In Conversation with Kiya Tomlin, Fashion Designer & Entrepreneur
Describe your business in a few words?
“Uniting cover girl glamour with the comfort and ease of a favorite sweatshirt. Our designs embody femininity, versatility, and the constant pursuit of the place where style, function, and comfort intersect.” (Click here to check it out!)
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
After years of designing custom evening wear for women and seeing the surprise, joy, and confidence women gained through clothes designed for their most special occasions, I wanted to help women feel like that every day. I wanted to help women feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful all day. I wanted to be financially independent. I wanted to build something I was proud of and that I could pass down to my kids.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I’ve been designing since I was four years old. Then I taught myself how to sew at eleven years old. That’s when I realized I loved clothes.
Unfortunately, at that age, I was the size of a six-year-old, much too small to fit the fashions I coveted. Ever the problem solver, I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas and taught myself how to sew.
I dove right in and taught myself a crude form of pattern making by mixing, matching, and piecing together numerous patterns to collage my way to my own designs. I spent all of my spare time during my formative years sewing everything from baby clothes to prom dresses for my friends, family, and myself.
At the time, it seemed like only a hobby. I even enrolled into college on a pre-med track. I then realized a doctor’s schedule doesn’t align well with a professional football coach schedule. (Yes, I’m married to THAT head coach!) Within our first few years of marriage, we moved around A LOT.
One of our moves landed us in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mike was coaching at the University of Cincinnati and I promptly enrolled in their College of Design, Art, and Architectural Planning, to formally (and finally!) study fashion design.
(A reminder that most things in life come full circle, don’t give up on a dream.) Anyway, this program breathed new life into me, a breath I so desperately needed after nearly suffocating as a childless housewife in a small-town USA! And here we are 20+ years later, making clothing for women, allowing them to feel confident in and out of their homes while they wear many hats.
I’m so grateful for the path that has led me here and I’m overjoyed to continue to design pieces she loves.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a designer and business owner is finding reliable suppliers. Being a fashion designer and my product being my business it’s important to have suppliers that you can trust and know will have the supplies you need to continue to grow your business.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
During the 6 years we’ve been in business we’ve been able to get featured in O Magazine, Yahoo Style, The TODAY Show, HBO Sports, People Style Watch just to name a few.
Our brick and mortar store is located in Pittsburgh, PA, and during the lockdown we used our design studio to manufacture 20k masks for essential workers in the community.
This past year we were nominated for Pittsburgh’s Best Designer in 2020.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Originally starting as a brick and mortar business with some online presence this pandemic pivoted my business to mainly relying on online sales. Something that I think a lot of businesses realized and learned how to adapt throughout this year. I’m grateful to know that I had a wonderful team to help and assist me with this change and that my business was able to continue to grow during this time.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
That there is never a perfect time or perfect circumstance, so don’t wait for it. Take steps towards your goal and opportunities will reveal themselves.