After-school entrepreneur helps relieve anxiety and promote Welsh

A high school student sells worry diaries and notebooks for people with anxiety and Welsh learners. What does it take to become a young entrepreneur in Wales?

Gwilym started a business offering affordable diary notebooks for people with anxiety at age 16.

When high school student Gwilym Morgan realised his sister was struggling with anxiety, he wanted to do something practical to help her because she was regularly worrying about school exams to the point of being overwhelmed.

He had heard that worry diaries, a place where people can write down their thoughts and anxieties, are a good way to deal with the problem. But the products available on the market were surprisingly expensive. The idea of starting a business focused on affordable worry diaries then crossed his mind.

“The mainstream worry diaries cost about 20 to 30 pounds each. I thought that’s not fair,” Gwilym says. “There are some families that simply can’t afford to spend that much money on a diary. So, I decided to do it myself.” He launched his brand GM Notebooks, designing and selling English and Welsh worry diaries on Amazon, at just 16 in 2021.

Gwilym wants to help people with anxiety express themselves affordably and in their mother tongue. He says, “It gives them a space to write how they feel. Hopefully, it helps them feel better about themselves and improve their mental health.”

Gwilym has learned Welsh as a second language in recent years and won a Welsh Learner’s Medal.

The pages of the worry diaries are soothing pink and decorated with patterns of rainbows and flowers, offering a sense of healing.

Gwilym uses Canva, an online graphic design tool, to design the notebooks. He also says it is really easy for him to use Amazon KDP, the Kindle Direct Publishing software, which helps him run his business. He creates the files on his computer and publishes them on Amazon, which prints and sends them directly to customers.

Gwilym created the first kind of Welsh worry diaries and recently introduced notebooks for Welsh learners, hoping to promote the Welsh language. “The Welsh language is being removed from everyday life. It is obviously on traffic signs, but if we don’t see it there when we’re driving down the road, people are going to forget it exists,” he says.

He attaches great importance to the Welsh language. “If we use our language to understand the history of our country, we can understand where our roots come from because language tells you a lot about the country and its history,” he says. “It’s not the language itself; it’s the feeling of pride that you belong to Wales.”

Welsh is not Gwilym’s first language, and he has been teaching himself the language over the last few years. In May 2023, he won the Welsh Learner’s Medal at the Urdd Eisteddfod, Wales’ iconic cultural festival. “The Welsh language for me is called the massive place in my heart. I love learning Welsh,” he says.

The notebook for Welsh learners features designated sections for vocabulary lists, grammar notes, and more.

His products attract not only Welsh customers from the UK but also customers from all over the world, such as America and Canada. There have been lots of positive reviews. A Canadian girl says that the notebook helps her learn Welsh.

Gwilym also sells travel-inspired notebooks featuring cover photos taken during his holidays. He says, “Having a photo on a notebook is like having a souvenir of that holiday, and it allows others to enjoy it as well”. He also received scenic photos from other people who wanted to share.

He uses various social media platforms for his brand, such as TikTok and Instagram, creating engaging content and pushing it onto the pages. “The key is not to ‘hard sell’. It’s about creating a community for anxiety support, for Welsh culture,” he says. “It’s not just to build and promote the business but to promote what the business stands for.”

Gwilym held his GM Notebook’s first in-person market during Christmas 2023, attracting many customers.

It’s not easy for a high-school student to start a business, from developing a brand plan to brainstorming design ideas. In particular, there are so many laws and legal requirements to follow, according to him. He also received advice and support from Big Ideas Wales.

Big Ideas Wales is a Welsh Government-funded service that aims to support people between the ages of five and 25 to develop a business idea, including students and graduates.

Gwilym also emphasises not overthinking things when starting a business. He says, “I don’t think you have to make 100 products before you open. You can start your business with one notebook and keep adding to it until you get there. It’s just building it up, bit by bit.”

This September, he will go to university and study French and Welsh. While balancing his studies, he plans to introduce new products and expand his business as much as possible.

Gwilym does not depend on his business for income, nor does he aim to become a full-time entrepreneur. He simply enjoys running a business while helping people with anxiety and promoting Welsh culture.

He says, “It’s not just about money. It’s something I do because I enjoy it. It’s just about being able to share my love for what I stand for.”