Sarah Burroughs: Making Bags and Creating Purpose

Sarah Burroughs might not have ever envisioned herself as the founder of a company, but it doesn’t take long to see just how well the title suits her. She’s as committed as she is creative and as busy as she is passionate. As the founder of anne b designs, she not only makes and sells bags that are sold all over the country, but she is also dedicated to passing her craft on to others through her local classes, nonprofit work and commitment to helping refugees.
How did it feel quitting your corporate job and starting your own business?
It was very mixed. I did a crowd-funding campaign right before I quit my job. It went well, so I was confident I would hit my goal and that I would be able to launch my short-term ideas and plans. I was a little overwhelmed leaving the security of the job. I really had to work hard to put my name out there. It was scary to say “Hey, look at me. Help me fund my business”… It was scary to advertise that, but also encouraging because other people admired it and were inspired by it.
You majored in dance and advertising. What was your pathway to making a living with your hobby of sewing?
When I was in middle school and high school, I wanted to be a designer. The name I currently have for my company I actually came up with in high school. Sewing was always there because it really was what I wanted to do all along, even though I didn’t go to school for it. I don’t think there was a day when I went “Aha! Bags!” As a curious seamstress, bags are something that you make because it’s a rectangle with straps. I found it fulfilling to come up with my own patterns for bags. As a freshman in college, I made each of my roommates a personalized bag. From there it just sort of took off and I started making custom bags.

What inspired you to teach?
I started YouTube videos in college because they were all the rage. I started posting how-to videos and getting a lot of traffic from them. It was neat to see customers make my bags and even add variations. It’s so neat to see other people succeed.

I like teaching and community and bringing people together. Since I come from a self-taught background, I want to pass it on. I don’t want to keep it to myself. It used to be a class a month. Now I teach nearly every day.

What made you want to move into nonprofit work?
My first humanitarian trip was in 2013 in Africa through HELP International. I taught sewing, math, dance and some marketing on that trip. Last summer I went to India and took eight other girls with me. We taught sewing, photography and jewelry-making to women who wanted to learn those skills for their own businesses.

Also, through starting my business and contacting factories for production, I got referred to some refugee groups because I was interested in employing refugees. Now anytime a refugee comes into our area with sewing experience, I’ll meet with them and evaluate their skill. If I don’t have work for them, then I connect them with other designers. We’ve had refugees doing sewing for me and for other companies that make products like baby blankets, jeans and skirts. It’s been neat to be a connector who can help these things happen

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