Faced with the challenge of how to increase production while maintaining the handmade nature of its custom pens, a Hanover-based company has found a way to bring more hands into the mix.
Turning Point Pen Co. has shifted to a contractor model, utilizing several remote, regular contributors for pen manufacturing with plans to add around five more.
It marks a major change for founder and owner Michael Kahwajy-Hyland, who had previously made all of the company’s pens himself.
Kahwajy-Hyland, who has transitioned into a designer role at his company, said the new remote production model benefits both sides of the production equation: it eases the company’s recruitment efforts and provides more flexibility and a professional framework for the pen makers.
“My passion shifted from the craft itself to building the business around it. That’s where I saw the opportunity to work with others in my craft and fill each other’s gaps through collaboration,” said Kahwajy-Hyland, who will still occasionally craft pens.
The company’s pens currently start at around $600 and can cost upwards of five figures. The company makes custom pieces and also small limited-edition runs of different styles.
In addition to individual clients, Turning Point has corporate clients, who order multiple pens as client appreciation gifts or other uses. Turning Point started to take on corporate clients in 2018 and plans to expand that side of its business.
“We’re doing more and more larger projects. When I say larger I mean 20 to 50 pens. We have a lot of corporate clients coming to us since we began communicating how these pieces are some of the best strategic gifts a business can use,” he said.
After Turning Point receives a customer’s order, Kahwajy-Hyland creates a design for the pen with the customer’s input. Then the job is made available to a contractor who has the know-how and equipment to complete the majority of the project. The contractor can then choose to accept the project.
Contractors send their completed pens to the company, where final touches are made, the pens go through quality control, and then get shipped to customers.
Contractors are paid per project. Kahwajy-Hyland declined to elaborate further on rates.
“These craftspeople generally have established lives and routines outside of the craft, so operating on a project/contract basis gives them freedom and flexibility while still benefiting from working with us,” he said.
Turning Point has filled more orders in the time since it launched the contractor model compared to the first half of last year, Kahwajy-Hyland said. He declined to provide specific production numbers.
The contractor model was formally launched in mid-May, after being developed during the pandemic years. In addition to Kahwajy-Hyland, the company has one other full-time employee — an operations head based in California.
“Through 2020 and 2021, the pandemic and recession and other stuff, I learned so much about business and so much about everything else that it inspired me to grow the company,” Kahwajy-Hyland said. He founded the company in late 2017 and runs it from his Hanover home.
Kahwajy-Hyland said one of his favorite creations so far is the pen he made in 2019 for Kehinde Wiley, the artist behind the Rumors of War statue on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
The pen took four months to complete. It features soil and other materials from local historic sites and imported African horse hair among other features.
“I personally went to all of the sites: Lumpkin’s Jail, Leigh Street Armory and the (J.E.B Stuart) statue and gathered soil and brick and dirt from those sites, dried it and suspended it in a clear resin (in the pen’s viewing window),” he said. ‘That piece is the most inspiring piece I’ve done so far. The vast amount of meaning it has excites me to this day.”
The company intends to open a brick-and-mortar store in the future, though Kahwajy-Hyland declined to share details of those plans.