Motherhood affected Rebecca Bingham’s mental wellbeing, so she decided to get help. Rebecca’s counsellor suggested creative writing as a release from parental pressures. Now, inspired by another Shaftesbury business success, Rebecca has launched a web-based store to encourage people to address anxiety issues.
Journaling is the practice of exploring your thoughts and feelings in your personal diary or journal. “The page doesn’t judge, therefore you can tell it anything,” said Rebecca Bingham, founder of Shaftesbury-based online store Doodly. Rebecca’s business encourages people to tackle stress by taking the time to jot down their thoughts in notepads personalised with some of her stylish stationery products.
“I’ve lived in Shaftesbury most of my life apart from when I went off to university. And I’ve come back because I love it so much. It drew me back,” said Rebecca. She was working for magazines and blogs as a freelance writer but found that full-time motherhood was, initially, a challenge.
“With my children, I was constantly trying to control everything. They’re babies. They’re quite unpredictable. I would try to give them a routine and if things went out of the routine, I would get very worried,” she said.
Rebecca kept putting pressure on herself by over-scheduling her children’s activities. She would become stressed by telling herself that her kids would not sleep at night if they didn’t have a lunchtime nap at a time she had determined. “I would be convincing myself that something was going to go wrong.”
A lot of Rebecca’s anxiety stemmed from the pressure to be a perfect mum. “I think every parent feels that way. ‘Am I doing a good job? Am I doing it right?’ I’ve definitely learned there’s no right or wrong way, you just have to ‘wing it’. I found that I was really getting stressed over very little things.”
Rebecca became really anxious when her schedule and timings went out of kilter. “Not being able to get out the door on time, things being out of my control, because I was so used to being on my own and in charge of my own things. When these little people came along, it blew all of that out of the water. You just can’t stick to the way you do things,” she said, revealing that the untidy home that often comes with having young children was also hard for her to accept.
“Things that seem small to other people, like a little bit of a mess, would really stress me out. I would feel like there was no order to anything. I just needed to see the bigger picture and just learn to de-stress and chill out a bit.”
This wasn’t an entirely new experience for Rebecca. “I do suffer myself with anxiety. I did a lot when my children were younger and I did when I was a teenager,” said Rebecca. When she was growing up these issues were not widely discussed. Thankfully that has now changed.
“In recent years, the talking has opened it up a lot more than when I was younger. I decided to go and get a little bit of help when my children were young,” explained Rebecca. “I went to get some CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy. And I also did some talking therapy. I had some counselling sessions. My counsellor went over my love of writing. She talked about having fun and creativity.”
Rebecca considers herself a creative person and her advisor encouraged her to make her writing into a form of release from everyday stresses. “When I started writing things down, I started doing it in a fun way, like doodling, and not being so serious about it and not putting too much pressure on it. I realised that writing down my thoughts, even if it was just in a doodle, was really helpful. And that creativity really is stress busting,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca is a member of the Shaftesbury Arts Centre’s Creative Writing Group. For many people, the idea of producing a piece of work in time for a meeting deadline would be stressful enough. Rebecca says she sometimes feels that pressure, but she can manage it better now.
“Particularly recently, with launching the new business, I did feel like I was spinning too many plates. The key is learning to say ‘no’ to things you can when it gets a bit much. Ordinarily, I always say that the joy is in the doing. I try not to think too much about the deadline. I just focus on the fact that I love writing and actually it’s just an excuse to sit down and do that.”
Rebecca had the idea for the business at Christmas and launched the online Doodly store in February. Her husband has been a good sounding board for her project. “I always have these ideas for little businesses and I just throw them at him quite light-heartedly, and usually he says, ‘No, I don’t think that would work’. But he was quite interested in this one because he knew that it helped me,” said Rebecca.
Rebecca is not replicating a regular stationary store online. She isn’t trying to steal WHSmith or Staples’ shoppers. Her products are designed to make journal-keeping fun and to allow writers to decorate their diary pages.
“I have page tabs that come from Japan. They are very cute and small. In Japan, they’re all about being miniature and minimalist. We have all kinds of stickers that you wouldn’t find on a High Street really because they come in special, curated packs that we make up ourselves from selections we find all over the place. And we also sell really high-quality notebooks,” Rebecca explained, adding that the website’s strength is her personal selection of stock.
“I think what’s special about our website is that we hand-pick all of the products that are on there. I look all over the place and try to find things that are a little bit different and that people would love. Being a writer, I’m exposed to a lot of stationary. I have a little bit of a stationary hoarding problem,” Rebecca laughed. “So, I do class myself as a bit of an expert. I just think that we have a much nicer array of products that you might not get in a bigger store because they’re very small and unique.”
Rebecca says she also sells decorative items for the new trend in journal keeping – bullet journaling – which offers a quick and easy way for people to track their achievements or write regular to-do lists. “It is essentially little bullets and very small key codes. Like you have a circle if you have a job to do, and then if you complete it, you fill it in. If you then pass it on to the next week, you put a little arrow in, meaning that you’ve scheduled it for next week.,” said Rebecca.
“It’s supposed to be a quick and less stressful way of journaling. A lot of people have taken that idea and made it more artistic. You will be able to find crazy art pieces for the month of May, for example, online. People are planning out what they’re going to do in May in ‘bullet journal spreads’, a double-page spread of their week with all kinds of arty illustrations and sometimes watercolours. It’s beautiful. It is showing creativity in a different way.”
Rebecca says that she is grateful for the encouragement that she has received from Shaftesbury people. “We’ve got friends at the Botanical Candle Co, and they’ve been really supportive,” said Rebecca. Amalia Pothecary is, arguably, the local ‘poster woman’ for successful online retail. Rebecca is thankful that the owner of the Botanical Candle Co has offered her direction.
“I am always inspired by Amalia and I’ve dropped in on her so many times and she’s given me such amazing advice. But she’s a really great friend and she is a really amazing businesswoman. She’s been extremely helpful,” said Rebecca.
The Botanical Candle Co now has a physical shopfront presence at street level. Rebecca says she hasn’t ruled out the idea of adding a ‘bricks and mortar’ store to her business in the future. “At the moment, we’re just going to remain online but nothing’s out of the question. We’ve got so many ideas for the business. We have just started putting a postcard in each order, where you can do a doodle on it and send it to someone to tell them that you’re thinking of them. You can send someone a little smiley face – whatever you want.”
And Rebecca is keen to stock the work of local artists and small businesses in the future. “I know a lot of illustrators and people who are creating their own stationery, through meeting them online. And I know them as personal friends that I have met through the years. My sister’s an illustrator,” said Rebecca.
“I really hope over time to curate a collection of products that are also a ‘collection of people’. I’m definitely a supporter of small businesses.”
Rebecca seems pleased with how this young business has performed so far. And she says she won’t stray from her original objective, helping people address anxiety by recording their thoughts on paper and being creative in the process. “We just really want people to experience that joy of creating something each day, even if it’s just writing a few lines, to be honest. It really helps to get your thoughts down on paper. There are so many writers that would attest to that.”
You can find Doodly at DoodlyShop.co.uk and on Facebook and Instagram.