Welsh language award marks turning point for stationery start-up

An after-school entrepreneur from Cardiff is expanding his stationery side hustle with the support of Big Ideas Wales, just months after receiving a notable Welsh language award.

17-year-old Gwilym Morgan, from St Fagans, who is in year 13 at The Bishop of Llandaff Church in Wales High School, has been designing and selling bilingual travel-inspired notebooks and worry diaries on his Amazon sub-site, GM Notebooks, since 2021.

Gwilym, who hopes to study Welsh and French at Cardiff University next year, had never dreamt of becoming a part-time entrepreneur at the age of 15. It wasn’t until his younger sister began struggling with anxiety that he ventured into creating his first worry diary.

Gwilym said: “My mum had heard of the benefits of journaling online and was looking for one for my sister, but all the worry diaries she had spotted were really expensive, so I had a go myself. Using Canva, I designed the worry diary to my younger sister’s taste and filled it with sections that were beneficial to her, including spaces to log her weekly worries, daily thoughts and long-term goals.

“The worry diary really helped my sister manage her anxiety which gave me the idea to start selling them on Amazon.”

Later this month, Gwilym is set to release a first-of-its-kind Welsh-language worry diary, in the hopes that more Welsh speakers will feel supported in practising mental wellbeing and mindfulness in the language most comfortable to them.

Gwilym’s bold business move comes just months after he was awarded Eisteddfod yr Urdd’s Welsh Learner’s Award, in recognition of his passion to learn Welsh as a second-language and his natural use of it from day-to-day.

Speaking about why it’s important to add more Welsh to his business, Gwilym said: “I’m surprised that there aren’t more Welsh worry diaries and stationery as a whole. I’m a huge advocate for supporting people who want to utilise or practise their Welsh in every aspect of their life.”

Gwilym’s business aligns with the Welsh Government’s Cymraeg 2050 strategy, which sets out a vision to see the number of people able to enjoy speaking and using Welsh reach a million by 2050.

Alongside worry diaries, Gwilym also sells his own travel-inspired notebooks, clad with photographs taken from his own travels, which have captured the interest of buyers from as far as Italy and America.

Gwilym launched GM Notebooks with the support of Big Ideas Wales, a Welsh Government-funded service that, as part of Business Wales, aims to support anyone between the age of five and 25 to develop a business idea, including students and graduates, as part of its commitment to the Young Person’s Guarantee.

Gwilym stumbled across the service in October 2022, while attending a career day hosted by his school. After approaching Big Ideas Wales’ stand and mentioning his business, Gwilym was put into contact with Business Advisor, Jason McLoughlin, to support with the maintenance and development of his side-hustle.

From developing a business plan to brainstorming design ideas and exploring the opportunity of stocking in local independent shops, Jason has been on hand to support Gwilym with every step of his business journey so far.

Gwilym said: “I never set out to become an entrepreneur. GM Notebooks started as a way of saving money and supporting my sister, and quickly became a fun after-school project that has the power of encouraging more Welsh-speakers to utilise their Welsh. Jason and Big Ideas Wales have been a great support system and are always there to help me develop my ideas. They’ve made managing school and running a business so much easier.”

Alongside releasing more bilingual notebooks and worry diaries online, Gwilym is currently in discussion with independent shops across Cardiff to begin stocking his notebooks.

Gwilym’s Business Advisor, Jason, added: “It’s brilliant to see students like Gwilym building their own businesses, simply to benefit those around them. It can be stressful to run a business alongside completing your A Levels, but that’s why we’re here. To support anyone, no matter their age or circumstances, to build a thriving business from their budding idea.”

Has this inspired you to kick start your business idea? Visit www.bigideas.wales to get started