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These Little Bags Are Leaving a Big Impact on Child Literacy

By , August 28, 2019

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Name: Anna Welsh
Occupation: Owner and Designer
Company: Little Bags, Big Impact
Connect: www.littlebagsbigimpact.com

In a 2016 sewing class, Anna, then 12, crafted three clutch bags. Her mother was carrying one of them around shopping when multiple shopkeepers were intrigued by the bright colors and unique pattern and asked, “Where did you get that bag?”

That’s where everything began. Now 14, Anna and her mother, Cynthia, have been working to grow the business while Anna attends school. What started with a simple bag has turned into a thriving business, with 15% of the proceeds going to an organization that promotes child literacy in Philadelphia.

LAUREN: Of the bags offered on the site, which is style is your favorite? Which style is most popular with customers?

ANNA: This spring, I created a new product called the Birch Bag. That’s definitely my favorite because I love going to the beach and the bamboo handles are stylish for the summer. It’s one of the larger bags that I produce. I like to put my other littlebags, like the clutch and the mini, in there. For other people, the clutch is the most popular littlebag. It’s the more versatile size that people seem to use the most.

L: Do you sew the bags by yourself, or do you have others helping you?

A: I sew some of them, but I have had to hire two part-time sewers because production was really demanding. I didn’t want to send production overseas, so I still have everything handmade in Philadelphia.

L: 15% of the proceeds of your bags go to childhood literacy. Can you briefly explain this cause and why it’s important to you?

A: Treehouse Books is a literacy center. They are also a giving library where they donate books to the kids. The kids can come in just like the library and take the books without money, and they don’t have to give them back. They do other programs like Words on Wheels where they go around the neighborhood donating book packages. I chose them because I am passionate about education. In Philadelphia there’s only one book that’s age-appropriate in about 300 homes. When I saw that I was stunned, and I really had to do something about it.

L: What do you think is the biggest factor in the success of your business?

A: I think the biggest factor would be the sustainable and social impacts. The fabric that I recycle really resonates with my customers, especially since sustainability and being eco-friendly is relevant these days. All of our fabric is sourced from window treatment companies and local interior designers, so I never know what I’m going to get. [Because of the variety of patterns] there’s a bag for everyone. [A second factor] is the impact that I make in supporting childhood literacy in underserved communities.

L: What is the biggest challenge you encountered in starting your business and how did you overcome it?

A: Production was number one, because I wanted everything to be handmade in America and all locally sourced. I couldn’t do it all myself because the demand was high so having to find sewers in Philadelphia was a challenge. However, I reached out to my business network and found two local sewers to assist in production. It was also challenging to realize that I couldn’t do everything myself, especially as the business grew. I learned from a mentor to really think about and determine what I’m good at. Do those things for the business and then build a team of experts who can support me in what I’m not good at. This has probably been the most valuable lesson not only for the growth of littlebags.bigimpact, but also for my own personal growth.

L: What advice would you give to other young people who want to start a business?

A: Try and find something you’re passionate about! I love what I do every day, and that’s why I still do it. Also, I try and encourage others to have a give back component.  As Bill Drayton, inventor of the term ‘social entrepreneur,’ says, “The central challenge of our time is to make everyone a changemaker. To do that you start young.” As a young entrepreneur, I truly know that together we can all be changemakers.

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