As you likely know by now, this is the fifth anniversary of the Pelikan Hubs event. The excitement is certainly building as we are now just under a month away from the big day. Some of you have been around since its inception while a large swath of those reading have come to the event more recently. Have you ever wondered how it all came about? Questioned whose behind it all? Maybe you’re wondering if this is going to be something to look forward to for years to come? I too had a lot of questions and a few concerns about the event. I e-mailed Juana, a member of the Hubs team in Hannover, who works in the social media department. Quite unexpectedly, that message actually ended up leading to a very pleasant telephone conversation with Pelikan’s Global Marketing Manager of Fine Writing Instruments, Jens, and the rest of his team. They were gracious enough to grant me and The Pelikan’s Perch an exclusive interview. After much thought, I posed a series of twenty questions to the group which you will find below along with their answers. I hope that you find the information interesting and perhaps walk away with a clearer understanding of the event’s purpose and its origins. The text that follows has only been very lightly edited for easier readability due to differences in language but the responses have not been altered in any meaningful way.
An Interview With The Pelikan Hubs Team
1) Can you provide some background as to how the Hubs event first came to be conceptualized five years ago? What was the inspiration behind its genesis?
“The inspiration came from the Pelikan fans themselves. People from Pelikan met individual Pelikan fans worldwide and realized the amazing willingness to get together and talk about pens and the passion that is there when doing so. Then the idea was born to create a common spirit even if people live in different countries all over the world. Meeting at the same day at the same local time, there is an association of ideas: handwriting somehow is magical.”
2) Has Pelikan’s vision for the Hubs event changed over the past several years and, if so, how?
“Pelikan’s vision is based on the idea to create a platform for fans of writing instruments worldwide. The basic idea is to meet on a friendship basis, organized by fans for fans. That is what makes it so authentic. So the core idea has remained.”
3) I feel like the individuals that make up the Pelikan Hubs team who work to make this event possible are a somewhat nameless crew. How many people make up the Hubs team at Pelikan and what are their roles in the event’s organization?
“The original Hub team is put together of 4 people and this year we have amazing support from a young lady who is doing an internship at Pelikan and wanted to be part of the organization of this unique event. All of the team members are intensely involved in the details of the Hub, but all of them have other responsibilities in the Marketing department as well. So this is additional work to their “normal” job. We wanted to give the team names and faces, so we took a picture of the Pelikan Hanover Hubs team.”
4) What challenges have the Hubs team had to overcome to make this event the success that it has been to date?
“When the idea for the Hubs was created, there was some uncertainty what this Hub idea is meant to be. We were not sure whether Pelikan fans would be interested; maybe it was expected to be a more local event. But that was far away from reality. Already at the first Hubs event more Pelikan fans than expected joined the Hub meetings worldwide. And there are organizational challenges as well, coming again year by year. The process of sending the give-aways all over the world is a real challenge due to different and sometimes very challenging local regulations.
At one of the last Hubs, we had some troubles with customs. The most disturbing point was when we received a message directly at the start of the Pelikan Hub: ‘The sending in one country is now ready to be destroyed. Thank you for your understanding.’ We were so sad at this point. But a big compliment to all fans: although they had to be without give-aways, the participants of this individual Hub were celebrating the event even more, because it didn’t destroy the mindset of the evening and over all, they now had a good story to tell. Of course, we sent some additional goodies after the Hubs.”
5) Each year, the Hubs have been held across the globe on a Friday evening in September at 6:30pm. This results in individual struggles with rush hour traffic, having to leave work early, or taking off from work all together. It would seem that a leisurely mid-afternoon Saturday event would circumvent a lot of these issues. Why was this date and time chosen and has there ever been any consideration for changing it?
“This date and time was chosen with the idea of an ‘After-Work-Gathering.’ Meeting, chatting, and relaxing with their favorite hobby without giving away a weekend day. People are travelling to work anyway and that’s why we thought it fit in perfectly with the basic concept.”
6) New attendees are sometimes concerned that the evening will be about pressure to buy Pelikan pens or inks. Do attendees have to have a Pelikan fountain pen to register or be a fan of the brand to attend? Is there ever any pressure to purchase Pelikan products?
“No, of course not. There is no pressure at all. The passion for hand writing and fine writing instruments is elementary and nothing more is needed. Even if somebody does not have any writing instrument, everybody who is fascinated or interested by the passion for fine writing is heartily welcome.”
7) Are there any resources available to Hub Masters and attendees who are looking for more information about a particular Hub, want to know more about what to expect, and/or want to connect with other Hub goers ahead of the event?
“We offer a special Facebook site for the participants and also one for the Hub Masters. This is the main platform to talk about their own Hub and get in touch with other Hubs worldwide. The evening of the Hubs provides the interesting option to follow the Pelikan Hubs on our social wall. This is a real-time platform where every hub posts pictures and comments in a live format. It is amazing and always worth a glance.”
8) Hub Masters have been very clever and creative over the years and are responsible for much of the uniqueness of each venue. Are there any particular activities or other additions to the event that you’ve gotten word were particularly well received or successful. Have there been any features or activities that you’d recommend avoiding?
“To be honest, we have only heard positive feedback. The extra portion of energy and time that the Hub Masters put into the organization of the Hubs is very well perceived by all participants. So this could be a question the participants could answer better.”
9) What should someone who has never been to a Hub event before expect on their first outing?
“A lot of nice, open, and inspiring people. A lot of pens and in a lot of cases a glance into the treasures of pen collections of Pelikan and other brands. We have experienced so many times that we tried to explain what kind of enthusiasm is spread and given to everybody who visits the hub. And each and every time the people told us after the Hubs: ‘I didn’t expect that, it was wonderful!'”
10) The growth of the Hubs event over the past 5 years has been exponential which is a testament to Pelikan and our community of writing enthusiast. Do you see this kind of growth as sustainable in the long-term? Do you foresee a Hubs event 5 years from now?
“To be honest, we didn’t expect the Hubs to grow like this. It would be perfect to implement a strong, long-lasting basis with people who love to meet and talk about fine writing. We see in the list of participants that there is a core group of people coming to every hub.
After this year’s Hubs, we will need to think about the Hub organization in the future in order to fulfill all needs and expectations of the participants. Even for our own internal organization, there are a lot of tasks and open points to solve for the future.”
11) As the Hubs continue to expand, many individual Hubs locations have grown to include upwards of 50-100 people. Locating a venue for this sized crowd can be a daunting task, particularly without a budget. What are some ideas the team has had to try to mitigate the burden placed on individual Hub Masters? Do you have any specific words of advice for Hub Masters of the larger venues?
“The problem to find the right venue for a hub has become more important as the number of participants per Hub has grown significantly. In the beginning, there were 5-10 people per Hub meeting somewhere in a bar or restaurant. Of course, finding a venue for 50 people or even more is a completely different task. We really appreciate the work of the Hub Masters as they are the ones helping us to make the Hubs event happen locally.
As there might be additional costs involved, we recommend that the Hub Masters contact the participants of the Hub beforehand, to check if there is a willingness to share these costs between all participants. For future Hub events, we have learned that the process of registration and selection of the Hub Masters should take place earlier in the year. This will give additional time for the Hub Masters to find an appropriate venue for the Hub event.”
12) It seems this year brought about the creation and implementation of a Co-Hub Master, at least for the larger Hub locations. I think there has been a bit of confusion surrounding this and how the selections were made. Can you clarify the role of the Co-Hub Master and how they were chosen? Did their appointment require approval by the Hub Master?
“The idea to announce a Co-Hub Master was born to offer support to the main Hub Master. There are so many people applying to be the Hub Master and some Hubs have so many participants, that we thought it would be easier to organize the local event if the work load can be shared.
We are testing this idea this year. We will see how it works and we will listen to the feedback of Hub Masters, Co-Hub Masters, and participants. It is always our aim to provide solutions that will hopefully make everybody happy. After all, that’s what the Hubs are all about: happiness and recreation.”
13) Part of the fun of the event is sharing our passion with other like-minded individuals. I think the Hub event has an all-inclusive feel in its current incarnation. Do you ever see it becoming more exclusive, for instance, incurring a fee for registration and do you think this would negatively impact the event?
“This is definitely not our plan. The initial idea of the Hubs always was that it should be open and accessible to anybody, from pupil or student to top managers. Introducing registration fees would also mean a lot of additional administrative work for us. With this year’s Hub, we have tried to make the registration more firm and binding. We and the Hub Masters need the commitment and the reliability of all participants.”
14) I feel like I don’t see much from vendors, at least here in the USA, regarding any Hubs activity. Have you reached out to individual retailers and distributors of the brand to try to include them and to spread the word/promote the event?
“Of course, we contacted retailers and distributors in the various countries especially when we started with the Hubs, 5 years ago. They are in contact with the core target group for the Hubs and we need their support to spread the message. In a lot of countries, there are individual retailers hosting a Hub event at their store. We appreciate this initiative as it helps to further spread the passion for handwriting, pens, and inks. As for the Pelikan partners in the various countries, they help us a lot when it comes to the distribution of the material and presents that we send to each Hub.”
15) Despite an extended deadline for entries, many people seem to have missed the opportunity to register but still have an interest in attending. Is that still a possibility and, if so, how would you recommend they go about doing so?
“We are trying to help as much as we can if someone missed the registration deadline. However, we also have to think about the Hub Masters who have started to organize their event. We cannot constantly change the basic conditions for them. In addition, we are about to start shipping our packages to each Hub and we have to fix the number of participants per Hub for this. At this point in time, we would have to say please make sure to register in time for the next Hubs event.”
16) What kind of feedback has Pelikan received about the event from those across the globe who have attended in years prior and what changes have come about as a result of that feedback?
“The overall feedback that we received was overwhelmingly positive. People thanked us for offering the opportunity to meet new and interesting people sharing the same love and passion for pens and inks. In some cities, the participants of the Hub have decided to meet regularly over the year. Of course, we also receive a lot of suggestions. One was the idea of the flags which we realized for the Hubs last year. We liked the idea to create even more team spirit by giving each Hub a flag.”
17) Since this year is the 5th anniversary of the Hubs event occurring during the company’s 180th anniversary year, are there any special surprises we should expect in 2018?
“We feel very proud that we can celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Hubs this year. This anniversary together with our 180th Pelikan anniversary makes 2018 a very special year. For this year’s Hub event, we have looked for new interesting ideas for the presents that we offer. We would not call it a special surprise, but we are very happy with our selection for this year.”
18) During one of the past Hub events, a full complement of Edelstein inks was provided for ink sampling amongst the group which was enjoyed by many. Will we see something like that happen again?
“Yes, we realized that next to pens and handwriting, inks have become a very important topic at almost all Hubs. People love to try out inks and to check and compare ink colors. There will be Edelstein ink sets provided to each Hub again this year.”
19) What are some of the team’s favorite moments from past Hub events?
“Usually, the preparation of the Hubs is a very busy time and we have to deal with a lot of unexpected situations. When the day of the Hubs is there and we start to see the first images posted on our social wall, this is a very special feeling because you realize that the event has started to roll-out. Of course, we really appreciate all the postings, emails, pictures and little notes that we receive after the event. It makes us feel proud and it shows us the proximity and familiarity with so many people that we can create with this beautiful event.”
20) Is there any additional information or anything else that you would like my readers to know about regarding the Hubs that we haven’t yet addressed?
“We are getting more and more excited as this year’s Hub is approaching. We would like to wish all of the Hubs participants a wonderful Hub evening with a lot of fun and a lot of interesting talks and discussions. We are sending a special thank you to all Hub Masters and Co-Hub Masters. Without your help, your effort and your enthusiasm the Hubs would not go into their 5th year!”
So there you have it, straight from the pelican’s beak so to speak. I’d like to thank the Hubs team for their candor and willingness to indulge me. Leave a comment below and let me know what you thought about the interview, share your own Hub anecdote, or to ask any additional questions that you may have. As always, thanks for reading!