Hi, my name is David Round, and I’m the founder of William Hannah Limited.
When I finally made the decision to leave my corporate career back in 2013, I bought myself a notebook - in part I needed somewhere to write down all of the thoughts I was having about what I could do with the rest of my life, but I also fell in love with the idea of having a private place where I could just write things down - journal entries, lists, brilliant ideas, plans, dreams, and great stuff from books I was reading.
I bought myself a branded notebook and a really nice black pen and started writing things down. It REALLY helped - there is something very special about putting pen to paper when you wake up early in the morning with a moment of extreme clarity, or writing down a brilliant quote so you don’t forget it. After years of typing e-mails and filling-in spreadsheets, I had re-discovered the power of writing things down.
However, pretty quickly, something started to upset my dreamy image of sitting in a coffee shop taking beautiful notes like these....
It was me.
You see, my mind doesn’t work in a nice neat way. I found myself making lots of spelling mistakes, and I kept forgetting my nice pen and had to write in biro. I also needed to jot not-so-important stuff down like web-sites to look at, and to-do-lists, and names and phone numbers of people I had met. And the trouble with most of the really nice notebooks you can buy is that the pages are fixed, so when you need to tear out a page to remove a mistake, the book starts to look a bit scrappy.
Around this time I also started to get a bit concerned that the really private stuff I was writing was getting mingled with quotes from coaching books, and random work notes, and I stopped taking my notebook out with me all of the time for fear of losing it - which sort of defeated the objective....
I then started doing what I discovered a lot of other people do - I started buying notebooks for specific purposes. I would have one notebook for ideas and quotes, a different one for private thoughts, and another one for random stuff. And then things got really out-of-hand - I started buying really nice notebooks that I would use for [insert great purpose here], but then I never actually wrote in them because I didn’t want to spoil them !
That’s when I had my Eureka! moment (yes - there really was one). Laying on the sofa late one December night, I realised I needed a notebook with replaceable pages - and if I needed one, there must be a whole load of other people who needed one too. Ok - so it was hardly the Theory of Relativity, but it was a real moment of clarity, and it was strangely exciting - I could actually make something physical rather than the digital stuff I had been working on for years…
From there, things moved pretty quickly. I did a lot of research to see what else was out there, because I assumed that someone somewhere would have done this already, and what I found surprised me - there were lots of partial solutions, but none of them offered exactly what I wanted. Some solutions seemed very practical, and I wanted something that I could develop an almost emotional attachment to. Or they only solved part of the problem - lovely covers that simply wrapped around traditional types of notebooks. I had a very clear vision of how my notebook should be, and I couldn’t find anything like it.
I spent a while trying to invent or find the best way to add and remove pages, but again, nothing seemed to offer the simplicity and style I was looking for until I came across the disc-binding method of holding pages in notebooks and planners. They weren’t quite right for me I felt, focussing too much on practicality, but I did think they were something I could develop and improve to meet the clear vision I had in my head.
So, in January 2015 I started making the first prototypes in my kitchen. It was strangely enjoyable process, despite everything being covered in glue, and I settled on a workable design pretty quickly. At this stage, the notebook project was still a bit of a distraction - something that really interested me, but was ultimately a bit of a hobby - but I started wondering what would be involved in actually getting it manufactured...
My initial idea was to get the notebook made in China, for no other reason than it looked pretty easy and cheap to do that, and China looked like a fascinating place to visit and do business. But around March I had my second Eureka! moment, or more precisely, moments. I started thinking about why I was even doing any of this - after all, there are tens of thousands of notebook designs available right now on-line and in the shops - and then a whole load of pieces fell into place at once....
I realised that I was making a notebook for people like me - professional people who needed somewhere to write their work notes and to do lists, but also be able to write their private thoughts and ideas safely. I wanted to create a notebook that could not only inspire people to be creative, but would also support them as they struggled to balance work and life. I wanted the notebook to last, so that owners could develop a deeper connection with it, which in turn would make it more likely to be used. I wanted the types of pages within the notebook to be individually specified for each notebook, be they lined, grid, dot, blank, or any one of a number of templates for support or inspiration. And I wanted the pages to be easily added, moved and removed - so that when a moment of private clarity arrives in an endless meeting, it could be written and remembered, and then easily removed and stored at home.
This was the beginning of #BecauseWritingHelps.
Other ideas flowed from those core principles - the long-term desire to establish a supportive community for William Hannah users, the wish to work with local UK suppliers rather than simply farming things out to China - suppliers I could meet personally and listen to for ways to make the individual components even better.
I also had the quirky idea to NOT do things the way that everyone says they should be done for a product like this (such as building to sell through retail or mass printing grey-lined pages).
It’s amazing what a crystal-clear vision can help you to achieve - leather selection, component manufacturers, paper stock, creative agencies - every single one that I have ended up working with felt right immediately, and I have found some truly gifted individuals and companies to work with.
I have used my own William Hannah notebooks pretty much every single day for years now - sometimes just for scrappy little notes and to-do’s, but also for deeper journaling, planning, goal setting, and of course, my Daily Posts - and they have never let me down.
So there you have it, the story of of how (and why) William Hannah was born. Things have moved on a little since then - we’re still a small family business, but we have premises now, and our range has expanded from the original A5 notebook to include A6 and Pocket versions, and a selection of accessories, diary packs and journaling pages, with much more to come…. #BecauseWritingHelps
Founder, William Hannah Limited