When I Grow Up® began like most other entrepreneurial efforts, with a strong drive and passion for a business that inspires and motivates customers. “I always wanted to start my own business. After watching a reality show in 2008, I knew I could do it; I just needed the right concept.” Little did owner and creator Shannon Anello know that her determination for creating this unique concept would spark such strong childhood imagination.
She channeled her years of experience working at a neighborhood daycare with her enthusiasm for inspiring and helping children. “I wanted to make a difference and create something kids could relate to so I made the designs on the shirts look like the drawings of young children. We go to school to get an education so that one day we may achieve a successful career.“ Combining these childhood dreams and successful adult careers is how When I Grow Up was created. Through her original-shirt designs, children can see their adult dreams come to life.
Shannon shared her creation with the public for the first time in June 2009 at the Gahanna Creekside Jazz festival. The smiles and comments she saw and heard from the children and their parents made her realize her idea was special. “I will never forget the impact a little girl had on me that day. She came to my table and really wanted one of my shirts but her Mom wanted to wait to make the purchase. At the end of the day, she and her Mom returned to my table and her Mom said she turned down playing games, toys, and even cotton candy for one of my t-shirts. She wanted to wear it right then so I quickly created a dressing room at the side of my tent so that she could wear her shirt proudly. The look on her face was priceless. It really made my day.”
Shannon took the excellent feedback from the festival and feverishly pursued her venture while working full time as a Graphic Designer. “Many people thought I was part of a franchise. Little did they know I was working out of my car and a closet at home was my warehouse.” The concept Shannon has created stands out in originality. Most of her shirt designs come from customer requests, which make them unique and original. Her shirts are now available in stores and gift shops all over Columbus, Ohio. She has also branched out nationally; however, Shannon has no plans on stopping there. Her plan is to go global so children of all ages everywhere will have the chance to share their dreams of what they want to be when they grow up.
Through her business, Shannon also finds time to give back to the less fortunate. She founded and is further developing When I Grow Up Kids Foundation by raising money to help children and their families overcome difficult life situations. Currently, When I Grow Up is involved with numerous foundations, including Autism Speaks, PBJ Connections, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
When I Grow Up® is also available as a fundraiser for schools, daycares, charities and non-profit organizations. Custom shirts can be designed to fit the theme of the fundraiser or event with the organization receiving a percentage of the profit.
Bringing a smile and joy to a child’s face through their shirt designs is what keeps this business expanding and growing.