Apr 2nd 2019
Pens made with 30-caliber bullets may sound exotic, but these are not the only unique pens John Cramer Jr. has learned to make. The Washington State native makes pens out of several different types of woods, acrylics and other materials, including one pen made of shredded money.
Cramer’s father taught him how to craft pens when he was a young teen. His father, who enjoys woodworking, learned how to make pens from a friend and decided to pass the skill along. That year, Cramer’s mother bough him a lathe, a machine for shaping wood and other materials, for Christmas.
Making pens started out as a hobby. However, Cramer first thought about selling pens to make money when he visited Washington, D.C., with cousins. Cramer said he realized he did not have any spending money for the trip, just enough to get there and back. Since he had more pens than he needed, he decided to go door-to-door to sell them. Later, he started thinking about how selling pens could help with more than just providing spending money.
Cramer started his business, Stylo Ink, while he was finishing high school. According to an article by radio station 770 KTTH, Cramer said he would use the profits from his business to help pay for his college education at Liberty University in addition to working other jobs. He decided he wanted to graduate college without debt after his parents taught him what they were learning in a financial course written by Dave Ramsey.
From the beginning, Cramer has balanced running a business with school and other responsibilities. In high school, he completed the Running Start program, which involved taking classes at Everett Community College. This enabled Cramer to graduate from both Lake Stevens High School and Everett Community College in June 2018, according to Everett Community College’s website.
During this time, Cramer participated in other activities, including symphony, Tae Kwon Do and competitive sports. He also continued to grow his business and hone the craft of penmaking, learning to experiment with different materials. During these years, Cramer learned several lessons about managing time. One of the most important lessons he learned was to cut extra activities.
“I realized that I wanted to focus on my education, inspiring others and also my personal development,” Cramer said.
Cramer has continued to keep a busy schedule in college. In addition to taking residential classes as a full-time student and running his business, Cramer works as a server at Olive Garden over the weekends. Mondays, he runs meetings and events as the director of operations and events for the Center for Entrepreneurship. Cramer is also a community group leader on his hall. His duties involve leading a Bible study and attending Campus Community on Wednesday evenings. With all these responsibilities throughout the week, Cramer focuses on his homework and business Tuesdays and Thursdays.
In addition to keeping up with his responsibilities, Cramer prioritizes spending time to relax and unwind. Cramer enjoys swing dancing, salsa dancing and waltzing as well as watching movies with friends or playing ping-pong and pool.
Cramer runs his business with three core values – faith, family and helping others. He first wrote out these values during an interview at his first job when his interviewer gave him a sticky note with three dots on it and asked him to write down his three core values.
“No one had ever asked me that question before,” Cramer said.
The man told Cramer to evaluate all his decisions based on his core values. The advice stuck with him.
One of the ways he uses his business to help others is by giving fellow students the opportunity to earn community service credit by working with him. Cramer tailors each student’s work at Stylo Ink to build skills that will benefit them in their planned careers. During the fall 2018 semester, some students helped him with inventory management, photography and other areas. One student even posed as a hand model with the pens. This semester, a journalism student is performing market research and developing a strategy for promoting the story of the company.
James McCraw began working with Cramer last semester to earn community service credit by helping with inventory management. He has also helped with research and marketing.
“He’s (John) one to really seek out and help other people,” McCraw said.
As a Business Administration major, McCraw said he wanted to work with someone practicing entrepreneurship. Through working with Cramer at Stylo Ink, McCraw said he has learned the importance of patience and a “cool head” and being willing to do the tasks others are not willing to do, traits he says are important for an entrepreneur to be successful. Watching the way Cramer networks with friend and the people he meets has also given him insight into new ways to network.
“Some entrepreneurs can be very self-focused because they are successful,” McCraw said. “All he wants to do is help others. He’s very selfless.”
Cramer also offers advice to other entrepreneurs. One of the most important pieces of advice he tries to pass on is the importance of perseverance. In order to persevere, having the right mindset is important, he says.
“Each failure that you have is not a plateau,” Cramer said. “It is more something that can propel you to future success.”
In addition to offering advice and opportunities for others, Cramer donates some of his business profits to plant trees. For every pen sold, a tree is planted through OneTreePlanted, according to the Stylo Ink website.
Cramer also uses his business to help fund his education at Liberty. In addition to coming to Liberty with enough credits to be considered a second-semester junior, Cramer decided to join the Three Plus One accelerated program through the School of Business to complete his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree at the same time. According to Liberty University’s website, this program allows business students to start working on their master’s degree after their third year of undergraduate studies.
By taking summer classes, Cramer is scheduled to earn his degrees in Entrepreneurship and International Business by spring 2020 and his master’s in Business and Administration by fall 2020.
After graduation, Cramer hopes to start or work for an international business and start other business ventures.
“I know that God is going to call me to start other businesses as long as I stick to my three core values of helping others, developing my faith and staying in contact with my family,” Cramer