Little Bags Big Impact: Addressing Childhood Literacy 1 Bag at a Time
The amazing entrepreneur giving back… at age 14.
Anna Welsh never expected that her love for sewing would lead her to run her own business, Little Bags Big Impact, as a teenager.
The fourteen-year-old Wynnewood resident said she started handcraft knitting and sewing as early as age six.
“My parents have always said that I’ve always been extremely creative. I was never the one to join sports camps.”Anna Welsh
Welsh attributes her spark of interest in sewing to her sewing teachers, who guided her through every process.
“I always wanted to make something with my hands,” she said. “When I got on a sewing machine, it was just incredible to see that I could make something.”
The Start of It All
During the summer of 2016, Welsh attended a handcraft camp. She finished all of her assigned projects and was given scrap fabric to work with. At the end of the day, she had designed and created three clutch bags.
Following the creation of the bags and wearing them around, the accessories drew the attention of strangers who were awed by the design and the fact Welsh made them.
Welsh was shocked by the feedback she was receiving. She had previous experience making stuffed animals and clothing for herself but felt more confident in her skills to create clutch bags. Once she started incorporating recycled fabrics, she never anticipated how popular her products would be.
“To see what I could make something other people were interested in really wowed me,” she said. “I’ve been sewing for so long so to see something I created [on other people] was so gratifying.”
Her small hobby became an opportunity to become a business. That same year, she participated in an entrepreneurship program for middle and high school students to learn how to build a business based on their passions.
Welsh has a passion for sewing and education. She combined these two passions with the idea of using the clutch bags for the products line. At that moment, Little Bags Big Impact was born when Welsh was only twelve.
Each bag Welsh makes normally takes about forty minutes due to tasks like cutting and attaching the tassel. All of the fabrics she uses comes from discontinued samples from interior designers and donations from individuals who have leftover scrap fabric.
“I mainly use some upholstery materials and then some linens because as well because they’re studier to use for bags,” Welsh said.
When the business first launched, aside from some assistance from family members, Welsh carried a lot of the responsibilities on her shoulders. She realized she needed help with manufacturing and finances. Little Bags Big Impact now has two sewers, as well as two interns focused on social media and marketing.
Tackling World Issues
Her business makes a big impact on the aspects of sustainability and literacy.
Welsh started using recycled fabrics upon hearing about places that had recycled fabrics and she felt the need to save them from the landfills.
Despite the fact all textiles are recyclable, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2015 that the recycling rate for textiles was only 15.3 percent.
After hearing the statistics, she felt compelled to incorporate saved fabrics into her business. She is still researching how other aspects of her business can be eco-friendly and ensuring everything she sources is recyclable.
Welsh also has the dream of becoming a teacher, which is why she feels so strongly about education and childhood literacy. She loved reading since she was younger and wanted to help other children who do not have the same access to books.
Little Bags Big Impact is partnered with Tree House Books, a literacy center and giving library in North Philadelphia near Temple University. 15 percent of the proceeds from each bag is donated to the literacy center.
Michael Brix, the executive director of Tree House Books, said that it’s been wonderful to get to know Anna Welsh and to see how her business has grown.
“I think definitely there’s been some increase in traffic from her promoting us,” Brix said. “Over the last three years that she’s been donating a percentage of her profits, that number has been going up every year.”
Brix believes that the biggest impact is more than money.
“It’s a true partnership where Anna and the folks she intersects with get to hear about the impact we are having in this neighborhood and want to get involved,” he said.
Welsh said that the two aspects of her business are very much connected.
“I feel like the childhood literacy component and sustainability fall hand in hand because they both take place in Philadelphia and are very national and global needs,” Welsh said. “I’m definitely looking to expand and increase awareness to both these problems.”
Looking forward, Welsh hopes to introduce a wedding collection and expand her products line. Man bags have been of interest. She also wants to use corporate orders as a way to promote her brand.
Creating and running this business has been a large learning experience for Welsh, and she encourages others to be the change.
“Everyone can be a change maker and make a difference in the world, whether they’re starting out locally or globally,” Welsh said. “I suggest identifying the social and environmental problems and then to just do something about it.”
Photo credit: Chris Kendig, courtesy of Little Bags Big Impact