Young entrepreneur writes her next chapter with launch of bilingual book subscription service
A young entrepreneur from North Wales has drawn from her own personal experience to develop a bilingual book business that offers mental wellbeing support for people across Wales.
Siwan Jones, originally from Bangor, is preparing to launch her bilingual book subscription service and monthly book club, Swyno, with the support of Welsh Government’s youth entrepreneurship service, Big Ideas Wales.
Launching this month, Swyno encourages young people to explore their mental health by immersing themselves in relatable, bilingual literature. Each month Swyno’s book-loving founder Siwan carefully handpicks an English and Welsh read featuring key themes that she hopes people of all ages can relate to.
Starting from £29 a month (which includes free postage) and designed to help readers immerse themselves in the book, the Swyno Box features their chosen book alongside personalised items that relate to key topics and moments within the book itself. Some of the first Swyno boxes will feature ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens and Tu Ol i’r Awyr by Megan Angharad Hunter for all Welsh-speaking subscribers.
Swyno was developed in response to rising suicide rates, particularly amongst men, across Wales during the pandemic. During 2021 there were a reported 347 suicides in Wales alone*. Siwan was graduating from a counselling degree at Bangor university at the time, where she dedicated her alternative therapy module to bibliotherapy; a cost-effective and flexible form of alternative therapy that helps people to combat a variety of mental health difficulties by reading.
Speaking on the development of her business, Siwan said: “I remember looking at my beautiful hometown and thinking if there’s ever a time when people need more support, it’s now. I truly believe everyone, especially Welsh speaking people, need new outlets to understand their mental wellbeing. Bibliotherapy allows us to bring difficult topics to the fore and break taboos without having to personalise our experiences.”
Bibliotherapy is close to Siwan’s heart, having experienced its benefits as a form of therapy and solace when, at the beginning of 2022, she developed Hyperemesis Gravidarum – severe nausea and vomiting - while pregnant and suffered a miscarriage.
Siwan, unable to leave her bed at the time, truly appreciated the ability of books to offer a sense of escapism during difficult times. This reinforced Swyno’s aim and encouraged Siwan to press on with the launch of her business which also pays homage to emerging Welsh literature that, in her opinion, are often undervalued.
Over the last year, Siwan has been receiving support from Big Ideas Wales, which is part of Business Wales and funded by Welsh Government to support entrepreneurship in Wales. The service is aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea, including students and graduates, as part of its commitment to the Young Person’s Guarantee.
Siwan has been making use of Bangor University’s M-Sparc workshop suites, where she’s been developing Swyno alongside Kath Lewis, Graduate Start-Up Coordinator and part of B-Enterprising, Bangor University’s dedicated service to support students and graduates to develop their own businesses or freelance careers. Kath referred Siwan to Big Ideas Wales business advisor Niamh Ferron who has supported her in demystifying the steps needed to run a successful start-up business.
Alongside navigating Siwan through the specific paperwork required to both register as self-employed and qualify as a legal business, Niamh has also introduced Siwan to Big Ideas Wales Role Models who have provided Siwan with a wealth of first-hand business advice and insight you can only acquire by making the leap yourself.
In discussing the support provided by Big Ideas Wales, Siwan said: “I have had a whole army of support from the moment Swyno was a small spark of an idea. I can’t thank Kath enough for constantly pushing me to produce new ideas and think outside of the ‘Swyno’ box. I’m also so grateful to Niamh who was by my side to offer support and advice as I filled in complicated paperwork and applied for invaluable funding while going out of her way to introduce me to inspiring Big Ideas Wales Role Models and literary business owners who have been pivotal in helping me to grow my business.”
Big Ideas Wales business advisor Niamh said: “It is inspiring businesses like Swyno, that set out to support local communities and make a difference in Wales that really make our job worthwhile. In order to build a business that can truly make a difference to other young people, Siwan has had to seek support herself. She has utilised all of Big Ideas Wales’ support, from applying for funding to meeting with Role Models. I believe I speak on behalf of both myself and Kath when I say it has been a pleasure to support Siwan in launching her business, and I can’t wait to see what the first Swyno box looks like.”
Kath agreed with Niamh, adding: “Swyno is an incredibly innovative business venture that offers an outlet for people to explore their emotions and experiences without the fear of exposure. Bangor University is dedicated to supporting our entrepreneurial students, whether that is through idea development meetings, self-employment placements or free Incubation space at M-SParc. Siwan benefitted from the collaborative support which has allowed her to build a brimming business that puts the wellness of others at its heart. I wish her the very best of luck with her business venture.”
Swyno’s launch will be celebrated during the very first digital Swyno book club meeting, a monthly event that she hopes will act as a hub for young book lovers across Wales to openly explore their emotions with others. Siwan dreams of one day opening a café-come-bookshop in Bangor, where she can welcome her subscribers to sit down for a coffee and read, attend book-signings and talks from popular Welsh writers or join workshops hosted by mental health professionals that relate to the key theme of the book that month.
Has this inspired you to kick start your business idea? Visit businesswales.gov.wales/bigideas to get started
For further information on mental health support you can contact the CALL helpline. The helpline is open 24/7 and can offer confidential emotional support and advice and will help you contact support available in your local area. The Freephone number for CALL is 0800 132 737 or you can text ‘help’ to 81066.