Ben Scott and LaMar Smith are two Newport News locals who met as coworkers and became fast friends. Both are artists and graphic designers, and their shared interests and expertise have led them into an innovative business endeavor.
Their company, Nomad Notebooks, sells pocket-sized notebooks designed for creative people. Nomad Notebooks come in packs of three. Each of the packs has a different theme, ranging from the Sea, Air, and Space pack — which is designed to reflect Hampton Roads’ history of exploration — to their most recent release, the Blend pack — which is meant to reflect the designers’ love for coffee. “It’s one of our creative juices, if you will,” says Smith of the inspiration for the coffee-themed notebooks, which even come with coffee-scented ink.
In all of the notebook packs, customers can expect to find Nomad’s unique feature: different paper types. Using paper of different colors, makeup and texture is meant to spark creativity in the user, and it works. Smith and Scott point to their social media presence as evidence of the wide-ranging applications users find for Nomad Notebooks. “It’s interesting to us how each of our customers individually uses the notebooks. How we intend is not necessarily how they use it,” says Smith. It’s very common to see the notebooks’ owners on Instagram, displaying their work in fun and exciting ways.
The two designers capitalized on a very successful Kickstarter campaign to get their company to where it is now. Before that, they began with a broader scope. “We initially wanted to create really cool, unique products, with a focus on good design,” says Smith. “We would come up with and execute ideas, using local vendors and artisans who could help us create the products that we imagine.”
To promote their unique creations, Smith and Scott presented them at craft shows. Smith elaborates, “Every single time we had one of those craft shows, the stand-out product was Nomad Notebooks. We had a conversation and said, ‘Let’s just focus on what’s selling the best.’” That’s when they launched on Kickstarter, which Scott describes as a proving ground. “As artists, there is some vulnerability in putting our work out there,” he says. “For us, it’s a commercial product, but it’s still an idea.” Through their success with the crowd-sourcing platform, the two men are more than pleased, especially having achieved Kickstarter’s sought-after ‘Products We Love’ status. Smith says, “It confirmed what we thought was a good product.”
Customers may purchase Nomad Notebooks from Amazon.com or directly from the company at NomadNotebooks.com. COVID-19 may have affected lead times for sourcing materials and shipping products to customers. Still, their business’s primarily online nature has made it possible for Scott and Smith to continue growing the business despite pandemic precautions and restrictions. New notebook releases are already planned for the next year, and each new product will be announced a few weeks in advance of its release. Customers can follow Nomad on its website and social media so that they don’t miss any announcements.
Even though their notebooks are sold online, and most of their business is done on a national (even international) scale, Scott believes many in Hampton Roads would make good use of their product. “Hampton Roads is a melting pot. We have a large military presence. We have a ton of universities and schools. There are a lot of different people around,” he says, adding that “when you have a diverse population, you have diverse ways of thinking, and that’s perfect for what we do.”
Both men have full-time jobs in addition to their work with Nomad, so off-hours are few and far between. If they’re not working on a current project, they explore and seek creative inspiration for their next big idea. “The most precious commodity in the world is time,” says Scott.
With the little downtime they do find in their busy schedules, both Smith and Scott say they spend that where it matters most, with family.
TO THE POINT:
Contact: LaMar Smith and Ben Scott