Kiya Tomlin: “Cabin Fever”

Fortunately, my children are teenagers, so they are extremely self-sufficient when it comes to virtual school and entertaining themselves. But they do experience “Cabin Fever” with no outlet. As they have more unstructured time, my work has actually gotten busier over the pandemic so it’s an uneven balance. A challenge is making sure that I […]

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Fortunately, my children are teenagers, so they are extremely self-sufficient when it comes to virtual school and entertaining themselves. But they do experience “Cabin Fever” with no outlet. As they have more unstructured time, my work has actually gotten busier over the pandemic so it’s an uneven balance. A challenge is making sure that I get my work done but also that they do not hole up in their bedrooms scrolling through social media for hours on end.


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kiya Tomlin.

Kiya Tomlin is womenswear designer, wife, and mother of three. With an eye towards sustainability and transparency, Kiya built her business into a vertically integrated small factory and retail boutique. From initial concept to sewn garment, Kiya creates designs focused on comfort and style for a variety of figures.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My earliest memory of fashion was using the cardboard backing from notepads to create gingerbread “dolls” that I would fashion in paper towel dresses around the age or four. At ten, I asked my mother for a sewing machine so I could make my own clothes. Designing and sewing was my favorite hobby until after college, when I realized it was what I really loved and that I could find a way to make money doing it. I attended classes on fit and couture construction, went to fashion design school and then started my first business from home making custom wedding gowns.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

The most interesting story is what actually led me to running a small factory. A knitting machine at the mill broke down and our fabric would not be able to make it to the factory we were using in time to fulfill our wholesale orders. To avoid disaster, I had the mill send whatever fabric was done to me and I leased a small warehouse space where I made all the items myself and shipped them out to Europe. Unfortunately, we were unable to circle back and deliver on our U.S. orders. We lost all of our US wholesale accounts, but in the process, I learned that I enjoyed the control of manufacturing our items in house and wanted to give it a try.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have created Virtual Trunk Shows where we show our collections on real customers, not fashion models, and we talk about styling tips for fitting a variety of body types. It helps women visualize what a particular garment will look like on a figure that may look like hers, as opposed to a model.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mother-in-law. My business comes second to raising my family. With three active kids, there is always someone that has some need or activity. My mother-in-law was instrumental in helping shuttle kids and attend activities, which allowed me have to a little more time to devote to work.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

Fortunately, my children are teenagers, so they are extremely self-sufficient when it comes to virtual school and entertaining themselves. But they do experience “Cabin Fever” with no outlet. As they have more unstructured time, my work has actually gotten busier over the pandemic so it’s an uneven balance. A challenge is making sure that I get my work done but also that they do not hole up in their bedrooms scrolling through social media for hours on end.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

My husband and I tag team the kids. We each have something we engage the kids in, but separately. For example, my husband will watch a TV series with my daughter on Netflix, but I will spend my time with her walking the dog around the neighborhood. This way, we are able to double the amount of family time she’s getting outside of her rooom.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

Initially it was creating and maintaining a safe environment that followed all Covid protocols. Then it was making sure we could sell enough goods each month to cover the payroll. Now it’s “What are my kids doing at home all day

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

We diversified our offerings to include virtual Trunk shows and curbside pick-up.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

I am not working from home and my kids are old enough to not need assistance homeschooling.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

After work and on the weekends, I try to spend as much time as possible outside. Whether it’s reading, working or walking the dog, the fresh air and sunlight are energizers. I also try to stick to a regular schedule, which prevents me from gunning down 4 people.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each. From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Encourage them to check the news only once day. Spend time outside and with friends. Read a fiction novel,

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“And what if I fail?” “Then you will have a story to tell”. I remind myself of this when I am afraid of what to do in a situation. It reminds me that the worst thing that can happen by trying something is that I will have a story to tell.

How can our readers follow you online?

@kiyatomlin on IG, FB, Twitter

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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