Dylan Thompson-Mackay was in high school when he got his first taste of entrepreneurship—even though he didn’t really know it at the time. It was thanks to a pen he’d innocently made in woodshop
that happened to catch the attention of the right person on the golf course.
“A banker from Toronto tried to buy it for $50,” says Thompson-Mackay of his school project, something all the kids in his class had been tasked with making. “By the end of his round of golf
he’d offered me $200 for it. I never sold it to him. I still have it.”
It wasn’t a straight and simple route that landed the young maker in the pen
world—he was only chipping away in woodshop because the high school IB program didn’t work out for him, which in turn cost him a scholarship to university. When the academic path he thought was right for him disappeared, he forged ahead, re-set and re-wrote his story.
“Then I went to NSCC for business and kept hearing the word entrepreneur over and over again,” says Thompson-Mackay. “I’m from Pictou County and pretty much everyone and their dog works at Michelin or the pulp mill and I didn’t really have an understanding that you could start your own business.”
Now he’s launched Elwood Pens, named for his grandfather, a man who struggled with addictions before righting his course. The business has grown from Thompson-Mackay making wooden pens in his uncle’s garage (and then in a 70-square-foot shed) to a retail space and workshop at 1574 Argyle Street that celebrated its grand opening this week. His aim is to make top-quality, handmade, personalized gifts for tourists and locals alike, and to operate as a social enterprise, with five percent
of Elwood’s gross sales going back to non-profits that have made an impact on his life, like Big Brothers Big Sisters. At just 22, Thompson-Mackay has lots of plans keep challenging himself as well as the local market.
“The tagline is ‘Write your own story’”, he says. “I want to inspire others to create their own narrative.”