Tomlin: I’ve been sewing and designing since I was ten years old. I started out of necessity because I was too small to fit the normal teen fashions. I got a sewing machine for Christmas, and my mom and I learned together how to operate it. From there, I sewed all through high school and college. After I got married, we ended up at the University of Cincinnati with my husband’s job, where they actually had a fashion design program, so I studied there formally for two years and then started my business.
I opened my first shop after we moved to Florida, and I did custom wedding gowns. By the time we moved to Pittsburgh for my husband’s job of coaching the Steelers, I was no longer doing wedding gowns, but I was still doing custom evening wear, especially for hard-to-fit ladies. A few years later, I transitioned into the ready-to-wear line that I have now.
Dr. Shellie: You mentioned “hard-to-fit ladies.” Why is it important to design for all body types?
Dr. Shellie: How does having outfits that are made for them or made for their size help women become body positive?
Tomlin: It’s so frustrating to go into a fitting room when nothing fits. You start to feel like you’re the problem, not the clothing. Clothing is made for a generic set of measurements, and we are not generic people.
Dr. Shellie: Exactly. Talk to us about Uptown Sweats. Tell us why you started that particular line.
Tomlin: I started it to deal with my own busy life. We busy women are expected to do it all, so I wanted a way we could dress for it all. We need to be comfortable and professional and be able to move seamlessly among all the roles that we perform. Personally, I’m a wife, mom, housekeeper, and business owner. I’m also taking care of our parents, and I’m heavily involved in the community.
Dr. Shellie: Yes, we love that you sell inspiring t-shirts (kiyatomlin.us) and donate all profits to Operation Underground Railroad, which rescues children from sex trafficking. Why is Operation Underground Railroad so important to you?
Tomlin: Everybody can get behind rescuing children from sex trafficking. My husband got me into the charity because it was important to him as well.
Dr. Shellie: I love that! As a working mom of three, with you traveling and doing all the things, how does that affect your kids in a positive way? How has it helped them as you’ve been raising them?
Tomlin: Aside from the example that I set for them, they see me following my dreams. They see that I am able to prioritize and do the things I want to do without sacrificing myself to raise a family or cater to my husband’s very demanding profession as an NFL coach. They know that I am valuable as well, and not “just mom” who is in charge of washing their clothes and bringing them their lunches when they forget them.
Dr. Shellie: How does being a momprenuer fit into your life? Has that been a struggle at any point? Or do you just have the balancing act down?
Tomlin: I don’t think there’s a balance. I don’t think it’s possible to truly balance. I think it’s about prioritizing, which is fluid. Your priorities change, even from day to day, but that’s how you get done what needs to get done.
Dr. Shellie: How have you set up boundaries within your life?
Tomlin: My priority is that my kids come first, and I’ve had the luxury of doing that because I was a mom first before I was an entrepreneur, so I was able to build my business around the kids. I think it would be harder the other way around.
I just built my business around what was feasible with what was going on with my personal life, my kids, and my family and how I wanted to prioritize.
I did that intentionally so when my kids leave the nest and are doing their own thing, I can ramp up the business. My plan was to start slow, let me get my feet wet. Then once they’re out the door, instead of being a sad empty nester, I’ll be excited to really dig into my business.
Dr. Shellie: I can’t wait to see this next level! So, what truly inspires you to create these fantastic designs while leading your family and doing everything else you love?
Tomlin: I’m inspired by other badass women who are doing it all. That’s impressive. I’m really inspired by other women who are chasing their dreams. Women who are fierce and confident, assertive, and battling the fear that we all have.