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Fort Smith woman inspires others with Black-owned fashion academy

JoAnna Brewer is changing lives one stitch at a time at Sew Fabulous Studio and Academy.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — JoAnna Brewer has a passion for fashion and helping others. She’s changing lives one stitch at a time at Sew Fabulous Studio and Academy in Fort Smith.  

“Life comes with hard knocks,” she said. “But when you walk in here, this is a place for you to be uplifted, inspired, equipped and empowered.” 

Brewer comes from small beginnings but has always had big dreams. She got her start teaching several classes a day from her home.   

“I kind of took over my husband’s man-cave and converted it to a sewing room,” JoAnna laughed.  

It didn’t take long to outgrow the space. JoAnna and her husband, Glenn, purchased a more than 7,000 square foot building in June of 2019. It was a pivotal moment for JoAnna’s career and life mission.  

“I said, 'okay, God, I want my own fashion academy,'” she said. “But I don't want to just to stop at fashion. I want makeup. I want to teach business skills, true entrepreneurship, how to start a business from conception to completion.” 

While some of her students are working to earn certifications in fashion, makeup or business, JoAnna also teaches life-skills and offers regular sewing classes.  

“I'm the first-ever,” she said. “Now you've had, you have business academies, you have makeup academies, you have fashion academies, you have visual arts and photography, but you've never had it all in one place.” 

JoAnna says she is grateful for her upbringing. Growing up, she had a love for fashion and aesthetics. Her father worked at Riverside Furniture, and her mother taught etiquette. 

“Presentation was always important,” JoAnna said. “You don't have to glam up, but at least comb your hair, put on a pair of earrings, maybe a little lip gloss and have on a nice pair of shoes.” 

She started learning how to sew at five-years-old from her great-aunts.  

“Being minority, being Black, we didn't have the privilege of going to other places to shop and do things,” she explained. “So they became the dressmakers and the seamstress within their community.” 

JoAnna worked hard to achieve her dreams and says she feels the most fulfilled building her students up and watching them achieve theirs.   

“I've always been a giver,” she said. “I've always loved encouraging and empowering people. I love to see people going for their dreams and goals. I just, that's just who I am.” 

“Even when she sees you’re struggling, she’ll be like, ‘Okay, let’s go back a little bit, and let’s try it this way,’ and she really focuses on you growing because she sees how much passion and determination her students have," said student Kasha Flynn.

JoAnna walks into a room with confidence, poise and wisdom. Sometimes her "truth bombs" come with tough love.  

“Just don't stay stagnant,” she said. “If you have a vision, you gotta see it before you see it, and just go get it, go do it. You're gonna be sitting here tomorrow. So why not sit here tomorrow having accomplished something, or at least saying I tried.” 

It may seem like JoAnna’s always smiling, but that’s not to say she hasn’t faced adversity. She has battled cancer twice and has felt the deepest form of loss.  

“In this pandemic I lost my mother,” she said. “That was the hardest blow I ever took in my life. Fighting cancer was easy, but when I lost my mother that took the wind out of me. But then I had to remember what she put in me, and I had to do her justice. I still have to make her proud.”  

JoAnna loves what she does and genuinely wakes up feeling excited to go to work. She said faith and family are everything.  

“My husband Glenn Brewer has never been afraid to let me shine,” she said smiling. “Nothing is more powerful than coming into the fruition of who you are and who you were created to be.”  

JoAnna has a workshop for people wanting to build and improve their business coming up on Saturday, March 19. 

Click here to learn more about the Successful Business Builders Workshop, JoAnna’s courses and her inspiring story.

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