For more than 30 years, Sharon Newman wistfully dreamed about being a student at The University of Toledo.“I used to drive around campus wishing I was attending classes there. I would pretend like I was going to college just from driving and touring the University,” she said.
Now with the help of the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women and the Minority Business Development Center, she is making that dream and her desire to become a renowned fashion designer a reality.
Newman was admitted to the University for the first time in 1978 after graduating from high school, but didn’t understand at the time the various steps involved in registering for classes. Just fantasizing about being a student at UT “got old after a while,” she said, and earlier this year she began attending classes offered through the Eberly Center designed for adults who want to polish their math, writing, computer and other skills.
“These classes will organize my life and help me to reach my goal of being a successful fashion designer and business owner,” she said.
Her business, Rose of Sharon Fashions, specializes in designing clothes for men, women and children. The business does alterations and specializes in wedding gowns, ready-to-wear, high-end, as well as selling couture clothing and accessories, including hats, purses and shoes.
In addition to owning and running the business, Newman designs the clothes for her line. She subcontracts the sewing work to seamstresses.
“I love making people look beautiful,” she said. “Watching my dreams and visions come to life and knowing I am going to enhance the customers’ beauty makes it exciting to run my own business.”
Ultimately, she said she wants to “help put Toledo on the map in the global world of fashion.”
“The Eberly Center has resources, such as workshops, which are available to help in all areas of a woman’s personal and business life,” Newman said.
In addition to learning about various computer programs this year through the Eberly Center, she was able to participate in the Math Exploration through Art course under the leadership of Joe Szafarowicz, a retired Toledo Public Schools teacher.
“I truly appreciate Dr. Shanda Gore [associate vice president for equity, diversity and community engagement] for her leadership role at the Eberly Center for Women and her staff for their hard work in keeping the dream alive that Catharine S. Eberly started years ago here at UT,” Newman said.
“Ms. Newman with her business Rose of Sharon Fashions is a shining example of how UT is living up to its core value of creating an environment that values and fosters diversity as well as being committed to the communities we serve,” Gore said.
Newman’s business also is receiving support from the Minority Business Development Center, where she has rented office space for three months at a low rate that includes electricity, heating, Internet, printing services and building security. She expects to remain in the incubator program in the Engineering Technology Building on the Scott Park Campus of Energy and Innovation for several years.
“The Minority Business Development Center has enabled me to achieve goals I thought were impossible for me to accomplish at this stage in my business with the help of its valuable resources and networking,” Newman said.
She said her business is “doing very well” and is in the process of creating its first collection that should be available after the first Rose of Sharon fashion show next fall. Eventually, she will sell garments at trade shows and other exhibitions such as bridal and fashion shows in cities, including Toledo, Columbus, Detroit and Atlanta.
Newman plans to officially enroll at UT in the spring to pursue a baccalaureate degree in business management with a minor in visual art.