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

Melanie Rivera of Breaker28 on making an impact while finding joy in everyday life hiccups and surprises

Describe Breaker28 in a few words? We develop leaders with H.E.A.R.T. – Healthy, Equitable, Antiracist, Real and Trust-Centered. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been planning my business for four years – perfecting content, testing out approaches, and I feel that I have a message and a model…

Bex Gold of Brite Hair on combining ethics and fashion to drive innovation into the haircare space

Describe your business in a few words? Brite Hair makes quality ethical, vegan, cruelty free hair color & hair care products that are accessible and fun! What made you take the leap to start your own business? I founded a hair color brand after a long-term relationship ended – I was in my 30s and…

Sonya Tkacs of Recruitlynk on why marketing and selling your business as an owner never stops

Describe your business in a few words? The Recruitlynk mission is to recruit and source top executive and management talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We strive to help sustain and nurture inclusive cultures where differences drive innovative solutions and uphold diversity in the workplace. Our goal is to effectively hire leaders who care about…

Isabelle Tierney of The Feel Good Life on helping people lead more fulfilling lives with her ground-breaking methodology

Describe your business in a few words? I help individuals, as well as businesses, relieve stress and choose well-being. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I had a highly successful private practice for more than 20 years as a marriage and family therapist, but my personal life was anything but…

Brittany Whitlock of Big Mood Digital on why the thing you are afraid of is the thing you have to do!

Describe Big Mood Digital in a few words? I train business owners, marketers and teams on how to conquer digital marketing confidently making it approachable and manageable through private sessions and courses. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I love working with passionate people who get excited to learn something…

Courtlyn Jones of The Design Database on being a creative entrepreneur, and how she is helping freelancers create the career of their dreams

Describe your business in a few words? The Design Database is an online platform and community designed to be a support system for Creatives, helping them find jobs. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I was hired as a graphic designer at my “dream company,” 10 years after I set…

Erin Pohan of Upkeeping on overcoming fear, and her three best tips for staying productive

Describe your business in a few words? My goal with UpKeeping is to continually evolve to meet the financial accounting needs of entrepreneurs. We currently offer full-service bookkeeping services, accounting clean-ups and QuickBooks training. What made you take the leap to start your own business? For most of my life, I sat back and watched…

Danielle Elias Las of Bump’n Clothing on growing a business while giving back to the IVF community

Describe Bump’n Clothing in a few words? The ultimate in maternity and postpartum apparel. What made you take the leap to start your own business? The desire to create the perfect maternity pant while giving back to the IVF community. What was your background prior to starting your own business? Attorney; In House Counsel for…

Miriam Airington-Fisher of Airington Law on combining law and entrepreneurship and how she is making an impact

Describe your business in a few words? Airington Law is a women-lead law firm specializing in defending against wrongful convictions and litigating civil rights issues What made you take the leap to start your own business? I initially started my law practice out of necessity. I went through a divorce and became a single mom…

Michele Henry of FACE FOUNDRIÉ on why she leans into her fears, and the importance of dreaming big

Describe FACE FOUNDRIÉ in a few words? Efficient and effective focused facial bar specializing in all things face, facials, lashes, brows, and skincare. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I worked in my parents’ small inground pool business from age 13 all the way through college. Being an entrepreneur is…

Ashley Spriggs of Pivot Media on the power of genuine relationships

Describe your business in a few words? We are a media firm that gets your message the attention it deserves. We offer services in Public Relations and Podcast Management. What made you take the leap to start your own business? It was the right time! I was growing my client list as an independent contractor…

Mary Allard of The Third Place podcast on inviting listeners to explore uncomfortable conversations in a safe space

Describe your business in a few words? The Third Place podcast is a weekly podcast that invites listeners into the hard conversations that we have a tendency to avoid. It is a podcast that “goes there,” within a safe place where curiosity is encouraged, differences are welcomed, and empathy is embraced through healthy dialogue. What…

Kelsea Olivia of East Olivia Creative on creating experiences that spark curiosity, joy, and connection

Describe your business in a few words? East Olivia is a boutique creative agency that specializes in large-scale floral installations. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been starting businesses since I was a child, selling my crafts and babysitting. As an adult, I had an innate desire to…

Tiffany Roman of Small Biz Highlight on creating a platform to help small businesses thrive

Describe your business in a few words? Small Biz Highlight is a web show, created to help introduce the people behind a small/local business, their products and services, and discuss how COVID affected them. What made you take the leap to start your own business? Back in April 2020, COVID shutdowns were in full effect…

11 Mamaprenistas share their best productivity tips to manage a business and a family

1) Tierney Larkin, Founder at Larkin Living Spaces: “Be sure to have a designated space to work that is just for you and your business. It can be a makeshift office in the corner of a room, or even a traveling cart that you can take around with you to store all of your supplies…