In Conversation with Kiya Tomlin, Fashion Designer & Entrepreneur

Kiya Tomlin_Blog Header

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.

Share it!

Posted in

Leave a Comment

8 Inspiring Latinx Entreprenistas that have launched groundbreaking companies

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve put together a list of 8 incredible Latinx women founders that have launched groundbreaking companies. Check it out: Jessica Alba: The Honest Company Founded in 2011, The Honest Company makes sustainable, well-designed products that work – built on transparency, trust, and a deep sense of purpose. In…

Susan Sarit of Operations-Made Easy on achieving your goals by getting organized

Describe your business in a few words: I am a mom, daughter, sister, business owner, and more! I started my business for both financial freedom and to be a work-at-home mom. I created Operations-Made Easy to help diverse women with the Operations of their business. Deliberative, disciplined, and detail-oriented are just a few words we…

Lisa Nutt of Make Every Minute Count on personal and professional growth

Describe your business in a few words? The Make Every Minute Count ecosystem encourages us to go (do that thing), grow (personally and professionally) and give (through a membership based family to family giving circle). What made you take the leap to start your own business? I’m a serial entrepreneur. This is the third time…

Connection Coach Kristjana Hillberg on trusting your intuition and having an open mind

Describe your business in a few words: I’m a Connection Coach who helps women unearth their deepest desires, move from auto pilot to intentional action and prioritize their wellbeing. What was your background prior to starting your own business? I’m a multipotentialite – meaning, I have tried multiple things and tested multiple careers ranging from…

Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon: Finally Back to Delicious Meals For Everyone

Cuisine varies by culture, but no matter how societies segment and define themselves, certain foods show up in households across the globe — only differing in their forms. Some of a culture’s time-honored meals are created by its culinary icons.  Among America’s culinary icons, Martha Stewart is, without question, its most trusted. In 2014, Martha…

7 Entreprenista League Members share the biggest business challenge they overcame and what it taught them

Brand Photographer Brittney Guy-Atakpo of Brittney Jean Photography The biggest business challenge I have faced is sticking to a schedule that made me feel productive and good about my work ethic. What I have learned is that there is no right or wrong schedule or routine that produces success. I have been more grateful for…

Courtney Spritzer of WorkRobe on her “secret sauce” for a successful product launch

Describe WorkRobe in a few words? WorkRobes are designed to have you looking your best during any video meeting, so you can go from bedroom to boardroom in seconds and in comfort. My mission is to reimagine what you wear to work (from home).  Can you pinpoint the moment you knew you wanted to create…

Brand Photographer Brittney Jean Guy-Atakpo on helping women show up confidently on camera

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Brittney with Brittney Jean Photography & Company. I help women show up confidently in photos and on social media to grow their brand and business. I’m a Brand Photographer and Strategist. I have over 5 years working for Fortune 100 companies in sales and marketing and over…

Lorena Tapiero of Conscious Consulting on the power of networking

Describe your business in a few words? Conscious Consulting is a Latina-owned, bilingual marketing and public relations agency with 20 years of experience in the hospitality, sports and wellness sectors. Our thoughtful, comprehensive approach helps brands establish clear communication priorities and a long-range vision for meaningful press coverage, value-added partnerships and sustainable influencer relationships. As…

Lindsay Applebaum Stuart of Mamalux on the beginning stage of business

Describe your business in a few words? Mamalux is a first-of-its-kind leakproof sleep solution for breastfeeding moms. Our Kickstarter launches on 10/19! What was your background prior to starting your own business? I spent the first 10 years of my career as a sports journalist for the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated! So this has…

Jessica Bargenquast of Lady ChangeMakers on organic marketing strategies that work

Describe your business in a few words? Lady ChangeMakers is an exclusive e-commerce platform for women-owned businesses to gain valuable exposure and sales. Most of my life I’ve been encouraged to be seen and not heard. Growing up extremely introverted and shy I felt invisible. I wanted to create a platform so women-owned businesses could…

Jennifer Gligoric of EntrePods on the importance of mindset

Describe EntrePods in a few words? Cutting-edge entrepreneur and investor network answering the question “So Now What?” for business owners powered by fractional consultants and coaches with decades worth of experience. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I had no choice.  My mother owned a staffing company for 54 years…

Certified Financial Planner Maggie Gomez on investing and building wealth

Describe your business in a few words? An accessible place where anyone can learn to invest and build wealth, regardless of their net worth. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I realized that it was only those who were already wealthy that had access to quality financial guidance. I got…

Claire Jones of Cushy Couture on shifting paradigms in the fashion industry

Describe your business in a few words? Cushy Couture is a customer-driven clothing brand that creates high quality sweatpants in a wide range of colors and patterns that come in three different inseam lengths because we believe that you don’t have to settle for less. We create functional sweatpants that will last you for multiple…

Writer, Speaker, Podcaster, and Life Coach Chelsea Austin on taking care of yourself first

Describe your business in a few words? I advocate for others to find their own self-worth and acceptance through self-care, love, respect, and storytelling. What made you take the leap to start your own business? When I started writing my book and my blog, I don’t think I ever realized it would become a business.…