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Lake Stevens teen makes pens to pay for college

Courtesy photo from John Cramer Jr.

Most teenagers considering how to pay for college figure they’ll get help from their parents, maybe a rich uncle, or financial aid. John Cramer Jr. is different.

The Lake Stevens 17-year-old is taking things into his own pen-making hands.

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Cramer is a student at Lake Stevens High School as well as a Running Start student at Everett Community College, and he sells the pens he makes himself at Stylo-Ink.com.

“My goal for my business is to make everyone feel unique about themselves,” Cramer told 770 KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “Because when you get complimented from someone you don’t know, it just brings up a self-esteem in you, it makes you feel good.”

Cramer starts with raw materials, like wood or acrylic blocks and planks. Then he drills, cuts, measures, lathes — along with many other steps — until he eventually ends up with a pen.

“The process of doing all this, with sanding and polishing and putting the parts together, takes hours at a time,” Cramer said.

Stylo Ink pens cost anywhere from $40 and $100, and he’s saving all the profits in a college fund. He knows what he wants to study, but he’s still figuring out where.

“Business and administration, entrepreneurial studies is the goal right now,” Cramer said. “Because of the direct transfer agreement with Everett Community College, I have to stay in Washington state if I want to start as a junior, rather than starting as a freshman. So I’m just trying to figure out which college best suits my needs.”

Because Cramer has to balance his business with his school work, he doesn’t make every single pen by himself anymore.

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“I ended up having to ask my dad to see if he could help me make some of the pens,” Cramer said. “That way, while I am doing all my studies, I still have inventory coming in.”

He says this has been an important learning experience too, though. Once Cramer graduates he hopes to expand the employee base to groups that could use the work, like veterans, retirees or even other high schoolers.

“We got rid of trade schools a long time ago and I think it was one of the biggest mistakes,” Cramer said, “because now you have the dilemma of high school students trying to go and get a job, but you can’t get that job unless you have experience. This way high school students learn the art of woodworking which they can take anywhere they go.”

You can listen to the full interview here.

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