As a mum of a 7 and 11-year-old, Francesca was getting increasingly frustrated at the press constantly telling us that kids are growing up stressed and that mental health issues were on the rise. So she created The HappySelf Journal, a really simple daily journal that can be completed in less than a few minutes. It is beautifully illustrated with plenty of variety to keep kids engaged, all the while developing important habits that will set them up for life.
Now let's find out more about the woman behind it all.
Tell us a bit about yourself Francesca.
Mr HappySelf and I live in rural Kent with our 2 children, 1 cat and newly acquired 3 chickens. We have always been city people but after 10 years in Kent we are loving country life. I’m originally from Belgium but met my husband when we were both at University in London which is a very long time ago now!
How have you coped with the lockdown and juggling running your business around the kids?
It’s a big juggle but as we are already used to working from home it could have been a bigger adjustment. Luckily both children are old enough to keep themselves occupied whilst we work and I will be forever grateful for the amazing weather we've had and access to a garden during this period.
What was the inspiration for creating The HappySelf Journal?
It was the result of bringing together various interests of mine - as a mother I was concerned with all the press reports of rising anxiety levels and mental health problems in our children and young people; as a productivity consultant (that was my business at the time) I loved seeing the return to paper planners and organisers; as a former Art Historian I have always loved small beautiful objects (I have a PhD but that is a whole other story!) and Francesca, well, she just loves quality stationery. So you can see that the journal is all of these things brought together!
When did you launch the business?
We launched in the summer of 2018. It’s been quite the rollercoaster since then- I had no idea what I was embarking on at the time!
What do you love most about what you do?
I love creating a physical product – something tangible that is nice to hold and use. And I love more than anything that it is a product that is helping children around the world. We get such lovely feedback from parents on the impact the journal is having on their entire family and this just fills me with joy and makes all the hard work so worthwhile.
What's been your biggest pinch-me moment so far?
Getting an email out of the blue from the buyer at Liberty asking if they could stock our journals. This came just a few months after we launched and was totally unexpected. I love popping into Liberty when in London to see the journal on display in the children’s department- this makes me so proud. Who knew that I would ever make something that gets sold in Liberty?
What's the hardest thing about running a business?
There is always more to do and with ecommerce it is 24/7. The hours are long and the risks are high but compared to a daily commute to an office job I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Where do you see your business going from here? Do you have any exciting plans you can share with us?
We have recently launched 7 language editions and our new website for European orders which allows us to better serve our continental customers. We are working on a number of new journals at the moment. There will be a few continuation editions out soon. Then there are further journals too but those are secret for now… I seem to have become a small publishing house!
Do you practice gratitude and how does it help you?
Yes this has been life changing for me. Practicing gratitude is one of those very simple exercises which the research has shown to have a profound impact on our brain. The neuroscience at work is fascinating and your brain literally rewires to look for the positives the more you do this. It has been shown to have long lasting impact on our happiness levels. I have been keeping a gratitude journal for some years now and it has helped me manage my anxiety and get me through difficult periods by realising that regardless of how hard things are there is always something positive you can focus on.
What's helped you get through the lockdown?
What has helped the most is finding new little daily moments to help savour this strange time but also give us some routine. One of the first things we did was bring forward our ‘Chicken project’ so that we had the distraction of looking after our chickens and this gives a real structure to our day. I subscribed to a newspaper delivery so that I could give myself permission to stop and take time to read the paper and do the crossword. We do daily walks and also start the day with PE with Joe Wicks.
In the evenings we do a family gratitude practice at dinnertime which helps us all stay positive and I turned this into a free download to help others get through the lockdown. It’s over at www.happyselfjournal.com/family
How do you take care of yourself? Do you have regular time just for you?
I probably don’t have enough time just to myself but I try hard to build this into my diary. I do regular exercise, love the Headspce app, go for walks whilst listening to podcasts and always try to have a good book on the go.
What's your motto in life?
I have a print next to my desk which says ‘She believed she could and so she did’ which keeps me going and reminds me to believe in myself and run my own race. Running your own race is really important in this age of social media comparison. Having my own definition of success and working towards that for the right reasons is important to me.
Thanks to Francesca for taking part. The HappySelf Journal Junior is available as an option in The Create Your Own Gift Box for Children and The HappySelf Journal 12+ is an option in The Create Your Own Gift Box for Teens.