Hey everyone, welcome back to Episode 375 of The Outdoor Biz Podcast. I have a fun conversation for you today with Allon Cohne from Noble Biomaterials. Allon and I wander all over Outdoor history from his early days at Kirkwood Ski Resort in California to his current role with Noble Biomaterials.
How did you get into the outdoors?
It was pretty easy. I grew up in Utah, so, in the eighties and nineties in Utah, the access there was pretty easy. I remember taking, the public transportation bus to Alta and, you could get there pretty easily right after high school, even before you had driver’s licenses.
After high school, you can head up to the hills and, and get some runs in. Then on the weekends you can head down to the desert, get some rides in. So it was just kind of, a natural kind of background, I think, cultural environment growing up in Salt Lake.
How did you get into the Outdoor Industry?
I was fortunate actually to get into the outdoor industry after college. It was just kind of a natural fit for me. Something I could speak to, something I had passionate about. So when I had the opportunity to jump in I did. When I graduated college I thought it would be a really cool thing to be a National Geographic journalist or photojournalist and I was writing for the school paper. I was on the sports beat. Just kind of crafting the writing skills and then you graduate college and you’re like, okay, well National Geographic’s not calling me. What do I do? I gotta pay the bills. So I moved back to Utah, took a job with Deer Valley, doing guest services so I could get a ski pass. and just doing kind of some, career stuff, whatever I could really to pay rent.
Tell us about Noble. What do you guys do?
We make silver yarn, so that silver antimicrobial yarn may be the reason why you fall in will love with that Lululemon garment or your Athleta, you’re Mack Weldon. There are so many different brands that you’re like, man, I really love this fabric. And you can’t put your finger on it. It’s like a go-to piece. And whether you’re in ski or outdoor or anything, you’re like that. I love that piece. Right. And sometimes you’re not actually sure why you love it. I like to, that’s really where I’ve been for the past 20 or so years in kind of ingredient branding.
And so what we do at Noble is we make silver fiber, silver yarn. Silver fabric. Our technique in developing and really specing fabrics and fibers, in, to products using that technology is really unmatched.
And so we have factory in Scranton, PA Really is dedicated to, that science. We sell silver fiber to brands in performance apparel. There’s really no match for, silver antimicrobial we’ve been using it for millennia. It’s been around forever as a way to manage bacterial growth. Noble and Lulu started, again 15 years ago together and have grown. What Noble has done with that technology has gone from making it for an antimicrobial purpose in fabric and performance wear too. It’s great shielding. It’s great, conductive, energy process.
So we are in. biometrics. We are in healthcare for defibrillators and things like that, so, and we’re also in antimicrobial for wound care. And so you go beyond that. And then we’re also in shielding capabilities. So we help with Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin to build the stealth capabilities because it’s also a great reflector.
So you seem to have a knack for making these, maybe what initially are uncool technologies and fabrics interesting. And then understandable for users and consumers. That’s your superpower. How’d you learn that?
I think where I’ve been successful, I’ve been on calls where, everybody’s got a college level chemistry experience, right? I’m like, no, I didn’t get that class either. Right? And so I am furiously taking down notes. And so it’s some of those points where you have to really get into what the engineers and what the product developers are really trying to accomplish with their innovation. I think it’s more of, all right, so, how are we gonna interpret this or how is the impact going to benefit, the average user? And I think that’s where I’ve distilled information down or feature benefits down to what the one or two things that, that really matter here in the communication or, or that people are gonna experience.
I think the most recent example of that is really when I, when I started at Noble, we had this conversation of dialogue is do we wanna be anti-odor, and we still have these conversations, or do we wanna be antimicrobial?
And, you have to, you kind of have to come with a point of view. Anti-odor is, is pretty, is almost too specific. Right? Yeah. We are antimicrobial. Mm-hmm. So you’re killing, You, you’re killing bacteria for different purposes, whether it’s for, infection, protection, and all these other things.
So let’s be the antimicrobial advantage. Because that’s really a position doesn’t exist in the marketplace. But then we can be broader with, we can be broader, but also more specific with the product use.
Do you have any daily routines you use to keep your sanity? You get a lot of exercise, I’m sure. Do you meditate or walk the dog?
It sounds weird, but taking the kids to school, I mean, we live walking distance and that’s really great, or, driving when it’s needed.
But I would say that kind. that routine right there is just, trying to keep everything in kind of context of the day-to-day. But, it varies when I’m gonna go for a run, if I’m gonna go for a ride or, whatever. I would say that that routine of just kind of, the morning routine and checking in and, a walk to school is actually a really good routine.
Do you have a couple of books that you’ve read that inspired the conservation in you or the Scientist in you.
The End of Marketing as We Know It Sergio Zyman
Some of those are just like inspirational and kind of, deep thought as to behaviors and things like that.
What’s your favorite piece of outdoor gear? Under a hundred dollars?
The, probably the best way to upgrade your kit is a, is a good base layer.
Do you have any advice or suggestions for folks want to get into the outdoor business?
I do, I think this, was, I was actually having this conversation with my nephew who was 17, and he is like, trying to figure out what he wants to do, what he wants to do, go to school for it. I would say don’t underestimate experience, because you’ll get paid for it later and everybody says this, but it’s true. And I would say I wouldn’t be where I am in my, my career without having spent, six months at retail at REI and I, and I know so many people who are now CEOs that did the exact same thing. So it is the, the pay your dues kind of thing, but you can’t replicate that experience because it’s firsthand knowledge, right? That you can talk to and relate to somebody about, the experience they’re about to have. So, that is that trust, and I think it just, it prepares you. I think the reasons why I got the jobs I did, whether it was in apparel or whether it was in the ski industry, is cuz I was a guest service guy at Deer Valley. I was able to relate to and say, hey, I understand the business a little bit.
And so that when you’re trying to get that job, it’s great that you have the smarts and the intelligence in the back. But having the experience and, I think my nephew kind of rolled his eyes at me after that. I was like, yeah, everybody says that. I’m like, yeah, yep. The money will come.
Where can people find you if they’d like to follow up?
Twitter– Allon Cohne
LinkedIn– Noble Biomaterials