At an age when a lot of little girls were making clothes for their Barbie dolls, Vivienne Williamson was designing and sewing the real thing. She made her first wedding dress-for a family friend-when she was 11.
“Sewing is a dying art, and I want others to know the satisfaction and joy of being able to create.”
“It’s fun,” Williamson said. “It’s the creation that I like. It’s rewarding to see people’s faces when the work is completed and they love it.”
Williamson, 45, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to Minneapolis when she was 9. “One day right after we got here, my dad was sewing (he learned from a lady in Jamaica named Miss Mattie) and I asked him if he would teach me.” She was a quick study, and although her dad never sewed for a living, it was all his daughter ever wanted to do. But she took a few detours along the way to a full-time tailoring business.
The mother of four sons, ages 10 to 29, Williamson was on public assistance for a time as she earned certificates in data entry and tailoring from Minnesota Technical Institute (now, Minneapolis Community and Technical College) and 100 hours toward a teaching degree from MTC and Augsburg College. She worked in alterations for a number of department stores in addition to doing tailoring in the basement of her south Minneapolis home.
Mighty Stitch by Vivienne
2144 – 44th Ave. N.
Williamson quit alterations for department stores when she decided to try to make a go of her own business, becoming an early welfare-to-work entrepreneur in Minnesota. She was a success, but financially, the going was still rough, so she also worked for Minneapolis Public Schools as an educational assistant. And while working at Roosevelt High School, she met her current husband, Eric Mraz. Of course she designed and made her own wedding gown.
Williamson’s first shop outside her home was “a tiny, cramped 300-square-foot space” at Lowry and Logan in north Minneapolis. It also acquired the name Mighty Stitch, “in acknowledgement of Almighty God,” said Williamson, a member of Mighty Fortress International Ministry. The shop quickly moved to a 750-square-foot space and then to its 1,500-square-foot present location. Williamson also finds time to serve as president of the NorthWest Minneapolis Business Association.
Within the next five years or so, Williamson wants to open a nonprofit school to teach her skill to others. “Sewing is a dying art, and I want others to know the satisfaction and joy of being able to create,” Williamson said.
And to other women who dream of owning their own businesses, she offered this advice: “Have patience and perseverance and don’t give up on your dream.”