Francesca Geens tells us how her business started with one simple idea: to help kids to find joy and happiness offline.

Francesca Geens, founder of HappySelf Journal, began with an idea to create a ‘pen and paper’ journal that would get kids offline. Not only that, but the idea was to help guide them to find and celebrate their own happiness and positivity, and to create joy-filled habits that would teach them to build their mental resilience. From her small but powerful team to learning to run her own race, she shares with us how she has grown from one woman with one journal to a global brand, impacting children’s lives – one diary entry at a time.




I came up with the Idea when...


Back in 2017, when my children were eleven and seven. I kept reading about the rise of mental health issues and anxiety in our children and young people. At the time I was also very interested in positive psychology and the science of happiness and it seemed to me that we should bring simple science-backed practices that have been shown to help our happiness and wellbeing into a child friendly format. I was running a productivity consultancy at the time and loved seeing a return to pen and paper. Oh, and I love beautiful stationery. So, in hindsight, to bring all this together into a beautifully illustrated children’s journal to promote happiness and positive habits seems like just the kind of thing I would do. To be able to physically create something I wanted for my own children and see it impact the lives of so many fills me with joy.


The biggest challenge is...


Making sure we don’t run out of stock! This is a great problem to be faced with but, as we release more journals and dispatch from different locations, getting the right stock in the right place (all whilst not selling out) is proving an increasingly complex jigsaw puzzle.



The average day is spent…


At 9am every morning you will find me with a cup of tea having a Daily Stand-Up with key members of the team. We go through what we are working on and make sure we are all aligned and that everyone has what they need to move forward. I’m incredibly lucky to have my husband (lovingly referred to as Mr HappySelf) run the business with me as we have very complimentary skills. I’ll have a varied day of product development, social media and customer service with the usual (and never ending) business admin. As we work from home, and I work with my husband, it’s important to make sure I leave time for my own self-care and exercise, as well as quality family time away from work (not easy during lockdown in particular).


The team consists of…


Me and Mr HappySelf, surrounded by a small but growing team to support us with customer service and marketing. We’ve been working with the same design team from day one and use warehouses who look after our fulfilment in the UK, Europe and the US. l love being surrounded by such a supportive and talented group of people.

The biggest challenge/s that we're facing during the pandemic is…


The uncertainly of our supply chain and the challenges of sending out our orders into increasingly slow postal services. Oh, and Brexit looming isn’t much fun from a planning point of view.


The business has grown by…


Constantly investing back into the business.


The thing no one ever tells you about running your own business online...


How thick-skinned you need to be! People are so used to instant everything – whether it’s delivery of their order or replies to customer service messages –that they forget they are dealing with real humans, and often a very tired and overworked founder who is juggling all the things. They can be harsh and unforgiving because they simply don’t understand what is really involved in running an online business. On the flip side no one ever mentions just how wonderful it is to receive lovely feedback from happy customers. Luckily, we have way more of the latter.


My biggest mistake and what it taught us…


I’d like to think we haven’t made any mistakes, just a number of learnings which help us see and do things differently next time. There were many learnings from the complexities of publishing in different languages.


The most rewarding experience I’ve had to date…


This summer we received funding from Innovate UK to distribute thousands of our journals to children on free school meals. To be able to do this in the middle of a pandemic and help those most affected was incredibly rewarding for us. We are still receiving messages from the schools involved, sharing the impact our journals have had on the children.


My favourite quote is…


‘Nevertheless she persisted’. I have it as a print next to my desk to remind me that it’s not meant to be easy.


I am where I am today because of…


Listening to my gut instinct and believing in the journal when there was no guarantee of success.


I am who I am because…


Overcoming personal challenges over the years has allowed me to become more resilient and realise that good things can come from the lowest of lows. Without them the journal would never have been launched.



The best advice I’ve been given…


To ‘run your own race’. It’s important to have your own definition of success and focus on what matters to you and not get distracted by what others are doing. They are running a different race.


In five years I’d like to be…


Celebrating the journal in the hands of a million children around the world.


The websites I most frequently use are…


It’s all about apps for me so you’ll find me on Shopify (which runs our website), Teams (where we communicate and do all the things), Instagram (my favourite social media platform) and Helpscout (our customer service software) every day.

By Lydia Mansi
January 2021

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Lydia Mansi

Lifestyle Editor

Lydia is an all-round lifestyle guru, tireless champion of women in business and our resident expert on beauty.

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