Who are you? & can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Anna Welsh. I love to travel with my family. I lived abroad in Germany for three years and have visited over 16 countries—with my personal favorites being England, Croatia, and the Dominican Republic. When I am not working on my business, I love to bake and write short stories. When I am older, I aspire to be a 3rd grade English teacher.
What exactly is littlebags.bigimpact?
littlebags.bigimpact is a company with a sustainable and social impact mission. I hand make bags from repurposed fabrics that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill. Did you know that over 15 million tons of textiles are wasted and thrown into a landfill each year in the United States? In my first year of business, I have rescued more than 2000 pounds of fabric from entering a landfill. The bags I make are made from discontinued interior designer fabrics. My product line includes clutches, wallets, crossbody, bucket totes, and cosmetic pouches. These are the ‘littlebags.’
When starting out, I always knew that giving back would be a foundation of my business model. I am passionate about education and believe strongly that every child needs access to quality books to help them grow into readers, writers and thinkers. The single most significant factor influencing a child’s educational
success is access to quality books—lots of them.
I wanted to begin locally so I could see the impact come alive in the children around me. I am proud to say that 15% of the proceeds of each bag sold is donated to Tree House Books, a literacy center that empowers education for underserved children in Philadelphia. In my first two years of business, I have impacted and inspired more than 5,000 children. This is the ‘bigimpact.’
What inspired you to start littlebags.bigimpact?
It all started at a sewing day camp, where I learned to hand and machine sew since age 6. In the summer of 2016, I completed all of the camp projects, so my sewing teacher gave me a clutch pattern and some geometric fabric. I got to work, and an hour later, I had completed three clutch bags. The following month, my mom and I went to Detroit, MI, to visit friends. While shopping, a boutique owner stopped my mom and asked her, “Where did you get your bag?” My mom responded that I made it. When the sales person found out a 12-year-old made the bag, she was astonished and replied, “She can sell them here.” It was flattering, but I thought they were just being nice. However, two more stores later, I received the same compliment. That October, I was accepted into an entrepreneur program for middle and high school kids. I went in knowing that I had to incorporate two of my passions, sewing and education. After creating an extensive business plan and winning the investor competition, my business took off.
How old are you? Do you think people don’t take you as seriously because you are a younger entrepreneur?
I am 14 years old and am excited to have had the opportunity to start my business early! I find that people definitely take me seriously and are, in fact, very welcoming. In the beginning stages of my business, I was tentative to ask for advice, but soon found that everyone was very helpful. This constant support has energized me and has shown me that I can take my business to the next level!
How did you come up with the name?
I knew that my specialty was going to be creating littlebags. I also knew that I wanted to make a big impact. After brainstorming different names, I just kept coming back to littlebags.bigimpact.
With each purchase you support child literacy, can you tell us about that?
Education is always close to my heart. I absolutely love to read and want to share that with others. I believe that every child should have access to books, tools that guide them in education and in life. In Philadelphia, there is just one age-appropriate book in every 300 homes. 67% of the children currently entering third grade are not reading on grade-level, making them 87% more likely to drop out of high school. I wanted to be part of the solution to help these children. It was important to me to donate to a charity where I can see the impact come to life—where I know children in my surrounding community directly benefit from new, quality books. Through extensive research, I found a charity in North Philadelphia called Tree House Books. From the moment I walked in, I immediately fell in love with the children, books, and the organization’s mission.
Is there a favorite product?
The best-selling product line is the clutch bag due to its versatility. It is also the “original” littlebag! People love the size of the bag, the fabric texture and pattern, as well as the fun tassels.
What is your favorite part about running littlebags.bigimpact?
Owning and running a business is all about pursuing your passions, and I get to do that every day, whether at artisan events or designing in my studio. My favorite part about running littlebags.bigimpact is my ability to be creative. I love sorting through the fabric, pairing them together, creating new patterns!
What is your least favorite part about running littlebags.bigimpact?
Something I have found challenging is finding suppliers in the United States. I am passionate about having everything sourced from the USA and/or Made in America. For example, when searching for packaging, I found it difficult to find bags that weren’t mass-produced overseas.
How do you spread the word about your company?
I spread the word using social media, participating in artisan markets, and speaking and/or attending events and conferences. Exposure has also been by word of mouth, as people approach me at events or conferences saying, “I read about you…” or “I heard about your from a friend…”
Do you have any advice for fellow young entrepreneurs?
Everyone can be a changemaker and make a difference in the world—whether locally or globally. As Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka and 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.” I suggest identifying social and environmental problems and do something about it. Surround yourself with a team of mentors and positive role models. Ask questions because you will find that people are more than willing to help. One of my role models is Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS. I read his biography and learned a lot.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? ☺
Nothing is impossible. The word itself says: I’m Possible.