Owner/Founder, The Handwork Studio
Sitting at the kitchen table, Laura Kelly built the beginnings of her empire 17 years ago. Inspired by her children’s preschool, where crafting and other arts were a focus, the former Wall Street marketing rep started the Handwork Studio to teach needle and sewing arts—first to her own kids, then to others.
Though she had no sewing experience, Kelly was undeterred, and each year, her Narberth-based program grew a little more. Now, the Handwork Studio has 41 locations across 10 states, with as many as 2,500 campers. Thanks to a partnership with Simplicity, its at-home sewing patterns for children are sold in stores across the nation at places like JoAnn Fabrics, Walmart and Hobby Lobby.
In addition to the sewing patterns, the Handwork Studio offers an educational component via YouTube tutorials. “It’s written in an 8-year-old voice,” says Kelly. “I truly believe we’re creating the next generation of machine sewers—but we’re probably educating a lot of other people, as well.”
In reaching so many kids, Kelly is working with her team to make their marketing materials more inclusive, showing different ethnicities and plus-size models, and subverting gender norms by encouraging boys to sew. “We really want kids to be able to see themselves in the patterns,” she says.