Exclusive – Meet Ketnipz, the Instagram sensation spreading positivity and mental wellness

At the age of just 21, Harry Hambley has already become an internet sensation through spreading positivity and mental wellness one doodle at a time.

An afternoon Zoom call with Harry Hambley (aka Ketnipz) had me rifling through old school planners to see if my brainless scribbles had any kind of value or potential. In the least surprising revelation of 2020, they did not.

From personal experience of the comprehensive schooling system in the UK, I can assert with some confidence that almost everyone, from the year 7s to the sixth formers, is doodling constantly during lesson hours. But not once had I come across someone canny enough or possessing the vision and drive to make a go of it as a full-time career until meeting Harry.

Growing up in Cardiff, Wales, Harry found himself facing a dilemma that dawns on many a student approaching their final year at high school, that being, ‘what on Earth am I going to do with my life, for the rest of my life?’ Little did he know, a few short years later he would go on to cultivate 1.6 million Instagram followers, become a source of inspiration to aspiring artists across the globe, and curate a prominent brand for mental wellness.

When coming up with his signature style, Harry had always envisioned creating an ambiguous character ‘so weirdly its own thing that people remember it’, and he truly hit the winning formula with ‘Bean’. The androgynous pink blob is the sole focus of Harry’s Instagram account Ketnipz, which sees it goes through a series of very relatable challenges in witty observational comic strips and animations. Barring a few early cartoons with a creepier flavour, you’ll quickly notice a common thread of mental health and self-care shining through.

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A friendly reminder to be kinder to no.1 on #worldmentalhealthday ❤️ Mental health has played a big part in my life over the past year, and I’ve had to remind myself a lot how important it is to take it easy on yourself, and to always put self care first. It seems like more people than ever are struggling with the same problem, and I can’t help but feel guilty that social media plays a big part in it. So, I hope to take more steps over the next year to address this growing issue, and to use my platform to spread awareness on the topic through my work and collaborations. If you’re struggling and think that you (or someone you know) needs help, please reach out to a friend, family member or professional for support. The first step to solving the problem is talking about it. ❤️

A post shared by Ketnipz (@ketnipz) on

In previous interviews and public appearances, Harry has been quick to highlight the stigma surrounding young people and the pressures brought on by social media. When prompted for Ketnipz’ role in that vein, Harry revealed, ‘I lean towards the escapism kind of stuff rather than being an activist page or something like that. I think if you want to make real change you have to do it in baby steps. For me, it’s always been about offering little things each day which will hopefully nudge someone in a healthier direction mentally.’

It’s that very ethos that has seen Ketnipz rocket to such popularity in so little time. Wanting to come across completely authentic with his followers and not punching above his weight, Harry takes a ‘natural approach’ to widespread issues, often saying to himself, ‘okay, this is a big issue. Maybe slowly over time we can get there.’

Having previously described his Beanscapades as a ‘small antidote’ to negative mental health, we pried into the probability of Bean tackling other social change issues with his signature blend of motivational yet non preachy material in the future. Harry was quick to assert that, for now, mental health will remain the sole focus. But he did express a desire to get ‘further educated’ on the nuances of other causes before considering branching out.

While it was never his intention, and he’s perhaps too humble to admit it, Harry is renowned as a top Gen Z entrepreneur. Leaving school, he didn’t rest on his laurels and wait around for opportunities to come to him. Instead, Harry went ‘flat out’ doing 15-hour days reaching out to prominent YouTubers to help out with merch and graphic design jobs, while consistently uploading to Ketnipz on the side.

It was far from smooth sailing at the start, and even today Harry is forced to contend with regular setbacks. When asked to give advice for any aspiring young creatives currently pushing to start their own business, Harry said, ‘Be prepared to deal with a lot of failure. For me, with every one really good thing, there’s like ten other problems and hurdles. You have to be in it for the long run and stick it out’. Everyone loves an underdog.

He does warn that completely ‘jumping ship’ with all responsibilities probably isn’t the best route for everyone looking to combine passion and profession, but equally he believes, ‘You have one life and you might as well do what you want to do.’

When it comes to hard work, Harry really does practice what he preaches. His proactive approach to constantly seeking out opportunities has seen him land high profile collaborations with Instagram, Armani, and RuPaul’s Kimchi. He also recently put together an incredible animated music video featuring Bean for Norwegian group Boy Pablo’s Feeling Lonely.

You would think that the surge of social media in the last ten years would make building a business and garnering an audience a far easier task than before, but people can often underestimate its fleeting and ever-evolving nature. It’s very much a double-edged sword. Staying abreast of the next hot thing online can be exhausting and Harry relates the feeling of having no real job security to playing ‘The floor is lava’. He asserts that anyone taking the leap with their own business will have to know going in, that their passion is strong enough to see them navigate any obstacles or tribulations.

Speaking of tribulations, the world is finally starting to regain a sense of normality after Covid-19. The immediate physical threat may have died down considerably after lockdown, but the pandemic has spurred economic ripple effects which have sealed the end for countless independent businesses. Harry has been fortunate enough to hunker down with his trusty iPad and keep production high, but he is very aware that there is ‘pressure to be creative’ when it comes to earning a crust right now.

Taking a typically compassionate view on the situation, Harry has urged those in a precarious position to be kinder to themselves, and not to run themselves into the ground. ‘I’d say give yourself some time, treat yourself as if you were your own mate and ask: does he/she need a break?’

In that sense Bean is a true reflection of its creator. Unwaveringly positive in his work, Harry is advocating for a happy healthy lifestyle and that is a concept that will never grow stale. Talent and hard work have gotten him to where he is today, but his growing positive message and outlook will sustain his and the Bean’s climb for years to come.

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