The Noka Supply Co. origin story begins in 2009. A product design undergrad in search of a compelling senior thesis, I asked my friends and family: “What is something you use or do daily that needs a redesign?” As I sorted through the eclectic responses, I discovered a surprising number of letters expressing extreme loathing towards pill organizers. I knew I was onto something.
I dove into research on the relationship that people have with their pill boxes, the pills they take, and health in general. I interviewed anyone I could find that used a pill box and heard almost unanimous feedback:
“I feel 25 years older just holding this in my hand”“Ugh, it looks like something someone in a nursing home would use"“It fell out of my purse at work and a coworker asked ‘What do you need that for, you don’t seem sick.’…”“I would rather throw everything in a ziplock bag than use a drugstore pillbox.”“...I think they were designed to physically represent a sigh of resignation.”
For such an unassuming plastic contraption, people harbored a considerable level of resentment. So much so, that many would risk forgetting their pills just to avoid association!
Pills and pill boxes have an image problem based, in part, on a misconception that pills are only for the elderly or the very sick. In fact, over 60% of all adults take pills of some kind to maintain their health, whether that’s prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or vitamins. And yet pill organizers – and most other tools that we use to manage our health – look more at home in a doctor’s office than on our bedside table. In almost every other aspect of our lives, the things we use daily have evolved to align with our lifestyles; modern, mobile, and designed with the user in mind. Somehow our health got left behind.
Looking back in history, antique pill boxes were very expensive, ornate status symbols for wealthy people – intricate boxes that provided a fashionable way to protect yourself from the plague, flaunt your access to nutmeg (once used for medical purposes), or accessorize your snuff supply. Somewhere along the way, personal medicine lost its cachet and pill boxes became sterile, cheap plastic items that you hid away. The more I learned, the more inspired I became to re-cultivate a pride in personal health and create products that people would be excited to brag about.
But, alas, I was a just a college senior with no idea how to turn an idea into a company. I presented my thesis, graduated, accepted a job, and set aside my idea for a health accessory revolution to my mental shelf labeled “projects I did in school.” Except the idea kept tugging at me. In my free time, I found myself reading about health accessory trends, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship. I looked for opportunities to chat with people about their medications and the tools they used to manage their health. I would doodle product designs in the margins of my notes while pretending to pay attention during meetings. In short, the problem had wormed itself deep into my brain and would not rest until I took action. Not to mention, I was becoming kind of annoying. One glass of wine into happy hour I would open my mouth to speak and my friends would preempt me with, “Yes, Lauren, you’ve told us about the pill boxes.” I realized that I either needed to take the leap or let the idea go.
So I quit my job, took a part-time position at a local machine shop, and began the process of bringing my margin doodles to life. Fast forward to today, I am so thrilled to be able to say, “I have a company” instead of just, “I have an idea.” I get excited every time I see a Nokabox out in the wild! But this one product is just the beginning – I look forward to building a company dedicated to designing health products you’ll obsess over.