It started off as a hobby.
Greg Hooper, who grew up learning how to woodwork from his dad, received a lathe late last year.
And shortly after getting this gift, a visitor stopped into his uncle’s lumber yard in Holly, where Hooper works.
“A gentleman came into the lumber yard with a wooden pen,” said Hooper, who is studying entrepreneurial management through the School of Management (SOM). “I asked him how he made it, where he got the wood, and got the parts.”
The answers intrigued him so Hooper put his new lathe to good use.
His dad, a carpenter, taught him the art of woodworking through the years, including jewelry boxes, cabinets, and chairs. But this became Greg’s first foray into crafting pens.
“The way you are able to shape the wood, it almost is like an art form,” Hooper said. “You start with a block of wood and a pen comes out of it.”
Hooper started bringing his creations to school, showing them to colleagues at the UM-Flint Entrepreneurs Society.
“I showed them all my pens without the intention of making money,” he said. “You don’t really make money at hobbies.”
But his fellow students, and SOM’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Michael Witt, encouraged him to consider marketing his talents.
“He is a mentor. He is the pusher,” Hooper said about Witt, who has mentored him about business ideas for two years.
Witt said Hooper is willing to consider many business concepts.
“He is thoughtful, curious, and practical,” Witt said.
After his discussions with Witt and his fellow students, Hooper’s mindset about the pens changed.
“Since people like them, maybe I can sell them,” Hooper said about his new attitude.
This summer, Hooper suffered a broken leg and dislocated a knee in a car accident.
An avid runner, Hooper found himself laid up recuperating and looking for a way to transfer his energy to something else.
“I decided to do something constructive with my time and make pens,” he said.
Using his father’s woodshed, he ordered exotic woods such as marble, zebrawood, ebony, and purpleheart from another lumber company, and domestic wood like oak, walnut, and maple from his uncle’s business. He formed Scholarly Pens and set up an Etsy site, Facebook page, and Instagram account to sell his products. He also makes acrylic pens, which have proven popular.
Hooper said he learned the desire and details of running a business from his studies and professors at UM-Flint.
“The classes, and my mentors, have given me the drive to want to start this pen-selling business, “ he said.
Hooper said all proceeds from his pen sales go towards paying his college tuition. The pens’ sale price ranges from $15 to $50. He makes fountain pens, mechanical pencils, roller ball pens, and ballpoint pens.
“I worked my way through college,” Hooper said. “Any money I make goes to school.”
Hooper, who returns to classes this fall, said he’s looking forward to brainstorming with the Entrepreneurs Society about how to expand his business opportunities, including selling the pens on campus.
“They are so unique and different,” Hooper said about the pens. “You feel you are getting a nice pen.”
Paula Nas, a lecturer of economics and director for the Center for Economic Education, has had Hooper as a student in two of her classes.
“Greg is the kind of student that every professor wants to have in class because of his enthusiasm for learning and his positive attitude,” Nas said. “Greg was in my morning class, and there were days when understandably many students were trying their best to stay awake, and in his usual fashion Greg was attentive, smiling, and asking and answering questions, completely engaged in the lecture and discussion, making the most of the situation all the time.”
Nas said Hooper remained upbeat, even after his accident.
“Greg is truly the epitome of the UM-Flint student,” she said. “His attitude, resilience, and ability are remarkable, and I have no doubt he will always be successful in his business career and the community.”