The Sky(line)'s The Limit: Anne Johnson's Journey to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

Anne Johnson, the owner and founder of Anne Cate, a bags, accessories and pillow retailer that features skyline graphics, has been awarded the 2024 Distinguished Honors Alumni award at the 38th Annual Senior Honors Luncheon.

From humble beginnings, in her sophomore year Stopher-Johnson dorm room and just one sewing machine, to becoming a retailer with national clients and a loyal customer base, Anne Johnson’s story serves as an inspiration to us all.

Anne Johnson sits at her sewing machine smiling at the camera

Johnson is a Kent State University Honors College alumna from Mentor, Ohio, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in fashion merchandising with a minor in entrepreneurship in 2018. Johnson was honored at the 2024 Senior Honors Luncheon on Saturday, April 20th, 2024 in the Kent State University Ballroom, as the 2024 Distinguished Honors Alumni winner, for her impressive work in the field of fashion. Her brand, Anne Cate, which specializes in accessories, bags and pillows featuring bold skyline graphics, is now sold in over 150 stores across the U.S., and has an online retail site at

At age 13, she got her very first sewing machine, and from then on, she was enchanted by the world of fashion. Johnson started an Etsy shop selling some of the products she was making, and realized that there was real value in creating something beautiful yet meaningful. “I learned really quickly that I could make money from the things I created. I was in love with that idea. It was really fulfilling because I was doing this anyway and was now able to make money from it,” says Johnson.

Eventually, Johnson chose Kent State’s fashion merchandising program, as  it allowed her to combine her passions of fashion and business. While living in the Honors College residence hall, Johnson had a stroke of genius, “My sophomore year of school, I wanted to make pillows for my Stopher-Johnson dorm room. What a cute idea would it be to make some with my favorite cities on them.” And from that, her skyline products were born. In the coming weeks, these products evolved and began gaining extreme popularity on her Etsy shop, and Johnson knew she had a winning concept.

“The products at the end of the day evoke some emotional connection to the customer. So it's like ‘Oh my gosh, I am dreaming of moving to New York City. This bag is motivation for me,’ or ‘I miss home. This is a skyline of my home I had to move away from,’” she says.

After just a few months of selling her skyline pillows, American Greetings asked to pick up her skyline products for wholesale. “From that moment on, I was like, ‘I'm gonna spend every second I have working on this.’ I love what I'm doing. And I'm going to use every resource while I'm at school to potentially grow this,” says Johnson.

Anne Johnson in her sophomore year of college sits on her Stopher-Johnson dorm room bed with her very first skyline pillows propped up behind her.

She did just that by gathering every resource offered to her by Kent State, “I took every course and applied it directly to my business. What we were doing in planning and buying, like making spreadsheets, I transferred to my own business, and I created such a foundation for my business using Photoshop and Illustrator, taught to me in fashion tech,” says Johnson. She even did an independent study with one of the entrepreneurship professors to work on Anne Cate as a three-credit course. All of these opportunities helped her to become the accomplished entrepreneur she is today. Before she graduated, she had sold around $50,000 worth of products, and by graduation, she was ready to hit the ground running and grow her business even more.

“Eight years later, we're still chugging along. But it's been really cool to be able to live my dream, literally out of college. To be able to work for myself is such a blessing,” she says.

Today, Anne Cate works with major corporate clients like Hulu, KeyBank, New York Life, Kent State University’s Alumni Association and more. She has a guiding mission to “carry what you care about,” and that is what is so intriguing about the Anne Cate brand. They truly design, cut, sew and manufacture with customer care in mind.

Johnson has been awarded accolades like the Best of Cleveland award for years 2021 to 2023, celebrated as one of Wawak's Finest Designers and Sewists, named Northeast Ohio Top 25 Under 35 Movers & Shakers, graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, was featured as one of Crain's Cleveland Business Magazine’s 2021 Notable Entrepreneurs, was a panelist at 2024’s Spirit of Women in Business Conference, hosted by the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship and is now being honored as 2024’s Distinguished Honors Alumni winner. “So many people have helped me along my way from Kent and I'm just forever grateful that they've been able to see the business in they've been able to believe in it,” she says. Johnson feels honored to accept this award as the 2024 Distinguished Honors Alumna and to continue expanding Anne Cate.

As Johnson likes to says “The sky(line)’s the limit!”

live stream of the entire 38th Annual Senior Honors luncheon, including Anne Johnson’s acceptance speech, was recorded at the Honors College event.

For more information about the Honors College, please visit the Honors College website.


Media Contact: Stephanie Moskal,, 330-672-2312

PHOTO 1: Anne Johnson holds up her Cleveland Skyline clutch in front of the Cleveland skyline.

PHOTO 2: Anne Johnson sits at her sewing machine smiling at the camera

PHOTO 3: Anne Johnson in her sophomore year of college sits on her Stopher-Johnson dorm room bed with her very first skyline pillows propped up behind her. 

POSTED: Sunday, April 21, 2024 12:45 PM
Updated: Friday, May 3, 2024 09:46 AM