A native of the Caribbean island of Jamaica, Marilyn Williams was captured by fashion and design at the tender age of eight. Hailing from a long line of seamstresses and tailors, Marilyn learned to sew at the knee of her great-grandmother and grandmother, who often created clothing from flour sacks. Her natural talent shone through as she realized she could design and create gorgeous looks without a pattern.

Marilyn worked at bridal and tailor shops and garment factories in Jamaica before she immigrated to Florida in the early 1990s. She earned an associate degree in fashion design at the Arts Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 2003 and launched Torie-Mekhi Fashion Couture as a part-time venture. She and her family then moved to Georgia, where she continued her studies at American Intercontinental University, graduating with a bachelor’s in fashion and marketing.

With her studies completed, Marilyn was eager to make Torie-Mekhi her full-time occupation. One of her college classmates recommended Goodwill’s GoodBIZ program and she decided to investigate the opportunity. Marilyn visited the Pleasant Hill Career Center in early 2018 and enrolled in the upcoming course. She was grateful that the program was available at no cost to her thanks to the funding provided by a Community Block Development grant.

Although it was challenging to balance the demands of the program with work and the responsibilities of motherhood, Marilyn remained determined to achieve her goal. She was motivated to set an example for her two sons, for whom Torie-Mekhi is named.

Since starting her business, Marilyn has gained a diverse following. She is called on to design everything from wedding gowns to cosplay costumes to cushions, and promises an experience for each client that leaves them feeling important and fully catered to. She especially enjoys having her clients collaborate with her during the process, as they work together to create looks that wow. Marilyn has also taught sewing for more than 20 years, helping others learn the craft that is her passion.

Torie-Mekhi has recently expanded its offerings to include school uniforms for hard-to-fit youth. Marilyn was invited by Goodwill to pitch her idea at the first Battle of the BIZ! held in November 2021. Her presentation was so compelling that the judges awarded her the first runner-up award of $3000 to help promote the new line.

Over the last four years, Goodwill’s GoodBIZ program has helped more than 150 entrepreneurs realize their dreams of business ownership. These businesses have provided employment to more than 400 fellow North Georgians. For more information about GoodBIZ, visit goodwillng.org.