Meet Anna Welsh: The 13 Year Old Entrepreneur
Who is Anna Welsh?
Anna Welsh is somewhat of a Handwork Studio celebrity, and she is most definitely deserving the high praise. At the age of thirteen, Anna already runs her own small business called little bags.BIG IMPACT, where she sells handmade clutches, purses, bags, and other accessories. Anna is an eloquent, savvy business woman in her last year of middle school. Her story is a huge inspiration to children at the Handwork Studio, and to young entrepreneurs everywhere.
When Anna grows up, she wants to be an English or History teacher for elementary school students, but she definitely also wants to keep up her business. Anna is asked, what makes her want to be a teacher. “I’m passionate about education,” she responds. “I’ve always loved going to school, I’ve always loved all my teachers. I really just want to pay that forward, and I love to learn and that aspect of life.”
The Beginnings of an Entrepreneur
Anna’s introduction to handwork came from The Handwork Studio, although she has been creative and artistic since she was very young. She was never very involved in sports or other kinds of camps, so her mom enrolled her in the Handwork Day Camp when she was six. “But then I came home,” she says, “And I was like ‘This is the only camp I ever want to do,’ and I still do to this day.” After the Handwork Day Camp Anna moved on to machine sewing when she was eleven, and she also took classes at the Narberth Studio during the school year. This summer she’s attending Fashion Bootcamp. When Anna is asked if she might want to return to the Handwork Studio in the future to be a counselor, she says yes immediately. She would love to work with the little kids, especially, and because she knows so much about what goes into counseling and what great bonds campers have with their counselors (from her own experience), she would love to take that on.
Anna is artistic at heart, and machine sewing and embroidery are her favorite types of handwork. “I love machine sewing because it’s so broad and you can make anything and everything - there’s no limits and I can just let my creativity flow. But I also love embroidery so much because I love all the little details and how all the pieces come together to make one beautiful picture.” Anna has recently gotten a much bigger opportunity to embroider at Fashion Bootcamp, and she describes how she loves to use it for detailing on her shirts and to add a pop of color to an item of clothing wouldn’t have been unique otherwise. Although Anna loves embroidery, she prefers to stick to selling accessories at little bags.BIG IMPACT rather than try to sell clothes she’s made. “I’m really more into the accessories, and I like making the clothes more for myself and wearing them. Maybe something in the future, definitely, but I think for right now because it’s gone so well with the bags, I’m probably going to stick with that for right now.”
Anna gives a lot of credit to the Handwork Studio for giving her the skills and foundation she needed to found little bags.BIG IMPACT. She tells the incredible story of how she went from Anna Welsh: middle schooler, to Anna Welsh: entrepreneur.
“It all started in 2016, a few years ago. I was at the Machine Sewing camp and my counselor Meredith gave me two clutch bag patterns and some really funky fabric. I started making these clutch bags. The following month I went to Detroit, Michigan with my mom for a girls weekend, and my mom was walking around with a clutch bag and we got so many compliments. When they heard I had made the bag they were completely blown away. So I had that in the back of my mind, but then the same conversations kept happening, so I started to think about it more. But when it really came into play was when I started the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a program for middle to high school students to help you build and brand your business...It just kinda kept going from there.” There’s a pause, and she smiles. “It’s always fun thinking back to that because I can always picture how it all started.”
From Fashion Design to Building a Business
This story is so incredible, not only because Anna took an idea, realized it, and made it into a thriving, socially and environmentally conscious business, but also because it all began because someone complimented her mom’s bag. Pretty amazing, right?
Anna is asked how she chooses the patterns, fabric, and themes for her products, and she dives into a description of her process. First, she describes the checklist she uses when choosing fabric. “It has to be a thicker material, so I try to stick with upholsteries and linens but not as many sheer fabrics. I’ve noticed throughout all the events that I’ve done that people like the vibrant patterns and different colors, not so much the neutrals. So I try to look for that stuff as well, like the fabrics that are funky and unique and different. Because it screams that it’s a little bag.”
Anna started making sunglass cases because she didn’t want to throw away scraps generated from the creation of the little bags, and she didn’t want to waste the scraps from the sunglass cases, so she made coin purses. Anna is not only continually thinking about the sustainability aspect of her business, but also what her customers want.
“I’m actually coming out with two new product lines in the future next couple months. I’m coming out with a skinny bag with a wipeable inside that can be used for a makeup bag or a pencil case. And then I’m coming out with a larger drawstring bag that I’m going to be calling the “everyday pouch”...My inspiration for them comes from following different fashion bloggers, and I look around me to see the trends and what’s happening. I thought the drawstring would be unique and something I haven’t seen too much of so it would be different. And with the wipeable inside - I got feedback and comments that people want to use the little bags for makeup without ruining the liner, so that’s something I had to experiment with a little bit.”
Advice for Aspiring Designers & Entrepreneurs
It’s pretty remarkable that Anna has been able to start her own business at such a young age, does she have any advice for anyone else, younger than her or not, who may want to follow in her footsteps? “Choose something you’re passionate about,” she says firmly. “I definitely did that with sewing and education, because I donate 15% of the proceeds to Tree House Books. They are a literacy center that empowers education for children in Northern Philadelphia. That is definitely something I would tell other aspiring young entrepreneurs. But then again in regards to my business, I learned that there are thousands of pounds of fabric entering a landfill every day, so that made me want to start a sustainable business that creates something beautiful out of all these scraps that are normally thrown out. It’s important for me to care about the impact on the environment as well. So I would encourage other young kids to find something they want to do that makes an impact in the world around them.”
Giving Back with Handwork
Anna has many reasons to be proud of herself, but she is most proud of donating $1500 to Tree House Books. “Seeing the impact on the kids who got the books they deserve was a gratifying moment.” She is also really happy with herself for applying for a juried event when she first started making bags where they didn’t know her age, and they could judge her solely based on the merit of her work. “It was cool that I got in based on the value of my products and not because I was younger.” If she could change anything about the last few years, Anna only wishes that she had started her company sooner. “I need more hours in the day to accomplish even more because I have so many goals I want to achieve, but I need more time to do it all.”
Anna was then asked to guess at what she would want to do with her life if her career doesn’t end up leading her towards education or handwork, and her response reminds me that no matter how extraordinary and fabulous, Anna is still a typical eighth grader with hobbies of her own, outside of her business and school.
“I love to bake and cook,” she answers with a smile, “So I definitely want to do that as well. I feel like I would always be creative no matter what I do and that’s another area or job I could do that. When I’m not sewing or working on my business or handcraft, I’m definitely in the kitchen baking or cooking. I love to do that.”
Take it from Anna Welsh: if you want to start a business, choose something you love that has a positive impact on the world, and work hard at it. But also make sure to save time to do a little bit of baking on the side!
Start With the Exploration
The Handwork Studio Camps are a great way for kids to gain exposure to a variety of handwork skills. Discover what your child can create with a caring instructor. Programs include:
Fiber Arts Camps- We teach knitting, sewing, weaving, embroidery, needle-felting and much more!
Fashion & Machine Sewing- Learn how to read and use a wide variety of patterns.
Fashion Bootcamp-From sketching and draping to sewing and modeling, watch your fashion dreams come to life.