What it Takes: Good Pencil Co.
THE GOOD PENCIL COMPANY
What is your company? How did you get started?
We are The Good Pencil Company, which started as part of an MBA project to see how important social responsibility is to customers. We wanted to highlight the fact that teachers were having to buy their own supplies, and create a platform to help alleviate that financial pressure. We were selling our product at 3x the average price of a pack of pencils and received tons of positive feedback about our efforts. It was then that we knew there was a big opportunity.
Who or what inspires you as an individual or as a company?
We are inspired by all of the fellow B Corps in our community and especially, our Utah B Corp friends including Cotopaxi, Malouf, Downeast, Creative Energies, Barebones Living and Patagonia Salt Lake City). The Utah B Corp community is small, but making a big impact locally and around the world.
What are near-term (and longer-term) plans for the future of your business?
People love our products and our message, but not enough people know about us, so our near-term goal is to continue developing and rebuilding more partnerships to get The Good Pencil Company in front of more consumers. Longer term goals would be to launch our new line of products, which we hope customers will appreciate and love.
What do you look for in a new brand to bring into your store?
Ideally, someone who shares our values and mission. The same goes for our customer base. We’ve entered a few boutique stores where it wasn’t a great fit with their customers, and see much better success rates with retailers that have more like-minded customers. Initially, we were happy to go into any store that was interested and even offered wholesale prices as an incentive. But, now our approach follows a more strategic plan.
What impact do you hope or want to make on consumers, communities, society in general?
In the beginning, we started the business to help teachers who were having to pay for their own school supplies out of their own pocket. We also wanted to promote the concepts of sustainable business and environmentalism that are so important to us. We love what the B Corp community stands for and are equally committed to our Climate Neutral certification plus our 1% for the Planet membership and Eden Reforestation project partnership. We hope to be another example of how business can be a force for good. Also important, is the difference that so many other B Corps are making to help further this movement, and encourage consumers to think differently about what, how and why they buy products.
Can you share an important mistake you made in the business?
We actually spent a ton of money on advertising and even hired someone to help build a following and start a large social media campaign. But, we did this way too early, and learned very quickly that it takes time to build up your following and that earned credibility is a lot stronger than paid likes.
What is/was the hardest obstacle(s) you've had to overcome?
The pandemic has been a huge challenge for us, as it has for everyone. We’ve spent a lot of time developing partnerships to help us expand our product line, boost awareness and reach about our brand. As a small startup, the impact of the pandemic has forced us to reconnect and rebuild many of those partnerships and relationships that we’d already been putting in place. For example, we had a new product line scheduled to release last year. We found a Utah-based company for production, but because of the pandemic the company closed its doors and we had to completely start over. We also had to close our factory in Tennessee for a few months, which we never would have expected, so we pivoted and began making PPE for hospitals free of charge and sent these items across the US during this time. We also had to manage the cancelled farmers markets and lack of back-to-school traffic due to school closures. Overall, we’re fortunate to have handled these changes and believe we will come out stronger because of it.
Can you share something about yourself (your business) that many might be surprised to learn?
When we first started the business we knew very little about pencils, which often shocks people. We were really just interested in finding a product that we could sell to help teachers, and what teacher doesn’t need pencils in the classroom?
Learn more at https://thegoodpencilcompany.com/
What it Takes is a series of interviews with founders who were brave enough to take the leap, make mistakes, pivot, and keep going. This is What It Takes to be an entrepreneur. If you're a creator who is determined to follow a purpose or push the boundaries, then you’ve signed up to make mistakes, that’s the price of innovation.