Today’s featured interview is with Colleen Shea of Pen Company of America, a Zazzle Maker partner that has been creating writing implements here in the US for over 50 years.
Hi, Colleen! Tell us a little about you.
I am the oldest of four siblings; three of us work for Pen Company of America. I live in Cranford, NJ which I can happily say is 5 minutes from our factory in Garwood, NJ. I was born and raised in Westfield, NJ which is also 5 minutes from the factory in the opposite direction.
I didn’t always work in the family business. I am a former professional tap dancer. I lived in France for 4 years where I was with a dance company and traveled throughout France teaching tap. I still love this art form, teaching 4 classes a week to up and coming dancers. On the total opposite side of the spectrum I am an avid fisherman. The Northeast has an excellent salt and freshwater fishery. I have caught everything from sea bass, flounder, and salmon to Yellowfin and Bluefin tuna.
I have 3 children (ages 12, 15, 25), 2 dogs (a bulldog and rescue pitbull mix), a gecko, 2 fish tanks and a very patient boyfriend of 10 years.
How did the Pen Company of America get started? What is your background that led you to this business/creating custom products?
My great-grandfather manufactured fountain pen tips starting in the 1920’s. In the 1950’s with the introduction of mass produced ballpoint writing cartridges, my grandfather began injection molding plastic components to house the writing cartridge. For the next 5 decades the Shea family continued to manufacture plastic parts for pens and markers in the USA. When most other major pen manufacturers moved offshore in the 1990’s and 2000’s, we remained dedicated to keeping our manufacturing in the USA.
As the industry began looking towards full service manufacturers, we began assembling our own product In the early 2000’s. We added printing and packaging services over the last 15 years to truly become a one-stop source for custom USA Made writing instruments. I guess you could say that making writing instruments is in my blood. I’ve been around it since I can remember.
What’s the best or most interesting part of your job?
The best part of my job is working with my family every day. My two brothers, father, and son-in-law all work at Pen Company of America daily. We have a “no pen talk” policy at family functions.
I love the challenge of keeping manufacturing in the US. It takes dedication, innovation and creativity to compete in an industry such as ours.
Can you tell us a little bit about the printing process for the custom Pen Company of America pens on Zazzle?
For our Zazzle products, PCA uses a direct to print method to directly imprint right onto our pen barrels. Since we mold all the plastic pieces, we are able to print on the entire surface of the barrel prior to assembly. This gives Zazzle customers the largest possible customizable surface as compared to a tradition silk screen pen which is imprinted post-assembly.
If you were to design your own custom pen, what would it look like?
I would probably do a “2015 Memories” pen. I would do a collage of memorable family moments from 2015. Events, funny sayings, pictures from this past year. Things my family and I experienced together. That would make a great pen for me to put in everyone’s Christmas stocking as the year winds down!
Do you have any tips for creating designs for Pen Company of America pens on Zazzle?
First, I have to say that Zazzle designers have done a fantastic job creating designs for our pen! There seems to be something for everybody here.
I would encourage designers to take advantage of the trim colors that we offer. Those plastic pieces can really accent your design. I would tell small businesses, who may not have a graphics department, to use Zazzle’s great design tool to create a custom company pen. Upload your company logo art, add your name/phone/website/etc, and presto, you have just created your own advertising tool!
But most of all, I would say have fun with it. I love seeing the pens that we make through Zazzle. Each one is so personal and means something to the person who created it.
What would your personal pen look like?