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How the Need for Age-appropriate Clothes Built My Business

How celebrity designer Kiya Tomlin started her business and share tips on how you can get started

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Kiya Tomlin

When you become a mom there are a lot of things people don’t tell you. 

They don’t tell you how rough the tween years are or how many activities you will have to drive them to and they certainly don’t tell you how much your body will change beyond just the newborn years. As your kids change so do you. And in my eyes, that’s a good thing. 

As you get older and your body changes in different ways, your clothing options dwindle. If things are a little less than tight or you have new curves the last thing you want is your clothes to make you feel anything less than beautiful. 

Things are either too short, too tight, too young-looking, too frumpy, too mumsy, you name it. Finding your Cinderella slipper in a wardrobe can be exhausting. I saw it first hand. I always loved style but I began to feel like going to my favorite stores stopped being exciting. I didn’t see myself represented in the clothes, ads, or stores I had loved before. 

Why was there no in-between of looking 21 and looking like a grandma?! 

As I approached my mid-thirties I realized how much of a gap there was in fashion for women over 35. It was clear that an entire demographic of women were just being left out of the conversations at our favorite fashion houses. Ageism is alive and well in the fashion industry. Women want to look chic, stylish, and sexy but still be able to chase their kids without worrying about a wardrobe malfunction. Is that too much to ask?

It became clear to me that the top designers were all creating pieces for 20-somethings. Why is that specific age group considered the gold standard?

I decided I would create the styles I was looking for. Pieces that made me excited to get dressed to take my kids to school but could also be dressed up with heels for date night with the hubs. Clothes that represented me as a woman in all aspects.

I set up shop in Pittsburg and started producing USA made and designed products for women like me. That was six years ago. Since then we’ve grown exponentially. Our styles have been seen on Tyra Banks, Selma Blair and so many celebrities. I also was given the opportunity to collaborate with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers on fashion events, as well as create my very own Game Day Collection for Women football fans too. I attribute much of this success to helping women who had otherwise been left out of the fashion discussion find their place. 

As a woman of color, I not only wanted to build my brand to fill the age gap in fashion but to also create a space where other women of color see themselves represented. It’s not every day that a company is woman-owned, mom-owned, black-owned, and working to make women over 35 feel their absolute best. I don’t take that responsibility lightly. 

Now, the biggest piece of the puzzle can be actually narrowing down who your ideal client is and finding the audience. There are a few key tips that can help you feel confident that your audience matches up with what you are offering. Here’s what I would recommend:

Know Your Niche

Get as specific as you can. Our ideal client is a mom between the ages of 35 and 55 who is struggling to find chic, comfortable options. Think about it like one person you are talking to rather than a group. We don’t say our audience is “all moms” or women over 35 because that just isn’t specific enough. The more niche it can be the the deeper you can go in your messaging without worrying about alienating part of your audience.

Find What’s Missing & Fill The Gap

Being an entrepreneur is all about finding a solution to problems. If you start a business and there isn’t a market for it, you are out of luck and it will become clear that you did not do your research. Before you even launch, bring your ideas to people who fit your ideal client profile, hold a focus group or ask people to coffee. If you hear them talk about an issue and your product is close to fixing it but doesn’t completely solve it, you need to pivot. Be the answer to their prayers. 

Map It Out & Run With It

Ideas are great but they are only the first step. Once you have the idea(s) you need to determine exactly how you are going to get there. There is room for flexibility in business but you know the saying “Make a plan or plan to fail” you need a clear plan to achieve your goals. So write it all down, send it to someone to keep you accountable and run with it! Don’t look back go all in. 

Like I said before, being an entrepreneur is all about finding a solution to problems, for me that was the lack of stylish and comfortable options for women over 35, now it’s up to you to find your problem and BE the answer! 

For more information be sure to visit my Instagram here or my website.

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