A Small Business on the Verge of a Breakthrough: A Local Mom Takes on the Needle Arts Industry
NARBERTH, Pa., May 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Thirteen years ago, mother of two Laura Kelly stood in the doorway of a kindergarten class and watched as a group of three-, four- and five-year-olds baked bread and hand-sewed little animals. Kelly was prospecting schools for her own children, and to a mother who was nervous about choosing the right one, "this felt like love." Completely entranced by the idea that kids would sit quietly and joyfully working on these kinds of projects, Kelly reminisces, "It just felt warm, loving and safe." At that moment, she knew this is what all kids should be doing. "When I saw the pride in their faces and how patiently they worked on their projects, I knew I wanted this for my kids."
Two years later, when the Kellys left the school, they were determined to bring the best part of it home. That's when the idea of a business started to percolate. Using the skills she honed earning her business degree at Northeastern, Kelly thought, "If this feels so right to me, I'm sure other mothers would feel the same way." Considering her outstanding success in the past 10 years, she was undoubtedly on to something.
Though she started the business as mother rather than a crafter, Kelly was not entirely new to the needle arts scene. When her daughter was born in 1995 she took up knitting classes at her local yarn store, Rosie's Yarn Cellar in Philadelphia, and she had learned to machine sew in Home Economics class. But at its foundation Kelly's business was based on the needs of mothers, with programming and pricing that fits into a mom's schedule. "I think my degree in business and years of business experience, and not my crafting, is what has helped. I have the most talented, creative, loving, dedicated people who teach, which frees me up to run the business."
Kelly was determined to bring the warm, caring environment she saw that day in the classroom to her new business, which she named The Handwork Studio. After two years of teaching classes at her kitchen table, she took a chance and opened a storefront in Narberth, PA in 2003 and in 2005 incorporated summer camp into the curriculum, all while balancing motherhood and her own family life with her budding business. Almost ten years after opening her first location, Kelly has expanded the Handwork Studio to 21 camp locations across the country, making certain each of these locations has been built around her original vision of a warm, safe and educational environment for children. "To me what we do has always been about the psyche of the child," explains Kelly, "and teaching crafts is really just a medium to do that. I wanted the kids to come to a place that felt safe for them to explore their creativity, a place where they would feel proud of their work, where they could make mistakes and have fun and over time and with practice would get better and learn more and more skills as they got older."
Though Kelly's vision has been formed around the well-being of children, the world of needle artists has been taking notice of this industry pioneer. And this industry seems to be making quite a comeback. After a decrease in the number and spending of needle artists from 2006-2009 (according to National Needle Arts Association), the trend today is that younger women in their twenties are fueling the industry. With classes being one of the most effective methods of encouraging customers and community to do more needle arts projects, the Handwork Studio is pushing that age even younger, starting kids as young as three. When founding her business, Kelly was heartened by a 2004 report from the now defunct Home Sewing Association that linked childhood learning with the likelihood that a person would carry that craft into adulthood. "I felt that we could make a difference for the industry moving forward. If we could get kids to learn needle arts and machine sewing before the age of 10, they would continue it into adulthood, thus creating the next generation of needle artists." And crafting is no kids play; needle and sewing crafts account for 20% of a 30.3 billion dollar industry (according to a 2011 report by the Craft & Hobby Association). The Handwork Studio hopes to capture a portion of that market first by creating a national presence of hands-on learning through classes and camps for kids followed by a product line of kits and tools. "We want to take what we know about childhood development and self esteem and mix it with our knowledge of teaching kids needle arts and sewing to create an environment of love and creativity. Something every mother can appreciate for their child."
About The Handwork Studio
The Handwork Studio opened its doors in 2001 just outside Philadelphia in Narberth, Pennsylvania, offering kids' sewing and knitting classes, birthday parties, workshops, and private lessons. In 2005 this neighborhood gem introduced its summer camp programs, growing along the East coast and Southwest with locations across Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, New Jersey and Texas. The Handwork Studio is a member of The National Needle Arts Association and The Craft and Hobby Association, as well as the recipient of numerous awards.
Look for more information about The Handwork Studio's summer camp programs and locations at thehandworkstudio.com, and check out photos of their camp programs: Inside Handwork Day Camp, Inside Machine Sewing & Fashion Camp, and Camp Photos.
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