Pen maker writing his own future

A project in high school has turned into a calling for Dylan Thompson-MacKay.

The Pictou County native started making wooden pens as a project in his wood shop class at Northumberland Regional High School.

It was after he made his first pen that Thompson-MacKay found himself on a golf course playing a round with a banker from Toronto. When the banker saw the pen he offered Thompson-MacKay $50 for it. By the time they finished the game his offer had reached $200. Although he didn’t sell the pen, the young entrepreneur realized that he could make a product people are interested in.

“I always had an interest in woodworking,” he said.

After graduating high school in 2014, Thompson-MacKay applied for the carpentry program at Nova Scotia Community College but, by a turn of fate, ended up taking the business administration course instead.

After tasked with working on a business plan for a class, Thompson-MacKay decided to create one for his pen business, Elwood Pens.

After having a conversation with his uncle, the business started moving.

“He and I went to Halifax and got wood from all over the world,” he explained. That summer, he began selling his pens at the Pictou Weekend Market.

Since first selling his pens, Thompson-MacKay has spent a lot of time practising his skills, working on making different types of pens and he even joined a skilled wooden pen maker in Halifax to learn how to perfect his work.

“Kind of what I like about it originally is it’s something I didn’t have a lot of experience with,” he said. It was the challenge of doing something he had never done before and working to perfect the art that drew him in. However, he says now there’s something a little different he enjoys about creating them.

“Whenever someone receives my pens as a gift I usually get positive feedback and it lets me know that what I’m doing is worthwhile.”

Thompson-MacKay added that in the future he would like to be able to give a portion of the proceeds of his sale toward a number of different charities.

Currently, Thompson-MacKay has a Kickstarter campaign started for Elwood pens. In the fall, he will be attending Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and has found an opportunity to expand his business.

“There’s an opportunity where I would be able to have a wood shop along the Halifax Waterfront,” he said. He plans to put the money from the Kickstarter toward securing the workshop.

Information on his Kickstarter campaign can be found at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/210131800/elwood-pens-orginal-set.

“I also plan to expand to other products besides pens,” he added. “Instead of waiting for a larger business to come to Pictou County, I’m creating a business.”

Dylan Thompson-MacKay stands with his pens at the Pictou Weekend Market. (submitted photo)

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Heather Brimicombe
Heather Brimicombe is a Pictou County native and graduate from the University of King's College in Halifax with a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree as well as a combined major in Sustainability. She has previously won a Canadian Communities Newspapers award for a multimedia feature and was part of a team nominated for a Canadian Association of Journalism data award in the investigative category. Photography, art, sports and outdoor activities are all hobbies of hers as well as crafting, and baking.