Cult Pens started from a stationery shop in Dartmouth. People coming into the shop were excited to find some of the unusual pens they found once before and loved, but couldn’t get in the big shops. We’ve grown a bit over the years, with our range now standing at over 22,000 products. We were especially proud to win the Customer Award at the Internet Retail Awards back in 2014, beating such giants as ASOS, Ocado, Lovehoney and John Lewis.
Specifically, the Pilot G-Tec C4 was a favourite for a lot of people, who had once got one, then couldn’t get hold of them again. Simon and Amanda realised they could set up an online shop too, and people who were far from Dartmouth could get them too. So they did. And they did.
While we do stock many of the most commonly seen pens and pencils, a large percentage of our range is usually very hard to find. We import things from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the USA, and all around the world, that are not usually seen in the UK.
Cult Pens is based in Tiverton, in Devon. It’s a nice little town, with a canal and lots of rivers. Occasionally ducks decide to sit on our lawn, even though we’re in the middle of a business park. A snowy egret once spent a couple of hours relaxing in the oak tree outside our windows.
We once became a bit unexpectedly famous when Nigella Lawson blogged about her favourite pen, and pointed to us to get them. Suddenly all the UK’s stock of one reasonably unknown Japanese pen in a specific colour was flying out of our doors. Sadly, it was discontinued later. We’ve had orders from a few celebrities, but we’re not going to name any others - got to respect that client/pen shop confidentiality. Plus, I once made the mistake at a previous job of telling people I’d just spoken to Jenny Agutter. I was told by one colleague that if it happened again, he would happily kill me to take the call. She was very nice.
Five You Probably Didn’t Know
We once sponsored a rugby team. Being from Widnes, Amanda is a big fan of the Widnes Vikings, and it had long been her dream to sponsor a match - we finally made it, and we have a framed rugby kit with our logo, from the match.
We’ve grown a lot over the years, but Simon and Amanda planned ahead and rented a building space that was way bigger than we needed at the time. Might have been very optimistic, or perhaps more likely, took what was available. To start with, we used one room for everything. We spread out as we filled the space, into four rooms downstairs. In a stroke of luck, just as that was becoming really tight, the company upstairs moved out, so we took on the other floor of the building, and spread out into twice the space. It’s all pretty full now.
Related to that, in the early days, we got Royal Mail to collect our packages, and they popped round once a day with a little van. Now they have to bring the local office’s biggest vans, and make two trips a day. Posties are generally a cheerful bunch, though, so it’s nice to have more visits from them.
There’s a city called London. It’s in the county of Middlesex, and it’s on the River Thames. In Canada. That’s not really relevant to this, but it’s interesting. Wikipedia.
We have our own custom game of Mon... er. A generic property trading game. It was made for us by International Ridicule, who make custom boards for anything you want, along with fan games for all sorts of films, TV shows and bands. We have pencil sharpeners for player pieces, shelves and drawer units for houses and hotels, and pen ranges for properties. Most of the cards are silly in jokes.
Five You Almost Certainly Didn’t Know
At our Christmas parties, we used to play a game. Someone started with “I went shopping at Cult Pens and I bought...” and named a product beginning with ‘A’. The next person had to recite the same, but adding something beginning with ‘B’. And so on. As we got more people, it became a bit unwieldy, especially if the party was somewhere other people were too - not so bad in a private room. You’d end up with something like with “I went shopping at Cult Pens and I bought an Atoma notebook, a bottle of Diamine Burnt Sienna, a Copic Sketch in Frost Blue, ... J, J, er, Jotter!”
Sales reps can be entertaining. Naming no names, an employee once reversed into a rep’s car. Reps who talked to Simon and ignored Amanda didn’t usually get very far. And one set off our fire alarm by setting off the emergency button when trying to get out to get something from his car. It took quite a while for us to work out how to stop it again - it’s not easy to think when there’s a fire alarm going off in the room!
We almost have our own language. Grr Boggle Grr when we’re angry, Chacking is the combination of checking an order someone has picked, and packing it for posting. Chit Chits are biscuits, so brushing biscuit crumbs off yourself is Doing the Chit Chit Dance. The Cavalry is the team of office staff who double up as part of the ‘operations’ team to help with picking and packing orders at busy times. The only problem is it sounds too much like ‘carvery’, so it makes us hungry. Maybe when The Fisherman’s Cot opens up again.
We name the different rooms we have stock kept in as sectors. Sector 3 is downstairs, Sector 4 is upstairs. It just sounded good, a bit sci-fi. We also have one room upstairs with open slats instead of windows, which is just called ‘The Cold Room’ - only used for storing stuff that won’t be hurt by getting cold. No precious pens or pencils are allowed in there!
The number 222 has some sort of significance for us, but none of us can really explain how it came to be. Picking boxes are numbered, and box 222 became ‘222, come on and do the conga’, picking in a conga line. Doing the conga didn’t really scale well as we grew, but the number remained important to us.