Teen Mindset Magazine had the honor of interviewing Anna Welsh, the founder of littlebags.BIGIMPACT. Read the interview below to discover what is it like defying the odds and owning an impactful business as a teenager.
What inspired you to create Little Bags?
I first decided to start my business because I have a huge passion for sewing. I have been going to the Handwork Studio, a needle arts and sewing camp since I was 6, so it has made a big impact on my life. In the summer of 2016, I was at the Handwork Studio camp and my sewing teacher gave me a pattern for these clutch bags and some funky fabric. Several hours later, three clutch bags were made.
The following month, I went to Detroit, Michigan, to visit some girlfriends and my mom was carrying around the clutch bag. A salesperson stopped her just as we went into a store and complimented her on the clutch, asking her where she got it. When she replied, she just told them that her daughter shopping around made it. I thought that they were just being nice because I was just 12 at the time. The next store that we went into, the same conversation was had. I kept it in the back of my mind, not really thinking that this could be a business idea yet.
A few months later, I started the Young Entrepreneur Academy (YEA!), a program designed for middle to high school students to help you build a business based on your passions. I thought back to my experience with clutch bags and decided to give a go at it. The impact component was incorporated because of my love for education. I want to become a teacher when I grow up, so I have a huge heart for making sure that all children have access to books. I came across Tree House Books after extensive research and knew that they were the perfect fit. Tree House Books is a giving library and literacy center in Philadelphia.
I combined my two passions and voila — littlebags.BIGIMPACT was created!
You continue to embrace your dreams. What advice do you have for teens who have big dreams but are not confident about their ability to achieve them?
Find your passion and map out a path to success. That path may take unexpected turns along the way but being the driver of your journey will allow you to achieve your dreams. Keep your vision and your end goad in focus because when it becomes a reality, it’s extremely rewarding.
How is littlebags.BIGIMPACT changing the world?
My business has environmental and social impact components. Sustainable fashion is important to me. I only use recycled fabrics that I locally source from Philadelphia. Not many people know that the majority of our landfills are filled with fabric. The materials that I use would have otherwise been thrown out and ended up in a landfill. To date, I have rescued several thousands of pounds of fabric.
The social impact benefits the children of Philadelphia. 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. To change these grim statistics, I donate 15% of the proceeds to Tree House Books. My partnership with Tree House Books is working to change childhood literacy statistics to ensure that Philadelphia is a city of readers, writers, and thinkers. At littlebags.BIGiMPACT, for every $1 donated = 1 book in the hands of a child. To date, I have donated $1500 to Tree House Books and have impacted the lives of more than 1500 children.
What are some future goals you have for yourself? What future do you envision for Little Bags?
When I was younger, I thought I wanted to become a classroom teacher. However, my entrepreneurial journey has shown me that I can be a teacher in many ways — as a mentor to other aspiring young entrepreneurs, to children in underserved communities, and to the sustainable community to find solutions for textile waste.
So will I continue being a businesswoman? Yes! I am currently in the process of becoming a certified sustainable business. I have two production employees, two college interns majoring in business, and a director of transportation (my pop-pop) who picks up fabric donations. Now entering my third year in business, I will be expanding my production team again.
During an investor pitch competition, I concluded with ‘even though I’m little, I know my business will be big.’ I enjoy being a businesswoman and making thoughtful decisions that support my sustainable and social missions. I have visions of being in Oprah’s gift guide as an option for shoppers to “Give a Gift with Purpose.” I want to be on the Ellen DeGeneres show or the Today Show to share with viewers the importance of childhood literacy in underserved urban and rural communities in the USA— and the need for us as a nation to do something about supporting the next generation.
These past two years have shown me that each and every one of us can be a changemaker. Watch out because I’m just getting started!
What challenges have you had to overcome throughout your quest of creating your business?
In the beginning, it was challenging to realize that I couldn’t do everything myself, especially as the business grew. I learned from a mentor to 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.
How do you balance school and a business?
Many people ask me this question and to be honest, there is no definite answer. However, having a very supportive family and community of fellow women-entrepreneurs is very essential in success. If I have a test to study for the next day or school work with a deadline, my family jumps in and reminds me that school comes first and creating a list of tasks to complete can soothe my mind. Additionally, my school is very understanding if I have a business event or meeting.
What is your advice on finding your passion/purpose in life?
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.
How is each bag produced? How do you come up with each design?
I’m proud that each littlebag is produced in the USA. I work with a team to hand make the specialty littlebags, while also working with a cut and sew manufacturer in Philadelphia on larger orders. The design process is continually evolving. I think about what type of bag I would like to carry because I want it to be both functional and stylish.
What is the coolest thing you have been able to experience through your business littlebags.BIGIMPACT?
It was cool being a featured speaker at a national women’s conference in Florida as a leader for NextGen entrepreneurs. It was also amazing winning an award – however, I could not attend because I was on vacation with my family, so the organization asked me to submit a video acceptance speech, making me feel like a movie star at the Grammy’s!
What is it like being a teenage business owner? What advice do you have for those who want to become one day?
Being a teenage business owner keeps me busy. Really busy. But as littlebags.bigimpact has grown, I’ve learned how to manage priorities and build a team of people to support me. I would encourage young entrepreneurs to research a product or service that they are passionate about and find a way to make it their own. It could be something that doesn’t exist in the marketplace or a refinement on something already out there. Then—build a business plan and get started!
Do you have any last words of advice for teens out there seeking inspiration 🙂
I find inspiration mainly from conversation. Just having a conversation with someone can change your mindset, thinking, and motivation. Sometimes, I find myself daydreaming about how I can take an idea someone gave to me and incorporate it into my business and personal crafts. Another way I find inspiration is by reading. Magazines, books, and newspapers can give you a lot of motivation and ideas. Sometimes I read through the whole article or just merely look at the picture. Either way, I can almost be guaranteed to come out with a creative idea or a new outlook on things. Some things that inspire me include other businesses, entrepreneurs, and Instagram. I am also inspired to give back to the community.
Thank you so much Anna Welsh for interviewing with Teen Mindset Magazine. You are defying the odds and showing that you do not have to be a certain age to begin achieving your dreams! Let’s follow the advice and wonderful example Anna welsh has given us and continue seeking to achieve our dreams and impact the world!
Ways to connect with Anna Welsh:
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