In this Goulet Q&A episode, Brian talks about if he’ll consider selling on Amazon, collaborating with pen brands on exclusive designs, and his biggest business setbacks.

This week:

  • low-key weekend, much needed
  • hit a wall last week, Atlanta caught up with me!
  • Duraflexes came and went in 41 minutes
  • Latch batch of Spring Premieres came and went (sorry!)
  • Edelstein Olivine ink arrived
  • Lamy Safari All Black is on the way
  • Stipula Etruria Magma is coming soon!
  • Epic contest celebrating our 100k subs milestone coming out next week, on my birthday (Monday)

Ink
1) analoglannie- Instagram (08:29)

I am an ink-pen color matcher who is confounded on what to match to the metallic Lamy LX pens. Why aren’t there any true metallic inks (not just inks that shimmer in a certain light but full on metallic gold, silver, rose gold…)? Is it due to the size/amount of particles that would be required? What inks would you match to the 4 LX pens?

  • True metallic inks would require pigments, which clog fountain pens
  • Shimmer is about as good as you’re going to get
  • De Atrametis did just come out with some copper shimmer inks, which would look pretty cool!
  • I will usually try to color match my pens, but it’s not a hardfast rule for me
  • Black goes with everything, especially these LX nibs, at a minimum
  • Gray, too

Paper

2) kstarsinger- Instagram (11:24)

Nobody ever talks about the knot in the centre of the back of the Traveler’s Notebook, when writing in it. That there is this bump in their writing surface. They talk about the paper, how easy it is to use and and adjust for personal use, patina of the leather etc. So my question is : how annoying is it really to try to write around that knotted string in your notebook?

  • It doesn’t bother me, but then I keep multiple notebooks in mine
  • one cool hack is to put a hole in the spine, so the knot isn’t in the middle of where the notebook is!

3) priwolfe- Instagram (14:55)

With the regular release of limited edition pens, new inks with new and exciting properties, like shimmer and sheen, and with new notebook styles on the market with varied covers, paper, and ruling, where is the love for standard letter stationary? It seems that of all the FP related products letter stationary seems to have fallen behind or at least hasn’t had an update in awhile. I’m not sure when Goulet.com added a new stationary product, but it seems like the stationary line has remained stagnant for awhile (minus the addition of the Goulet notecards). Are there any new things coming out for letter writing stationary or is it just the same old same old? #gouletqa

  • my observation is that the stationery industry as a whole takes a little longer to release new things, for whatever reason
  • paper companies seem to be on a more extended timeline than pen and ink companies
  • there is some more creative stuff, but it’s really hard to show that stuff online, which is why we tend to stick with a standard set of regularly desirable paper products
  • we’ve tested and tried all kinds of stuff over the years, but little of it “sticks”
  • it’s a TON of work to photograph, and even then, is hard to tell apart from each other
  • paper shows so much better in person, so I think the vast majority of paper companies focus more on B&M stores
  • the preferences spread out so far and wide, paper is heavy, expensive, and hard to show, it’s just a tough thing to translate online
  • our paper largely hasn’t grown with us in several years, it’s pretty well plateaued, so we aren’t dying to expand it because of all these hurdles

Business

4) inkyesther- Instagram (20:06)

Will the carbon fiber Nighthawk ever come back? And/or are you going to continue collaborative designs with Conklin? What about with a huge brand like Pilot? You bring so much to the industry in terms of knowing what consumers really want.

  • Nighthawk? It’s possible, but nothing is in the works. The Conklin Nighthawk was a revival of it and we only did a special run of that. It could come back, possibly
  • We are looking to work more with Conklin in the future
  • Pilot‘s a HUGE brand, and really doesn’t do any retailer collaborations outside of Japan. That’d be a dream for me, to do a collaborative pen with Pilot, but we’re so far off that, really. The quantities they’d need would be insane, if they were even willing to consider it
  • More designs and collaborations are surely something of interest for us here, and we’ll do them as often as is practical and we can create something you’d love

5) @CalvinLimuel13- Twitter (24:56)

Do you consider selling some of your stock on Amazon? Thought this might be an expansion that might be good, or not? I follow some other brands (not pens) that sell on their own websites but also have some of their products on Amazon.

  • No, I have basically no interest here
  • I know people who run entire businesses selling products on Amazon
  • those are usually high-margin items purchased from overseas, though
  • Amazon takes a pretty significant cut of whatever you sell, and you have to take back all returns and refunds, cover shipping, etc
  • it ends up not being very practical for a niche, established business like ours
  • it also is algorithm driven in a way that encourages Amazon Prime and FBA, which take even more margin away
  • it can be a good option for companies that have house brands, or sell exclusive products that can’t be found easily elsewhere, but for us it’s not likely to be an economical option anytime soon

6) thegratitudelog- Instagram (28:47)

Running a business takes an incredible amount of hard work and drive, and even when things go well there are plenty of challenges and bumps along the way. What are some of the biggest setbacks you’ve faced with running your business, how did you overcome them, and were there ever any times you thought you / the business wouldn’t be able to recover? I love hearing more of the business side of things and would be curious to know your take on overcoming those inevitable roadblocks.

  • Oh gosh, I could spend a year talking about this!
  • I do not exaggerate when I say there are setbacks every single day
  • Website issues, people stuff, product defects, software/hardware things, physical facilities issues, it’s basically two steps forward one step back every single day
  • Some of the hardest stuff was personal stuff, like making some of our first hires, having to transition when key people left, or having some pretty hefty personal stuff going on in me and Rachel’s life
  • Two years ago was really really rough, when we got pregnant and lost our third child
  • We had to immediately start thinking of contingency plans for covering Rachel’s role, moving towards that, then we lost our child
  • that was devastating, emotionally and physically, and Rachel needed follow up surgery due to complications only a few months later
  • I never 100% felt like we were in trouble, but the though absolutely crossed my mind of “what if Rachel wasn’t a part of this anymore?”, would we be able to sustain, and would I even want to do it without her? That was pretty much the pits, having to work through that
  • Aside from that personal trauma, I honestly have never felt that anything we faced we wouldn’t be able to recover
  • We’re pretty conservative in our growth, actually, and we don’t take careless risks, so we have savings, backups, and contingency plans for all realistic scenarios
  • We’ve had to move our business several times, manage two growing kids while working (AT WORK for several years), see our way through periods of rapid expansion, hard turnover, website migration, it’s been really, really stressful all along the way
  • Retail is hard, I don’t care what or how you do it, it’s a grind and you have to love the slow climb to really be able to sustain it longterm
  • The best thing to overcoming the obstacles is understanding that setbacks and obstacles aren’t holding you back from you doing your work, they ARE the work that you’re doing! Easily 90% of my time is spent fixing things, solving problems, or thinking ahead at how to avoid or plan for problems that are coming.
  • It’s not something I get upset about, it’s something I embrace as one of the most important parts about my job, I get to be creative and solve complicated and meaningful problems every single day
  • Sometimes it wears me down, because it’s hard stuff and not everyone’s cut out for it…but I’ve never once doubted if I was cut out for it
  • That doesn’t mean I’ll be successful forever, and my situation can change in the future, but I will embrace new challenge as it comes, Thy Will Be Done

QOTW: What was the most meaningful birthday you’ve had? (42:53)

Write On,
Brian Goulet