Monday, January 25, 2021

Inventory is Done, What Now?


It's official, inventory is done. For the past three Fridays I’ve been coming in, counting one section of our warehouse, verifying numbers, then updating our inventory software. It’s usually a process that takes a few days, but in the past, we’ve done it during a week when we were still actively shipping out product. This year, I chose to do all of the counting and updating on Fridays when we weren’t open. It was beneficial because I had the run of the shop and could really buckle down and get deep into the shelves, but it took far longer than I expected. That being said, I’m glad to be finished and now I can actively focus on the rest of my LONG list of things I need to accomplish before we get much further into the year. So, what’s on my list of things to get done? I’m so glad you asked.

The first three months of the year have the framework of a plan in terms of releases and production timelines. The next few weeks will revolve around me finalizing a lot of this framework and getting a more detailed plan in place. I’ll start pulling raw pens and prepping them to be sent out to anodize for the next two months of special release products. While I’m doing that, I’ll also be pulling pens for our production lines in colors that are currently out of stock or low stock. Some anodize items left last week, but the majority of it will be sent out in the next 10 days.

While this is going on, we’ll sit down for a yearly meeting looking at the pricing matrix, wholesale request list, and wholesale pricing sheet. Since we’ve moved to a new website and updated pricing when that was conducted in May 2020, we don’t expect many changes in our pricing. That being said, products that we source from other vendors (nibs, clickers, refills, etc) may see an increase since most of those vendors have also conducted their yearly price increase as well. We are looking forward to expanding our wholesale partnerships to some small brick and mortar shops around the United States. Any time someone that owns a physical store wants to dedicate some real estate to our products, we’re excited to start a relationship. We have several on the list right now that look like stellar opportunities to us.

I’ll spend much of the next week diving deep into the well of creativity for a variety of reasons. I’ve got two upcoming Vertex Special Releases to name and get lid logos drawn up. We’re getting closer to the February release of the Karas Kreepers items and while I’ve done the preliminary research, putting it all together will take a bit of time. I’m hoping to plan out the next four weeks of the Monday Morning Blog, and keep up with this planning schedule, it just helps me avoid writer’s block. With that, I also need to flesh out some of the newsletter features a little better. While I have an idea of where I want to go with many of them, I frequently don’t have much more than a simple outline drawn up for the feature. Having a list of plug-and-play topics to cover would be massively helpful in terms of my brain, the goal is to get a list of topics that I can just pull from instead of sitting in front of a computer screen hoping to have a “eureka moment”. Cross your fingers this actually happens; it will make for much better content and a saner writer as well.

Lastly, I’ll be reaching out to some vendors we work with to get orders put in for a variety of things. Reordering bottled fountain pen ink is high on the list. Followed by contacting Vince at Turner’s Workshop to get another order of resin rods put in. I’m looking at adding a different refill to our rollerball pen options, and I’ll be testing different refills in the coming weeks. Gee and I will do a brainstorming session to come up with some new sticker ideas. And I’ll start putting pen to paper on a new small series release that I’m planning for summer 2021. It’s going to be a whirlwind these next couple of weeks, hopefully, I’ve got the stamina to get it done!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Q & A: Catching Up On Some Older Questions


Q: “Any chance to get a metal roller ball version of the Vertex?” – JH

A: We are in fact looking at potentially machining the Vertex out of metal at some point this year. They won’t specifically be limited to rollerball refills since the Vertex can be used with a converter, so they’ll likely be sold as both rollerball and fountain pen versions. But if all things shake out, we’ll have a small batch of metal Vertexes available before the end of 2021.


Q: “Have you considered making wooden writing instruments?” – JA

A: We’ve looked at machining stabilized wood and other materials, but even if we were to do something like that it would be in very limited quantities likely as a Limited Edition similar to the Pony Express pen we released last year. Part of the reason for not moving forward on this is that there are some amazing pen makers using predominantly wood as their medium when it comes to pens. Ryan Krusac immediately comes to mind. We’ve often been shared Pen Show floorspace with Ryan and his work is some of the best out there. Another pen maker that uses wood frequently is Troy Clark from Brute Force Designs, again making really quality pens. We consider both Ryan and Troy friends, and at this point in lieu of making a Karas Pen Co pen out of wood, we’d refer you to either of these pen makers.


Q: “Is there a possibility of carbon fiber or titanium being used in the future?” – Too many to list

A: While we don’t have plans to use carbon fiber any time soon, we’re not ruling out adding titanium or other materials in the future. Last year we branched out and added bronze in a limited edition pen, we plan on machining a few other pen models out of bronze this year in an attempt to add some variety to the Kustoms Line of pens. We do look at adding materials, especially to the Kustoms Line, at the beginning of the year when we do our initial planning phase, and we reevaluate those plans throughout the year. As soon as we officially decide on what materials we plan on adding, we’ll start teasing stuff to the Pen Club members and likely show off finished pens a week or so before their release dates via Facebook, Instagram, and the Karas Pen Co Newsletter.


Q: “Will the shipwreck pens be stocked on a regular basis?” – Z

A: While we don’t plan on them being a regular addition, we are hoping to partner with Mr. Knox again this year for some small-batch releases. Likely towards the summer if everything pans out, and we can get a batch of raw pens over to him. We’ve had a lot of requests for them since we sold through them, bringing them back in a limited fashion seems appropriate for something special this year.


Q: “What’s your favorite pen product you’ve released?” – AL

A: I think this question would have a different answer depending on who you asked around the shop. That being said, my favorite pen would be the Vertex. It’s the most comfortable pen for me to use, it’s equally as functional as a fountain pen as it is a rollerball. It is nearly as quick to deploy as a click pen. It comfortably fits in my pocket as well. A close second would be the Retrakt, but this is a recent addition of mine as I formerly disliked it. But with a ringed grip and a Pilot Precise refill it’s a really great pen, and one I keep at my desk all the time.


While we wait to get the video studio back up and running, I’ll continue to randomly pull unanswered questions from older Q&A forms, but if you have a question we’ve added a new 2021 Q&A form HERE. Please feel free to ask your questions and I’ll strive to get to all of them eventually.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

2021: A Look Ahead


It’s just over a week into the new year and we’re off to a rocking start. We’ve caught up on all of the orders made over our holiday vacation. The machines are all back up and running; cranking out parts for the production run of Retraktable pencils, working on the 2021 Vertex pens, and working onout of stock items like brass Render K V2s. We’ve been hard at work planning out the next 6 months as specifically as possible and here’s a quick breakdown of what we hope to get accomplished this year.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sending out Retraktable pencils to select reviewers in the world of writing instrument blogging/vlogging. This is a push to get them to reviewers 45-60 days before the productions release. We are hoping to be able to launch the Retraktable Standard in early March, with the Retraktable Slim slated for early April. Our prototype batches of both the Standard and Slim models were extremely well received, and we only identified two minor, internal changes that need to be made to the production versions.

We made some changes to how we manufacture Vertex pens this year which will allow us to spread the releases out over a longer period of time while decreasing the time taken to machine each part of the pen. Our sanding and polishing process has also been revamped to increase the finished quality of the pens by adding several steps along the process. While it’s a bit more time consuming the finished product is far superior to what we’ve seen before. We’ve already finished machining the first Vertex Special Release of 2021 and will be sanding and polishing them this month, looking to release them in February.

Though we’re taking a break from the Karas Kreepers releases this month, we’ll return to them in February with a few more Notebook/Sticker sets and a pen release. We’ll visit Rhode Island, Michigan, Colorado, and Alaska plus a few other states; bringing you the creepiest cryptids around.

We’ll expand the Speed Groove Bolt V2 and EDK V2 pens this year. While this does mean temporarily retiring the GroovEDK and pushing back the re-release of the Fluted Bolt V2 and Fluted EDK V2 pens; it means we can focus on getting a larger batch of the Speed Groove pens ready for release. We have plans to feature one Speed Groove Bolt V2 special edition as a Pen Club Exclusive this year with custom anodize colorway, but there will be several releases straight to the website.

We are actively looking at adding some new materials this year to the Kustoms Line pens. While this addition will most likely be in the form of Limited Edition pens similar to the Pony Express anniversary INK we released in 2020, we do hope to increase the size of these Limited Editions this year. We’ll test a few materials in Q1 and Q2 2021, and push for releases in Q3 and Q4. We’re excited to expand our Kustoms Line to include some new materials and get a fresh look at some of our classic designs.

We’re pushing hard to prototype two new pens this year; something we’ve never done before. The basic function of one pen has already been laid out, it’s been on our sketchbooks for nearly two years now. Sometimes it’s just hard to get a project off the ground when there are so many other things going on. But we think we can successfully work on finalizing that product and get deep into another prototype process before the end of the year. Karas Pen Club Members will have some sneak peeks at much of this process as we move through it.

There are plans for some mini special release series this year. Somewhat similar to the Camp Karas and Karas Kreepers series’, these mini-series will feature 2-4 releases with some corresponding products and custom curated stickers and other materials. We’ve been brainstorming some cool ideas and we’re excited to see a few of them come to fruition. We hope to get the first of these mini-series done over the summer with a second in mid-fall.

Giveaways are on the horizon specifically giveaways via the newsletter. Our Instagram is our most successful giveaway avenue, but we’ll be adding a few giveaways to our main newsletter subscribers plus a few special giveaways to the Karas Pen Club members via the Club newsletter. Most of the items featured in the giveaways will be old special edition, limited edition, or small batch product that are remaining but not available on the website. It’s an opportunity to get a pen or other product that we haven’t sold in quite some time to add to your collection.

The Karas SWAP (Student Writing and Arts Program) is still our ongoing community assistance program, based around sending out pens to students in writing or arts classes. The attached form can be completed by teachers that feel their students could benefit from this program, and we’ll be going through the entrants with an eye to get the first batch of 250+ pens out by the end of spring.

There are numerous other plans and ideas in the works for 2021. I could fill pages based on a few of our meetings, but this list encapsulates our Tier One goals for 2021, the bigger priorities in terms of what we want to accomplish this year. Sure, there will be a lot of behind-the-scenes work and as always, a lot of adapting to changes and problems that come up throughout the year. We’ll remain flexible so that we can address issues as they come up, but this is where we’re at as of the second week of January 2021.