Her latest entrepreneurial effort all started with a pair of Gucci heels.For Noelle Bonner, an unwavering work ethic runs in her genes. Her great-grandfather was one of Ghana’s first senior justices; her grandfather was an attorney general in Ghana; and her mother was a city planner in Oakland before moving to Detroit, where Bonner’s father is the CEO of a real estate development company. “I’ve seen my family be these multihyphenate, business-oriented individuals that are passionate and driven about the way they engage in business and work with people,” Bonner says.
Born in Oakland and raised in the Bay Area until age 11, Bonner is a first-generation Ghanaian American. “Since I was 3, we’ve traveled to Ghana practically every year. I’m very connected to it and my family that still lives there,” she adds. Her teen years were spent in the Midwest before she headed east to Boston College, where she studied psychology and international studies. Then it was off to Manhattan, where she directed PR for startup high fashion magazine TWELV. “Living in New York grows you up very quickly,” she notes. “I learned how to hustle there.”
This hustle inspired her to start her own communications marketing firm, Bonner Communications, which she moved to the Bay Area in 2016 when she had the opportunity to partner with an advertising agency to handle Covered California’s community outreach and PR. “It was my stepping-stone to come back to the City and start pursuing public work in the communications sector,” she says. Since then, her firm’s clients have included the Port of San Francisco, Susan G. Komen and San Francisco Recreation & Parks, to name a few.
But it was the iconic Pam Grier who led Bonner back to fashion with her latest venture. “One Halloween, I dressed up as Foxy Brown and ended up spending $800 on Gucci heels for my costume. I knew I’d have a hard time finding more opportunities to wear the heels again, because of how casual life in San Francisco can be,” she says. Bonner wished she knew another woman with size-40 feet who she could swap heels with. “That way, I could’ve conserved the value of the shoe without having to go to a consignment shop with a huge finder’s fee.”
That’s when she began to conceptualize an online marketplace focused on buying, selling and trading preowned luxury products, setting it apart from others. TheNOBO — whose name is a mashup of the first two letters of her first and last names — officially launches this month as a “white glove” platform. Goods are bought and sold directly between users, relying on authentication via photographs and technology. For trades, the products must be sent directly to TheNOBO for inspection, authentication and warehousing; only then can the transaction be completed and both users receive their merchandise.
“We want our customers to realize just how much they can save by looking inside their closet,” Bonner explains. “Those who have made previous investments in luxury products will now have the ‘currency’ they need to acquire a ‘new for them’ luxury product.”
Much like TheNOBO’s inventory, Bonner’s taste is eclectic. “I enjoy playing with my style,” she says. “You have to have fun with your fashion.” Her style may change day to day, but her love of European luxury brands like Balenciaga, The Attico and Mugler never wavers. “I’m also drawn to African American luxury designers like Christopher John Rogers and jewelry designer Jameel Mohammed of Khiry,” she elaborates. When asked what she feels the most powerful in, she responds without hesitation: a suit from Christie Brown, Ghanaian designer Aisha Ayensu’s label. “Her fit is incredible. Everyone always asks me what I’m wearing when I have on one of her pieces.”