Category Archives: Thoughts

What Your Kids Can Teach You About Business

I have always believed that lifelong learning is the best way to improve upon one’s behaviors, ideas, and ultimate goals in life. Throughout my life, I was taught many lessons that I still carry with me because they have helped teach me how to conduct myself within society and within many different business cultures. These particular lessons are ones that I wanted to pass on to others, as well as my own daughter. Personally having a daughter has lent itself to many new eye-opening examples; I am constantly learning from her bright personality and tenacious nature. I always try to inspire her to be the best she can be, and by doing that I have learned many new things about myself and my business.

For example, I think an important lesson to teach a young person is to give back to those less fortunate than them, or those in need. Recently, the Dixon Ticonderoga Company participated in the 2016 American Heart Association’s Heart Walk that took place at the University of Central Florida (UCF). I am very pleased that the company raised over $10,000 in donations for the Association’s mission, but I am even more pleased at the fact that my employees and their families took time out of their busy schedules to attend, volunteer, and walk or run in the 5k event. I believe their involvement in each of our charities helps teach the youngest members the importance of giving back to the community.

The following childhood lessons I was taught are not only helpful in carrying out our best day-to-day lives, but they also help you to prosper within a corporate environment. These lessons are the ones that we have heard growing up, and I think it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of them to help us be our best selves and to be successful.

  • “Treat others how you want to be treated”— treat everyone with respect, and learn how to interact with different types of personalities. In order to make lasting relationships, it’s important to remain polite, kind, and approachable.
  • “Silence is golden”— make sure to sit back and listen. Don’t be reactive or defensive, but rather be proactive in your voice and behavior. Take in everything around you—sometimes the best lessons come from silence.
  • “Respect your elders”— respect those that have more experience than you—use these people as your assets for guidance and direction as you begin to navigate new cultures and environments.
  • “It’s no use crying over spilt milk”— don’t take things too personally, and don’t get too upset over a mistake you or someone else makes; there is always a solution, and all mistakes create lessons for moving forward.
  • “Do your homework”— always be prepared, and know what situation you are walking into. It says much more of a person if they are ready to go, and know why they are doing something.
  • “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”—ask away! It’s the only way you will learn from others and even yourself. Questions provide answers, and answers get you to where you need to be.
  • “Work hard, play harder”— work your hardest at anything you do, but remember to give yourself time to breathe and take some breaks. Breaks can often lead to creative thinking, or just give you the time you need to enjoy life.

Rough Seas Make Great Captains

In many ways, being a CEO of a company is like being a boat Captain. The Captain is responsible for the vessel’s safe and efficient operation, as well as being responsible for all persons on board. As CEO for Dixon Ticonderoga Company, I am in charge of ensuring that all business runs smoothly across North America. In addition, I have a management team and full staff of employees that depend on me for key decision making, strategic initiatives, and direction.

Having immense work and personal experience in the world of boating, I have learned what is needed to execute a successful trip on the water. I believe this skill is easily transferable to my role as CEO at Dixon. When I started, I had initially planned and charted my course through the art industry. As we all know, obstacles can arise at any given time. Having some years under my belt as CEO, I know all too well that things can change in an instant in the corporate world of art supplies and disrupt working synergies. The best of Captains can navigate through tough winds and high seas, just as I have throughout my time at Dixon Ticonderoga Company. I know the importance of continuing to steer the company in the right direction, and to be able to analyze and appropriately react to any unplanned events that may arise.

In the spring of 2015, Dixon acquired Maimeri, a fine art company based out of Milan, Italy that was founded in the early 1900’s by Gianni Maimeri’s family. Gianni is the current CEO and his family is still involved in the high quality paint production that has been implemented by Gianni’s grandfather. Gianni’s grandfather started the company. He was a very well-known artist, and created and mixed all the oil paints by hand to meet his satisfaction—there was nothing else on the market at the time to fulfill his professional needs. Through the acquisition, it was highly important for me to translate the amazing tradition and legacy that Maimeri carries with its name. For example, the Artisti oil paint line was developed in 1923 offering 102 different colors—the same formulation has been used for the last 94 years…wow!

As I dial into Maimeri’s fine art landscape, I begin to recognize the challenges and opportunities of my new course. There had been a long transition of integration of the line’s color products into Dixon’s systems, while trying to keep brand integrity. Finding efficiencies within our company and manufacturing systems both internally and commercially has been very important. In addition, this acquisition has been beneficial for both entities; Maimeri distribution has been maximized through this opportunity—it is now being launched globally to complement our other phenomenal products. As we continue to grow as a company, I have been fortunate enough to have access to some of the best companies and executives within the Fine Art industry. This allows me to bring new expertise into my voyage, so I am able to explore new waters, and I love being part of a company that is able to showcase phenomenal products.

My job as Dixon’s Captain requires that I apply my knowledge and leadership skills to make sure the company delivers and receives the best value possible. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the inclusion of a company and all its products, and I need to be able to rely and count on my support staff and crew to navigate the tough winds at sea. I am proud to have the best people to help me, and we are taking off like a space ship! As we drive the market with new and innovative ideas, I am highly looking forward to future acquisitions to grow the company, opportunities to continue to give back to the community, and developments in products to keep our key customers happy and increase sales. The next generation in Fine Art Supplies is coming, and gunning ahead. I am excited to continue to chart through the waters ahead, and see what other hurdles come up in the very exciting, fast paced world of arts…more to come!

Father’s Day Fun

I take great pride in my role as CEO at Dixon Ticonderoga Company, but there’s another role that I take even greater pride in…being a father to my daughter. She is the light of my world, and everything that I do is for her.

The best thing about having a young daughter is she teaches me something new every day. When thinking about the new products I would like to add to our lineup of Prang Art Supplies, I constantly use her as my inspiration. She is the perfect product tester, and you better believe she is brutally honest with her critiques!

With Father’s Day just a couple of days away, I already have the perfect fun and inexpensive activity planned for us to do together. I’ll grab our Prang Markers, print off this fun mustache craft, and spend some quality time with my favorite little girl. Go to to find more crafts for you and your kids to work on together on Father’s Day or any other day.

Father’s Day isn’t just for fathers. It’s also for the kids, the moms, the grandparents, the surrogate parents, the foster parents, and the role models. The list goes on and on! Happy Father’s Day to you and all the people dear to you!

Thoughts on Louis Prang

How often does your child come home from school with a new masterpiece? As most parents do, we recognize the creativity of our young Picasso and go about our day as usual.

It’s true, we’re all busy. There is much work to be done and who really has the time to consider the makings of each and every product our children use. But, what if we took the time to learn more about the products, the craftsmanship and the history behind our beloved products?

As the CEO of Dixon Ticonderoga Company, I’m extremely proud of our rich heritage. We’re one of America’s oldest corporations, and can trace our roots back to the American Revolution. However, I’m equally proud of the history of our Prang brand, which is also over 100 years old.

Louis Prang was an American immigrant who truly believed that every child deserved an art education in order to develop their imaginations and freedom of expression. Among his other accomplishments, he was America’s first art educator, and he even invented the Artist’s Color Wheel.

Inspired by the need to teach his young daughter art, he developed non-toxic watercolors, which we continue to produce today with the same care and quality that he intended for his young daughter. Louis Prang’s name is also listed on the Statue of Liberty as an important immigrant who made significant contributions to the United States.

So, the next time my daughter comes home with a refrigerator-worthy piece of art, or when I get a moment to relish in the fact that she has picked up a package of Prang Watercolors, I will say a quick thank you to Louis Prang for creating something that is so important to her, and to me.

Our Popular Prang Watercolors

Our Popular Prang Watercolors

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

Do you have a teacher that impacted your life that truly changed the way that you see the world?

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and as I write this post, I have to pause and reflect on all the fantastic teachers that helped me get to where I am today. One remarkable teacher was Mrs. Flood, my high school English Teacher in Elizabeth City, NC.

I recently learned she passed away. When I heard the news I simply had to do something, this incredible teacher has impacted my life greatly, and because of that I felt the need to donate 100,000 Ticonderoga pencils to my high school in her honor. This week, I had the honor of speaking to the entire high school, to make sure that they understand just how much I appreciate Mrs. Flood for all the things that she did for me.

Teachers, on behalf of your students both past and present, thank you. You are appreciated – each and every day.

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Me at Northeastern High School


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Me at Northeastern High School with Mrs. Flood’s Family Members, School Board Representatives, and Ron Payne, Principal of Northeastern High School 


The Importance of Teachers

Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students.

-Solomon Ortiz


Our teachers are our nation’s greatest resource. We entrust them not only with our children’s livelihoods but also our children’s futures. America’s future success depends on our children’s ability to connect with their teachers and truly learn something new and useful each and every day.

One of my goals is always to make teachers’ lives as easy as possible. Whether it is with my own child’s teachers or those of others’, I believe that it is important to support and encourage teachers. If we do not give our teachers the assistance they require, how can we expect those teachers to be able to support our children the way our children require?

One of the ways that we help teachers at Dixon is through free teacher lesson plans. Teachers can visit our website and download lessons to go along with nearly any curriculum, whether you students are studying math or reading. All of our lesson plans are accredited and adhere to state standards.

When we support our nation’s teachers, we also support our nation’s youth. It is imperative that we focus on doing all we can for teachers that they may be better prepared to do all they can for our children.

If you’re interested in checking out our free teacher lesson plans, please click here.

Handwriting Statistics

Twenty years from now, I see my daughter, Gabriella, being happy and successful in her life’s pursuits; I consider it my duty to prepare her as much as possible for whatever future she may choose. As I watched her practicing writing recently, I decided to research the importance of handwriting. Many schools are considering removing this practice from their curriculums; however, I came across some staggering statistics that made me disagree with this. Feel free to view a few of them below, and then decide if you think handwriting should be taught in schools.

Click here to print off some free handwriting worksheets now.


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Personalizing Pencils For Any Occassion

How would you like to get a pencil this holiday season that was customized just for you? What would you want yours to say? Mine would definitely say “Stay Sharp like a Ticonderoga #2 Pencil”.   Dixon Ticonderoga Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of customized pencils, pens, markers, industrial, and arts and crafts products.

Large and small companies alike utilize our customizable pencils and other writing instruments because they know that perception is everything and our high quality products speak volumes about their brand. However, it’s not just companies like restaurants, hotels, and banks that can benefit from personalized pencils; many parents and teachers find that personalized pencils and crayons make great gifts.

I read with amusement an online message board that appealed to others to help with a personalized pencil imprinting.  A Mom was looking for advice on what saying to put on the side of some pencils she was gifting to her son’s teacher.  Obvious suggestions were the teacher’s name, the name of the school… you get the idea.  But there were some better ideas.

“Look sharp!”  “Don’t write outside the line!” “Ouch! Don’t chew on me!” were eye-catching.  But probably the most fun imprinting on a classroom pencil read “Stolen from my teacher!”  I’m guessing he or she got her pencils returned!

Personalized pencils are great gifts and stocking stuffers.  For more information regarding our Promotional Products, please visit


Keyboards Shouldn’t Replace Pencils

This week, I submitted a guest column to the Orlando Sentinel regarding the benefits of traditional pencil-to-paper learning. The ‘My Word’ column below was published on November 20.

A recent Washington Post article looked at the scramble by American educators to teach typing skills to children as young as 7. Under new national Common Core academic standards, third-grade students will be tested on computers starting next school year.

What does that mean for traditional pencil-and-paper learning? There’s a strong case to be made for keeping it around. Clearly, my company, Dixon Ticonderoga Company, benefits from the continued use of pencils in schools, but independent research shows pencil-and-paper learning is superior to keyboards in certain circumstances.

A 2009 study at the University of Washington led by Virginia Berninger found children write longer essays, faster and with more complete sentences, if they write them by hand.

In 2010, researchers at Indiana University published findings in a study on handwriting that used magnetic resonance imaging to chart brain function. The study found that children who wrote letters by hand improved their composition and expression skills, and the practice aided fine motor-skill development.

But there is an even more fundamental benefit to pencil-and-paper learning: affordable access to learning tools.

Children from all socioeconomic levels deserve not only the chance to learn but also to express what they’ve learned. Focusing early education on typing detracts from teaching writing skills, and that can put some children at a disadvantage.

Even as the price of technology drops, many children in poorer communities still do not have computers, laptops or tablets at home. Pencil and paper can provide the affordable magic that opens a child’s world to learning.

That is one of the reasons Dixon Ticonderoga Co. has enjoyed a 15-year relationship with the Kids In Need Foundation. In the past four years, Dixon has donated more than $4.6 million in products to KINF, which makes them available to students in need.

Even the most hard-core traditionalist must concede that those in the next generation won’t be able to function without knowing their way around a keyboard. Indeed, keyboards enhance the learning experience as another enabling tool.

That being said, keyboards should never replace pencil and paper. Too much — literature, art, music, math and science — depends on keeping them around.

Reflections on my Past Five Years

This month marks my fifth year anniversary since taking the reins of Dixon. Last week, I took my employees and valued business partners on an inspirational journey – a voyage up the St. John’s River.  As we were inspired by the beauty of the river, we celebrated Dixon Ticonderoga Company.  I thanked them for their years of hard work, dedication and thinking outside the pencil box.  I acknowledged that over the past five years, I had to make some significant and sometimes painful changes to chart a new and profitable course for Dixon, but they supported me every mile of that journey.  The riverboat cruise, like our past five years, was steady, determined and inspirational.

Ours is a company based on family values.  The result of those values is evident in our high quality products, service levels, and respect in the marketplace.  We’ve grown from “that pencil company” to offer award-winning arts and writing instruments including the Prang, Lyra and Das brands.  Browse through our website and you’ll learn a great deal about the world famous No. 2 and the people who make us No. 1.

We’ve sharpened our online image so that customers can have more access to us and we can have more access to them.  We can now interact with our customers like never before.  More than 100 Mommy bloggers and others have discovered us.  We’ve doubled and tripled our Twitter and Facebook fans.  Our Prang Power Membership has increased by 2500% since its inception 18 months ago. We can now hear your opinions and thoughts on our new products, programs and campaigns (and coupons.)

Thank you for these past five years. I’ve only just begun, and you’re in for some surprises.