In this Goulet Q&A episode, Brian talks about architect nibs, his inspirations, and why stationery stores are dying off.

This week:


1. dellapinala- Instagram (9:29)
How do I grease the piston on the Stipula Tocco Ferro? I was hoping it would be similar to other piston fillers, or maybe require some finesse like the Lamy 2000, but it’s tapered body has me stumped and reluctant to start unscrewing things that may not unscrew! Thanks!

  • It’s….complicated
  • Not designed to be completely disassembled
  • You can unscrew the nib unit/housing (watch out for o-ring)
  • toothpick/grease the wall of the ink reservoir
  • I tried taking it apart, not to the point where I’d break it tho

2. coreyfraer- Instagram (18:10)
Why do you think architect nibs are so much less common than stubs? I love the way they write, but can’t think of a single company that offers stock architect grinds. However, basically everyone offers at least once size stub.

  • They’re harder to grind!
  • They’re also just not nearly as popular or as forgiving
  • I don’t know anyone that offers them “from the factory”
  • I don’t remember them being talked about much until a few years ago
  • they are pretty cool though! most impressive when writing script


3. historyjoe23- Instagram (27:27)
How do you decide which inks get sent as the “Random Ink Sample” when we order one? Is it like an “ink of the day,” or do you just throw a few of everything in a bucket and draw at random?

  • it’s probably more intentional than you think
  • it started out as just an afterthought, something that’d be fun to offer
  • we would just pick a random sample because none of them were individually inventoried anyway
  • as we grew, we had to start inventorying individual samples, which changed all that
  • we inventory them as random samples, and it’s a mix of hundreds of different inks
  • we do intentionally leave out some of the truly obscure and perhaps troublesome inks (Noodler’s Baystates, scented inks, highlighters)
  • believe it or not, we’ll get some customers that will order dozens of random samples!
  • the random sample was our #1 selling product last year (by volume)!!
  • Everyone likes a pleasant surprise, I suppose!

4. Mike W.- Facebook (32:17)
Give us your take on ink viscosity and flow. Are certain colors more apt to leak or burp than others?

  • Viscosity definitely has an impact on flow, though I lack data on which inks are impacted the most by this
  • there are some inks with properties that perhaps make it more likely to flow than others, but it’s more about the characteristics than what color it is (meaning the colorant is not really the cause)
  • inks with greater flow tend to do this more (higher lubricated inks), but I don’t honestly have hard fast data on this either, because burping and leaking happens so randomly and inconsistently with so many variables
  • it’s best to look at individual ink reviews, and try samples for yourself
  • burping is always more common in eyedropper converted pens


5. @spani3l- Twitter (35:50)
A recent USA Today article reported a 42% employment drop in the stationary business since 2007. Goulet Pens (and others like Leuchtturm1917), however, seem to do just fine. What’s the secret to your success in a “dying” (USA Today) business environment?

  • The article focuses more specifically on manufacturing, but I would say that retail has definitely been affected as well
  • the gist of the whole article was that technology has disrupted all the various industries mentioned
  • CLEARLY, digital communication has impacted the office supply market
  • we at GouletPens focus solely on fountain pens, which were already disrupted long before 2007!
  • We’re a niche within the larger stationery/office supply sector, and thus have somewhat different forces at play
  • the brands we’ve seen suffer the most are the larger ones that are more commoditized and that are owned by larger conglomerates (Parker, Waterman, Cross, Sheaffer), and the ones that are thriving are the more innovative and disruptive brands (Noodler’s, TWSBI, Visconti, Lamy, Pilot)
  • Our “secret”: talk to the community, find them what they want, and tell them about it
  • what a secret! It’s really not complicated, it’s just hard
  • now that we’re getting a little bigger, we’re finding that we need to encourage and influence what manufacturers actually make, because they need help understanding what it is pen enthusiasts want
  • grassroots engagement and social media is our lifeblood, because we get a good sense of what’s going on and what you all are looking for
  • the future is not guaranteed for us, and we all feel that here at GPC
  • “You can only coast downhill” – we will not coast, and in fact, we’re focusing now more than ever and are preparing to do some more challenging stuff this year than ever before!!

6. @LucyHoneychurch- Twitter (48:02)
Hi Brian, to which countries do you sell your products? What is your main market apart from the U.S.? Do some countries have particular preferences, e.g. who orders a lot of shimmering inks? I hope my English is not too bad, thank you for the time you take for your Q&As!

  • we sell basically anywhere that USPS and FedEx will ship
  • US is definitely our biggest market
  • other markets for us include mainly English-speaking ones, not shockingly since we’re an English-speaking site
  • Canada, UK, Australia are next biggest
  • Germany and other parts of Europe can do a little with us
  • I don’t have a strong sense of which countries do best with thing like shimmering ink, it’s too complicated to figure that out and I haven’t made it a priority to calculate that
  • generally speaking the countries outside the US buy products that are only able to be found here…Goulet exclusives, ink samples, Noodler’s ink, things like that

7. Karl K.- Facebook (52:23)
What were some highlights of the entrepreneur conference you were planning to attend recently? How will Goulet Pens change from it?

  • I was at a private forum conference this past week, and for confidentiality reasons I won’t say which one
  • it was focused on e-commerce business owners, which I’ve found to be incredibly helpful
  • I’ve belonged to other professional organizations, and e-commerce just has a lot of its own special needs
  • lots of conversation around social media, content marketing, software integrations, shipping rates, customer service/loyalty, things we do every day
  • I came back with a notebook full of ideas of things we can do to improve, and we’re going to be exploring new and better ways to do what we do for you even better
  • I won’t say specific things we’ll be doing at this point because we’re still talking about it as a team, but I can say my having gone to this conference will benefit you all in a good way in 2018 and beyond, for sure


8. @liamoran- Twitter (1:00:01)
I’m curious what (or who!) inspires you as a business owner and entrepreneur. How do you keep things evolving and exciting, while staying true to your ideals and principles as a leader?

  • I’m an avid reader, and I get inspired by other entrepreneurs who’ve built things from scratch, taken on risk
  • I can glean information from a lot of different people and situations, but I am most directly impacted by people who’ve more or less come from average or below-average means, taken an idea, applied massive amounts of grit, and built something really incredible
  • Gary Vaynerchuck for sure, my consumption of his content comes in waves, I’m more on his wavelength now
  • Simon Sinek- storytelling, Golden Circle
  • Sarah Blakely- Spanx, innovation and grit
  • Cathy Hughes- RadioOne, no excuses, grit like woah
  • Dave Ramsey and Pat Lenionci- organizational health
  • Tina Fey- respect, she freaking hustles
  • I consider myself very fortunate, because evolving and excitement are part of my ideals and values! It just comes very naturally to me
  • Like most founders, I’ve put a heavy stamp of my own values into our company’s values, so as long as I stay true to myself, I do okay
  • I struggle more with consistency and stability more than most, which is not uncommon for people like me
  • I am a disruptive force, as my team knows all too well! But in e-commerce, in a niche interest like this, that helps

QOTW: Who inspires you? (1:15:34)

Write On,
Brian Goulet