"While we want to get our drums in the hands of as many drummers as possible, we still want to remain small enough to ensure we don’t lose any of the handcrafted and personal touches that make us who we are."
Luke Garro is the General Manager of Noble & Cooley, a family-owned premium drum manufacturer specializing in handcrafted snare drums and drum kits for some of the world’s leading professional drummers. Garro joined the 160-year-old company in October 2020 to chart the course for the brand’s next chapter of growth. As a professional drummer for over three decades, he brings a complementary set of skills, passion and experience to his role at Noble & Cooley. Luke has played the drums for bands such as Fastbreak and In My Eyes, and for the past 19 years has been the drummer for alternative rock band Piebald, touring internationally. A true creative entrepreneur, Garro began his 20-year business and marketing career by co-founding a company called Street Attack, which was a pioneer in guerilla, grassroots, experiential and social marketing just as social platforms came on the scene. The company later rebranded as Antler and was acquired by GYK Marketing in 2013 to become integrated marketing company GYK Antler. As EVP, Content Director, Garro played a significant role in helping to build GYK Antler’s social and content production capabilities, leading modern marketing initiatives for both established and emerging CPG and lifestyle brands, and fueling company growth through new business efforts.
Q: In your first year serving as GM of Noble & Cooley, what has been your biggest priority and what has made you most proud?
A: The biggest priority out of the gate was to learn as much as I could about the business as quickly as possible. Thirteen months later and I’m still learning 😊. Noble & Cooley has been around for over 165 years, so there’s certainly a lot to wrap my arms around, but within the first two months, I was able to immediately grasp the key functions of the business and plug myself in to provide the best support — from production to sales and marketing through to accounting and labor/resource management. One aspect that’s made me the proudest is how quickly we’ve revamped our sales efforts. With a few months, we enlisted and empowered two amazing sales guys — one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. In a rather quick time frame, we’ve signed on several new dealers and have seen immediate increases in our overall sales volume.
Q: Are there any new initiatives that have launched recently or are in the pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?
A: The biggest new initiative for us is updating our factory footprint and key pieces of equipment. To keep our prices competitive, we want to create any efficiencies we can in our production process and abilities. Through extensive discussions, we concluded that updating a factory footprint would be one of the most impactful moves to make. Because the company has been around for so long, the current footprint was an outcome of several decades of business evolution, which doesn’t make complete sense for our current offering. We have different production processes happening on three different floors as well as different buildings, so we’ll be bringing it all together to a single floor — adjacent to where our steam bending area and showroom are — to become more efficient. That move will really bring the whole operation together in a tighter perimeter to allow us to all work in closer proximity and minimize physically moving materials (and ourselves!) around the factory.
Q: Your first company, Antler, was a pioneer in digital and social media marketing — what’s the role social plays in connecting with drum enthusiasts?
A: Social media is THE way to connect with drum enthusiasts. Drummers are all about showing what they’re playing, the activities they’re involved in, checking out and supporting other drummers and most importantly, learning about the new gear available to them. I’m sure you’re familiar with the term “food porn” as it relates to social media. Well, “drum porn” may just be its biggest rival. A simple, nice, beautiful close-up shot of a drum is often the content that performs the best on social channels.
Another important way we use these communication channels is for customer service. We have a lot of customers who prefer to directly message us there versus using a form on our website because of the personal nature of social channels. In addition, mobilizing our artists and fans on social media is often the best marketing for us. Genuine endorsements and getting third parties to create their own content using our drums often goes further than our own efforts.
Q: As someone who founded and ran their own ad agency for 12 years, how have the lessons you learned as an entrepreneur translated to your role at N&C as General Manager?
A: I’ve surely learned a few lessons with my 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience. Here are my top four:
- Be nimble. With such a small team, we all wear a lot of hats and need to shift gears quickly. We constantly need to be active and achieve things, so minimizing unnecessary meetings and removing layers of management/approval is key.
- Be OK with change. The world is constantly changing — from trends to technologies — so we can’t get so stuck in our ways where we’re unable to adapt.
- Have a big picture plan but be willing to act quickly when opportunities come your way. We have our vision pretty locked down, but every week something new comes up that we need to quickly act on.
- Treat people as amazingly as possible. Whether they’re employees, customers or dealers, the people we interact with are our biggest assets. Without them we wouldn’t be a business, and developing relationships for the long haul builds an easier flow of day-to-day business because everybody is constantly building an innate understanding of who we are and how we work together.
Q: What has the experience been like to work in a role that’s perfectly blended with your personal passion of music/drumming?
A: Working your passion in with your profession is always a blessing. For me, I don’t think it could be any more perfect. I’ve been playing professionally for over 25 years and it’s been amazing that after this long, I finally get to leverage all my experiences, knowledge and contacts I’ve made over the years. Not to mention, I can try out new drums all the time and I even get to play drums at work.
Working your passion in with your profession is always a blessing. For me, I don’t think it could be any more perfect. I’ve been playing professionally for over 25 years and it’s been amazing that after this long, I finally get to leverage all my experiences, knowledge and contacts I’ve made over the years. Not to mention, I can try out new drums all the time and I even get to play drums at work.
Q: What are your aspirations for the brand over the next few years?
A: We have the mission to make Noble & Cooley the largest and most respected boutique drum company in the world. The word “boutique” is key here. While we want to get our drums in the hands of as many drummers as possible, we still want to remain small enough to ensure we don’t lose any of the handcrafted and personal touches that make us who we are. Those elements are such key aspects of why people like our drums and the company to begin with, so we need to continue manufacturing that way.
Q: How do you see York Creative Collective playing a role in achieving those objectives?
A: YCC is helpful to a business like ours because it allows us to scale up services we can’t have in-house very quickly and efficiently. We can’t have designers, copywriters, videographers and advertising managers on our full-time staff, but we can have access to them through YCC, which gives us a nice competitive advantage over our contemporaries. Nowadays, businesses of every size need a lot of diverse skill sets to compete, and bringing all those skill sets in-house is often cost prohibitive. Through YCC, we can get all the skills we need from a top-notch set of talent, which is something we simply couldn’t do on our own.