We caught up with young entrepreneur, life-drawing extraordinaire Bella Franks to hear about what it’s like running Bella’s Bits & Bobs.
What were your early experiences of dyslexia?
My parents first guessed I may be dyslexic when I wrote backwards & struggled with learning in Primary school. I found reading a struggle and learning felt tougher for me than my peers. My headmaster in primary school told my parents he was sure there was no way I would go to university and that I would always struggle with work throughout schooling. Funnily enough, I got into all the universities I applied for, and went to Durham. I guess I always wanted to prove him wrong.
I went to Durham because it was an achievement to be offered a place, but without support I found the work extremely overwhelming & developed anxiety disorder as I found it really hard to cope with the challenging academics. I was granted ‘extra time’ in exams for being dyslexic – without this I would never have finished a paper as I work so much slower than those around me.
How did you end up running Bella’s Bits & Bobs?
In Durham I found a life drawing class which I attended every week & provided me with the perfect relief from all the stress of work. My anxiety got too bad that I decided to leave Durham. It made me realise I had to do something creative – an academic degree wasn’t what was going to help me to succeed in life. I knew I had to follow my passion & play to my strengths.
I decided to run life drawing classes for my friends to show the form of therapy I had discovered. I’m a people person & love interacting with those who also see things ‘outside the box’ and don’t judge others for pursuing their passion rather than what society tells us to do. These were the friends who began attending my classes & they helped me grow in confidence & feel happy & comfortable to pursue an artistic career.
My classes grew in popularity in an organic way & ‘Bella’s Bits & Bobs’ was born.
What do you enjoy about doing Bella’s Bits & Bobs?
I absolutely love running my own business because it feels like an achievement to have become successful in an unconventional way (I spend my time drawing naked people..) & I have the flexibility to work in my own timescale without people putting pressure on me. I am aware of the challenges my dyslexia gives me and I know how to work through these at my own pace. I am also confident to ask for help when I need it.
I know that I need to approach things that are ‘scary’ (involving numbers & wordy sentences) calmly, without letting my anxiety take hold. I know my mind muddles things, so I give myself extra time in order to get through work that my dyslexia causes me to struggle with.
What advantages do you think come with dyslexia?
My dyslexia has definitely made me push myself in life. It has been negative at times, but I have learnt from these and I try to focus on the positive. It has motivated me to play to my strengths in life & not dwell on things that I struggle with. I admire those who find maths & reading/writing a breeze, knowing that just because I don’t, it doesn’t mean I’m inferior.
I like that my brain looks at things differently – it’s hard to explain this, but I know my creatively & my ability for entrepreneurship is largely thanks being dyslexic.
I see myself as lucky for facing challenges with dyslexia because without it I may never have realised that academics isn’t for me. I certainly wouldn’t have started Bella’s Bits & Bobs and this is what makes me live a fulfilled and happy time in my work. I like telling people about my dyslexia because I owe it thanks for my totally whacky life!