Questions regarding starting a pen making business

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Andrewt72

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Joined
Apr 6, 2021
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6
Location
Lynchburg, Virginia
Hello, I have the desire to try starting a pen making business. Is there anyone out there that would be willing to share some experience with me. Thank you!
 
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jttheclockman

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Feb 22, 2005
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15,512
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NJ, USA.
We have no idea who you are and what it is you do. Have no idea of how far you are into pen making and what kinds of pens. Need to introduce yourself, show us some work and explain what it is you want to do and what platforms you want to sell on. So much info is not supplied here. There are so very few people here that have taken their work to a level of extreme sales and made a name for themselves. Then there are many many here that sell as a means of recouping a few dollars to keep their hobby going and feed the beast. Then there are the next level where they make a good $$ at it but work at it by going to many shows and doing the leg work. I have always said if you want to reach the levels that seperate you from all others then you better have a product that is that much better. We maybe a small drop in the bucket with the membership here that sells so your competition for $$ is huge. There are many threads on this topic here. Can you make a few $$ doing this, yes you can. Can you take that next step, who knows. That is up to you.

One of the latest threads.

https://www.penturners.org/threads/thinking-about-selling-some-pens.169557/
 

studioseven

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Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
680
Location
Wisconsin
Andrew it is very easy to start a pen making business. With that said it is very, very very hard to start a pen making business that makes a profit. It can be done but it takes a tremendous amount of time and work to establish yourself and your products. I read your intro and I came away with the impression that you are new to turning pens. IMHO you need to practice your turning while at the same time building up your inventory. Perfect your craft. Your pens need to be flawless. Whatever venue you decide on ( craft shows, on-line sales) you will be competing with some very talented turners who are already established. Also know that most people are very content with the BIC pen that that their credit union gives out for free and would never even consider shelling out money to buy one. I know this isn't what you wanted to read but it is the reality of pen sales. Good Luck.

Seven
 

Mullanphy

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Joined
Apr 5, 2021
Messages
33
Location
Florissant, MO
Based on many years of part-time business ventures in which I've never lost money and never made a lot:

As with any business venture be prepared for disappointments - they make the wins so much sweeter.

Maybe ask, and answer, some questions:
  • Why do I want to sell pens? Seriously - to pay for the hobby? As supplemental income to pay for necessities or build a nest egg? As a primary source of income? The ego boost when a sale is made? Something else?
  • Who will I sell to? Individuals, organizations, governments? Each has its own marketing challenges.
  • How much sweat equity am I willing to put into the venture? How much time can I put into it every single day? If not every day, than how often and how much time?
There are a lot more questions that need answers, but those mentioned might give a good feel for whether or not starting a business of any sort is something you really want to do.

Finally, make a business plan. It doesn't have to be a long and involved plan unless using it to ask for a loan, but it should be written down, looked at frequently, acted upon daily, and adjusted when necessary. Mine for this new venture is a whole page and a half. A business plan, simple or complex, is a road map to success. Perhaps check out the US SBA's (Small Business Administration) web site for some suggestions.
 

leehljp

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Joined
Feb 6, 2005
Messages
8,144
Location
Tunica, MS,
Andrew it is very easy to start a pen making business. With that said it is very, very very hard to start a pen making business that makes a profit. It can be done but it takes a tremendous amount of time and work to establish yourself and your products. I read your intro and I came away with the impression that you are new to turning pens. IMHO you need to practice your turning while at the same time building up your inventory. Perfect your craft. Your pens need to be flawless. Whatever venue you decide on ( craft shows, on-line sales) you will be competing with some very talented turners who are already established. Also know that most people are very content with the BIC pen that that their credit union gives out for free and would never even consider shelling out money to buy one. I know this isn't what you wanted to read but it is the reality of pen sales. Good Luck.

Seven
There are two other groups that will compete for sales also: 1. Those that sell for almost what the pen cost them as they don't count their labor as a cost. Therefore no real profit. 2. Very cheap import from very cheap labor markets.

These two will not be your main competitors in most markets but they can be. ON Etsy, it will be some who sell for what the pen cost them to make; on Ebay, it will be from the low labor cost countries. I have purchased a couple of them to see how good they are - and they have a nice fit and finish to them. I could still put mine up against those and do fine with in person sales, but probably not over eBay.

Don't settle on "good enough" as they need to be better than the competitor to grab sales.

When I started here, there were discussions on the "perfect pen" and the discussions were the fact that all pens had something "not quite right" but only the maker knew that. But as experience built and then the one or two new pen turners with exceptional skills came on each year pushing the envelope - quite a few have learned to make the perfect pen most every time. No flaws, perfect fits and perfect finishes. Mass production may not produce this quality, but it is very close for some. If they are in person sales, the buyer will inspect it closely. If through mail order, they may ship it back if they find a flaw. . .
Which takes us to the next part - your name. Your Name will only be as good as your pen is perfect. Don't sell an imperfect pen at a discount. (Some do) The imperfection sales will label you as a "so-so" pen maker and then "first impressions become lasting impressions".


Here is a link that will give you an overview of "some" of the pens here:
https://www.penturners.org/threads/no-comments-just-post-new-segmented-pens-and-likes.111419/
 
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Mart

Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2020
Messages
46
Location
Canada
Regarding the perfect pen; if you want to know if your pen is perfect, take it to a watch maker. I recently brought one of mine to a local jeweler/watch maker to ask about engraving and his trained eye spotted several flaws that I did not catch, and were very hard for me to see.
He was very helpful and I'm much more careful now when crafting a pen. I'd rather not have a name associated with "good enough".
mart
 

leehljp

Member Liaison
Joined
Feb 6, 2005
Messages
8,144
Location
Tunica, MS,
Regarding the perfect pen; if you want to know if your pen is perfect, take it to a watch maker. I recently brought one of mine to a local jeweler/watch maker to ask about engraving and his trained eye spotted several flaws that I did not catch, and were very hard for me to see.
He was very helpful and I'm much more careful now when crafting a pen. I'd rather not have a name associated with "good enough".
mart
I have several magnifiers and jeweler's loupes that I use to check, but experience has taught me that it is consistent observation, consistent determination on fit and consistent finish experience that leads to that perfect pen.

Some people have exceptional eyes. When I lived overseas I asked a several people if they could read some very tiny type on a few US $5 bill that most people could not literally see, but a few could make out some and a couple of people could actually read it. With a scanner set to real high definition, I could scan and see it as text. So it was/is there.

The point is, I might not could see it but a few can, and it takes a loupe for me to be able to see it at that level. But it is experience that keeps it at a higher level of perfection than I can see with my bare eyes. It helps to be over the top obsessive-compulsive! 🤪
 
Last edited:

Andrewt72

Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2021
Messages
6
Location
Lynchburg, Virginia
We have no idea who you are and what it is you do. Have no idea of how far you are into pen making and what kinds of pens. Need to introduce yourself, show us some work and explain what it is you want to do and what platforms you want to sell on. So much info is not supplied here. There are so very few people here that have taken their work to a level of extreme sales and made a name for themselves. Then there are many many here that sell as a means of recouping a few dollars to keep their hobby going and feed the beast. Then there are the next level where they make a good $$ at it but work at it by going to many shows and doing the leg work. I have always said if you want to reach the levels that seperate you from all others then you better have a product that is that much better. We maybe a small drop in the bucket with the membership here that sells so your competition for $$ is huge. There are many threads on this topic here. Can you make a few $$ doing this, yes you can. Can you take that next step, who knows. That is up to you.

One of the latest threads.

https://www.penturners.org/threads/thinking-about-selling-some-pens.169557/
Wow, I appreciate your honesty but it is quite negative to the point of discouragement. Thanks but no thanks. Respectfully.
 

jttheclockman

Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
15,512
Location
NJ, USA.
Wow, I appreciate your honesty but it is quite negative to the point of discouragement. Thanks but no thanks. Respectfully.
Now everyone else said about the same thing I did but you chose my response to bad mouth. What is it the statement about not knowing who you are??? We do not know anything about you or your talents. Have no idea if you can even turn a pen. To take the time and right a long response on how to get started setting up a business. Sorry if you read it the wrong way but will stick to my reply. I will let others try to fill in the blanks. Respectfully.
 

PatrickR

Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2017
Messages
790
Location
Rural America
Since you say “business” then look at is as such. What’s your market, how much is the competition selling them for, how much do you want to make in a year, what’s your overhead etc. like a lot of people when I got into making pens I gave it some thought but it didn’t take much to figure out, no way. I don’t work for free, but a lot of sellers are willing to work for very little just to subsidize the hobby. Do some research and figure out if it’s workable for you.
 
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