Lasting Legacy

The story of the 255-year old business behind your pencils and pens

The story of the 255-year old business behind your pencils and pens

What do the world-famous artists Vincent van Gogh and Paul Klee have in common? Apart from possessing an abundance of creativity and artistic flair, they both used products designed and made by German company Faber-Castell.

Founded by Kaspar Faber in 1761, Faber-Castell specializes in the design and production of everything from top quality graphite and color pencils to pens and watercolors.

More than 250 years after it began, family and tradition still run deep through the company. Charles von Faber-Castell represents the ninth generation to be involved in a business which now employs around 7,500 people globally and has production locations in nine countries. In 2014/15, group revenue was 577 million euros ($653.7 million).

"There's a lot of complexity, and that's what really differentiates us today, is that we have such a broad range of products," von Faber-Castell, who is managing director of Faber Premium, told CNBC's Lasting Legacy. "You know, we're not just a pencil manufacturer, we have over three-and-a-half, four thousand products," he added.

Charles' father, Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell – who passed away earlier this year after a serious illness – was made head of the business in 1978. His influence runs deep. "I always looked up to my father very much," Charles said.

The similarities between father and son are clear to see, according to those in and around the business. "He reminds me … (of) his father, he is really a little bit like him, especially very patient and very curious," Rolf Schifferens, managing director of Castell Europe, said. "This passion – you see, you feel, and for me it's a lot of fun to see that. He is really like his father."

Charles von Faber-Castell's stepmother, Mary von Faber-Castell, is also involved in the business. The family have had to work together in the months following Anton's death.

"It was a very tough thing that we went through with my father," Charles said. "These sort of situations … make you realize as a family that you have to stick together, that was ultimately the wish of my father too," he added. "Weeks before he passed, he said the most important thing is that the family holds together."

"My husband left very large shoes, and that's the reality," Mary von Faber-Castell said. Now, the Faber-Castells are looking to fill the void left by Anton with a new CEO from outside the family.

Whoever fills the role will be held to the highest standards and be expected to work closely with family members.

Ralph Orlowski | Getty Images News | Getty Images

"The obvious thing is you don't know the DNA of the CEO, when you choose a family member you already pretty much know their weaknesses and strengths, when you hire somebody it's a big risk," Mary said. "The person is not inheriting the company, they're getting a job, and that's the big difference," she went on to explain.

Moving forward, Charles stated that the history and quality of the Faber-Castell brand would stand it in good stead, despite the ever changing world we now live in.

"What we've seen more recently is that … with people being confronted with so much technology and almost being overwhelmed with it, that they tend to go back to traditional products and traditional brands," he said.

Charles recently became a father to a son -- could there be a 10th generation involved in the family business? Again, the guiding hand of his own father, Anton, is conspicuous.

"Something else I took from my father is not to force something … he (Charles' son) has to come to the realization later of what he wants to do," Charles said.

"I think the most important thing in life is finding what you're passionate about. If you can combine your passion with your job then that's the best thing. So if anything, I wish him that," he added.

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