as the plant was in New Jersey. I would visit this plant many times over the years. And, this manufacturer makes bags for the military and for the Oscars, so you can imagine I was beyond thrilled with this new partnership. It has since been a great working relationship.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Noblo is simple and it gives back. It’s a product that people see and can’t believe how great it works, how easy it is and how much sense it makes. People love to talk about Noblo, I guess as humans we all love the obvious. Noblo is visible on the beach, with a whole host of bright colors. It does the job and it folds tiny to fit in the beach bag and is virtually weightless. I am proud to have this product made in the U.S., and right in my home state of New Jersey. Noblo is also packaged in New Jersey by adults with special needs. A percentage of the proceeds from Noblo are also given back to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA).
Noblo is truly a mom and pop company. We are not a wealthy family. My husband and I with our three kids live in a 60 foot by 11-foot trailer in a trailer park in New Jersey. We love it and we love our simple life. It’s funny, when this opportunity to share my story with you was presented to me — I came to realize that I am like Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Noblo is my golden ticket — and I’m ready for Willy Wonka. Either way, I have a beautiful life and if the adventure of Noblo becoming a huge product comes my way I will love that too.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
After creating a simple product that is needed by society, my mind is constantly observing human behavior and coming up with other products that fulfill a need. The second product I created was a boogie board bag. Other products on the market have zippers that rust and get stuck with the sand. Higher quality ones made are costlier. As a result, most people on the beach walk around with a boogie board bag with a broken zipper. After observing this time and time again I created a simple boogie board bag with a Velcro closure like an envelope. A few years ago, I had 100 manufactured and sold them on Amazon. They sold out fast. People were loving them. Due to resources, I was not able to order more, but when ’our ship’ comes in’ the boogie board bag is waiting.
The third product created to date is called POOF, a reusable, washable dog poop sack. I don’t even have a dog, but listening to people’s concerns about plastic bags, the environment and dog poop, my brain realized that there is a need for POOF just like the washable baby diapers. POOF was a challenging brainstorm. It took me a few days to come up with the prototype, as it was not obvious. The design was not as I imagined, once I figured it out, and I realized why there are none in the marketplace.
If someone is looking for a reusable, washable dog poop bag it is the only one that exists. The research I have done and the information I have about dog poop is astounding. Interestingly, the feces from the 89 million pet dogs in the U.S. creates an incomprehensible environmental destruction. Those bags full of poop are entombed for years and apparently the biodegradable bags do not biodegrade because they are not exposed to the correct climate conditions to break down. Dog poop is a major public health concern and it needs to be treated in sewage plants. Dog poop is a huge topic and the POOF potential is huge.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
My advice is to be positive and nice, to yourself and to others around you. Creating a gentle work environment allows people the freedom from fear, allows people to work to their potential without the fear of punishment. Through observation it seems that most humans have a trait that they want to do good, they want to have a nice day, they want to have a job and do well. Providing an environment that allows freedom from oppression, allows people to thrive, and then a company will thrive. People will be happy, and this happiness will infuse into all aspects of the company.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Managing a large team is the same as managing a small team. Managing a team starts with managing yourself. If you take care of yourself, your behavior will excel, your team will thus take care of themselves and their behavior will excel. You create an environment of a great day and people around you to have a great day. It may take a while to convince yourself into this mentality. It is just a matter of perspective and creating a great day perspective in yourself and that allows those that follow you to do the same. Just have a great day.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It is my husband who has helped me along the way. He provides an awesome home for our family where I can have free thought and go for walks alone and think, think about other things not just money and relationships. My husband allows me the freedom to think beyond the regular panic of society. He also helps so much with the children and cooks and cleans. He is the best. He’s also a Noblo cheerleader. He never stops telling me “Noblo is an awesome product and it works.” His confidence in me and in Noblo has given me a buffer from normal insecurities. He also has brought the product to many fairs and beach events setting up a table and basically getting on his soapbox spreading the Noblo word. He is always there ‘picking up the other side of the board’ and helping me through my days. He has given me the freedom of thought, confidence, physical help and unyielding support on my Noblo adventure.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I bring goodness to the world in everything I do. I say hello to people and give all humans a kind smile. It starts by me being nice to myself then I feel great and am nice to everyone I come across. By being this way, I bring niceness and goodness to the world. If everyone did this wouldn’t the world just be full of more niceness and goodness. Noblo is just part of my life. We donate to the lifeguards — who are an amazing and a vital part of the beach. Noblo is also packaged by people with special needs. A mom of a person with special needs who helps to package Noblos told me how it is the best thing in the world for her son, how he gets up with a purpose, has a bit of money, and this functional part of society makes him feel great.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Walk alone: This step is a lead to all the other lessons. Walking alone without headphones has helped me through all choices, crossroads and thoughts I have had in my life. Most of my ideas regarding Noblo, my family and my life have come from walking alone. I trust my mind to guide me, I feel it has been studying the planet for years and understands, it will always guide me to ‘success’. Walking alone allows the brain to sort through and comprehend input. I truly feel that walking alone, even if just for a few minutes every day is the most important thing I can do to maintain my successful life.
2. Be awesome: if you are awesome all your followers will be awesome and awesome things will happen. I try to be awesome every day — kind to my neighbors, work hard, and take care of my family. When I was a mate on ‘party style’ fishing boats in Belmar, NJ I use to think I was going to have an awesome day. People came from all walks of life to these boats to go out on the ocean for the day — it really is a type of salvation, a simple change of pace in nature that rejuvenates the soul. When people would come on the boat, I would be having an awesome day and create an awesome environment and it affected people — it made their day just a little more awesome.
3. Help: Sometimes someone around you can get frustrated and helping them makes it easier for them and the frustration starts to go away. It’s not necessarily about lecturing them or quoting them inspirational messages. It’s just about helping them, sending them on a break, or just taking the load off them because it is obviously too much at the time. I am a Registered Nurse supervisor at a 158-bed facility in NJ. A while back when I first started, staff came to me and said a Certified Nursing Assistant wasn’t happy and was leaving. So, I went to the room and started to help her with the patient. I helped to put on the patient’s shoes, make the bed, etc. I helped her in silence and eventually she said to me ‘I’m over it, I’m fine.’ It was a huge lesson learned for me and I incorporate it into my daily interactions with all people.
4. Tap into the good traits: Through human observation I have come to realize that every person has every personality trait. So, when a leader is to interact with humans it is best to tap into the traits that they want to bring to the surface. Some traits come to surface faster in some people then others, but all traits exist in all humans — kindness, enthusiasm, anger, laziness sadness. So, it’s great to be aware of this and simply trigger the traits that benefit the leader’s goal. In the example above with the nursing assistant, I could have entered that room yelling at her, but I didn’t because I knew my goal was for her to stay and feel supported. I did not want to fight with her. I wanted her to stay at work and have a nice day. I tapped into that part of her personality and then I let it go and never spoke of it again. It’s never happened again with her and as it turns out she is such a powerful person at work and has been there for a long time and is a great resource for me, and vice versa. I often think back to our first encounter and am grateful that I had the insight to tap into her great traits and create an awesome relationship with her.
5. Positive reinforcement: Encouraging others with positive feedback brings out the best in people, it opens doors to their potential and gives them energy to ‘succeed’. Years ago, I was an Alaskan Forest Fighter in Fairbanks, Alaska. I began on a crew of 20 people, 16 new hires every year. There was a physical fitness test required to make the final cut including a 1.5-mile run in under 11 minutes. A woman name Jeanine wanted to join. Together, we went to the track. There, she huffed and puffed on her first go around and completed the run in just over 15 minutes. I don’t know why, but I lied to her and told her she was just under 12 minutes and only needed to improve a slight bit more. I couldn’t believe it because I never lie. Turns out, when she tried again, she achieved the goal and has since been a smokejumper 20 years later. I’ve thought of this experience many times over the years and realize what an impact my bending the truth had on Jeanine’s confidence and thinking. That providing her with positive reinforcement and positive encouragement unlocked the potential and brought out her best.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be to encourage people to find peace in themselves through a perspective shift. I would have people reinvent their perspective of their life and be gentler to themselves. Being gentle to yourself makes one be gentle to the environment, be gentle to neighbors, be gentle to kids, it infuses gentleness into all aspects of life. This is the only planet we are going to live on, so we may as well love it. Perspective on life is always imaginary. We have the power to take control of our perspective and can build a perspective that is gentle, beautiful, amazing and awesome. This perspective leads to a gentle outlook on life right now, on life that has passed and on to the future. It’s pretty simple.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
If you want to live in peace, live in peace.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Barbara Corcoran — I would love to have breakfast with her and tell her about Noblo. It would be amazing to discuss my tiny microscopic company. Barbara Corcoran seems to be a person who would immediately understand Noblo, love it and be able to provide valuable insight. Noblo is an awesome product that makes the beaches safer. With the right exposure and influence Noblo will be available to all beach goers.