Inspirational Women

Valarie Midgley

Entrepreneurship happened by complete “fluke” for Valarie Midgley — an entrepreneur and Custom Designer based in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

During her senior year of high school — in need of another art credit — Valarie chose to take a sewing class.  She already knew how to sew and figured it would be an easy semester.
The sewing class led to a fashion co-op, and the fashion co-op led to the opportunity to work with a Fashion Designer. Once she got a taste of fashion, she was hooked. In fact, Valarie started her very first business at 17-years-old called Masquerade Intimate Apparel designing and creating exotic dancewear.
“At that time we had a number of dance bars in the city so I decided why not give it a shot.”
Valarie turned it into a lucrative business. But it didn’t come without its challenges. Who can remember pre-internet days of going to the library and having to sign out books in order to research simple topics? But that’s exactly how Valarie learned the business side of entrepreneurship. She had to learn marketing, advertising, budgeting and customer service — all essential components of any successful business.
After high school, Valarie attended Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario and immersed herself in the Fashion Technique and Design course. After graduating from Sheridan’s Post Grad Fashion program, she moved back to Thunder Bay for a time, then back to Toronto for 6 years.
“I knew I wanted to go into custom design… and I knew I wanted to have my own shop.”
Fast forward to today and Valarie runs three, successful fashion and apparel related businesses in Thunder Bay; for the past 11 years she’s been Owner/Operator and Head Designer at The Whole Nine Yards, which provides alterations, tailoring, repairs and custom clothing. Recent ventures include Carefree Clothing, which caters to clients who require adaptive apparel due to accessibility or mobility concerns; and Superior Clothing Manufacturing that has a focus on providing mass manufactured nightgowns/nightshirts for men and women with challenged mobility across Canada.



Through the course of her career, she’s worked with the renowned Mirvish Productions designing costumes for stage plays, been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and has worked on the set of a major Hollywood film starring actor, Gerard Butler.
“So I know Gerard Butler’s inseam,” she jokes.
Even though Valarie has had a very illustrious career, it’s worth noting that the garment industry is a very male-dominated and competitive industry.  That’s why it’s always been important for Valarie to — not only stand her ground as a woman in business — but to also structure her companies and partnerships around her values and core beliefs.
She takes on a number of co-op students in her businesses. Which is fitting since it was a co-op that got Valarie her first start. She also mentors up-and-coming business owners and is also involved with various charitable programs.
Once of the charities that Valarie participates with is called Breast Bags. With the donation of fabric, local high school students are taught about pattern cutting and sewing. Each student then creates a small tote bag. Collectively the bags are donated to their cancer clinic for women dealing with breast cancer. The tote bags bring as much joy to the kids as they do to the patients. And she’s always proud of each student. They not only learn a valuable skill, they also learn about empathy, support and giving back to the community.
Valarie is also a proud supporter of One Woman.
“I can see the potential in a program like this… as a business woman, I know how hard it is to get into business and survive in business.”
Valarie believes, as women, we have to help each other make a difference. All women — both at home and abroad are important and it’s important for us to be united as a whole. She believes in the vision of One Woman and sees it touching many lives.
“We have to help each other. That’s the only way we’re going to grow.”
To her mentees, or “mentals” as they lovingly and proudly call themselves, Valarie teaches, “success is evitable when failure is not an option.”
She also advises them to be passionate about their businesses.
“Choose something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”