Fashion and self- love mix in this interview with entrepreneur and owner of Miss Tino Boutique, Tommysha Oates. Read more to find out about the Melanin Girl who hustles behind the brand and get inspired!
Tell us about yourself, who you are, and where you are from?
My name is Tommysha Lea Oates. I am from St. Louis, Missouri and a recent graduate from Ball State University with a double major in Psychology and Criminal Justice. On-campus I did a lot of work with diversity, inclusion, and gender inclusivity. I am really big on diversity and making space for everyone to be able to express their identities. I like to highlight everyone’s differences. I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and very active within my chapter serving many roles. This further allowed me to help people express themselves and be comfortable with who they are in whatever setting that they are apart of. That is still a large part of who I am as a woman today.
Tell us about your brand and why you started?
My brand is called Miss Tino Boutique; Tino is my dad’s nickname. My father passed away when I was younger, but his memory was kept alive for me in many ways. My dad always went after everything that he wanted and took pictures of everything. He always had a camera. Through his lens, I could see him and how much he loved me beyond what people told me. With my mom, he did things outside of what a lot of other couples did for fun and bonding. She lived her best life while experiencing the love of my dad. They did karate classes together and always tried new things together. My mom would tell me stories all the time about me being spoiled and having so many of the same toys because he always gave me what I wanted. Now, I spoil myself first, but those around me spoil me too. I named my brand after my dad and was inspired by all the things that I loved about him. Everyone should be able to go after everything that they want so long as it is positive.
How do you stay motivated as a brand owner?
I always wanted to be a business owner and I knew I didn’t want to work for other people forever. I love to look good, I love to smile, and I love to give compliments to other people. I feel good any time I can truly touch someone with good energy. With Miss Tino, I can put all that together to give people good energy with something tangible, clothing. I also grew up on the north side of St. Louis city; showing my city that people growing up in poverty-stricken areas can start a business and be profitable keeps me motivated. I want others to know that they can succeed too.
Were there any hurdles you faced in beginning your brand?
Yes! Learning the tools of the trade was a hurdle. Being in the clothing industry, I’m not selling anything that I wouldn’t wear. Before beginning my business, the first couple of online boutiques that I tried weren’t really good quality. Building trust for customers to shop with my brand and combatting different people’s experiences with other boutiques was a hurdle. Initially, my biggest hurdle was simply getting started. There are so many things that run through your head that can deter you. “Okay, I’m going to start.” I decided I wanted to own a boutique during my freshman year of college. “How am I going to do it and I have to go to class?” “I don’t even like social media.” I had to get my mindset together, make a decision, and then go after what I wanted or those thoughts would always hinder me.
What is your favorite part of the process of what you do? Is it picking out the clothes? Seeing the final look on the client? What feels most awarding?
Honestly, it’s the feedback I get from starting. I have so many of my friends that have told me that I have inspired them to pursue their dreams. People are like “Okay, you did this, I am about to go after that.” Seeing people go after what they want because I decided to go after my dreams is the most rewarding part of starting my own business.
Do you think we put stipulations on ourselves as to what we have to do after college? In what career paths are out there for us?
Absolutely! I majored in psychology and criminal justice. People think “Oh, you want to be a police officer.” People limit themselves to only looking for jobs that are within their major when college prepared us to use so many more skills. You talked to people and networked. You may have been on some organizations executive board. Think of the things you did in college and use them. People feel like you have to get a salary position to be successful and that job may not even help you build your passions.
Everything happens for a reason. What can you say looking back on your journey was intentional about beginning at a later stage in your journey? What did that space allow in yourself to influence your growth?
I always knew that I wanted my own business, but didn’t begin right away. That space allowed for me to grow and build up the anticipation of myself. I learned a lot more about who I am and that helped me brand myself better. I learned more about the world around me. I initially wanted a business partner, but I started it by myself because I found I work best alone. I did all the investing and the sacrifice, so all feedback is personal. I bought a journal and wrote down all my business plans, picking significant dates for things so that it meant even more to me. My aunt passed away so I decided to celebrate her birthday by getting serious about my business. Making everything personal with my goals influenced me to do more.
Do you always journal or write things out?
No, I don’t. It was helpful to journal as I planned my goals, but for self-care, I make videos for myself. I set up my camera and talk to myself. I can record how I feel, get it out, and then watch it later. I’m a talker, the journaling thing was just a little too slow for me. I found it beneficial to get it out much faster in a video instead. Then I can see myself and say, “Were you trippin’ or naw?” *laughs
What would you say to encourage women who want to do something different from those around them or are looking to begin a passion that they’ve always had?
I would just say “Do it.” The worse that could happen is that you’re going to do it. And, then it’s just going to get better. Whatever you are nervous about will get better with time.
How would you describe your style?
My brand style and personal style are very similar. If I can’t freak it I’m not selling it. My style is tasteful, confident, and free. I like to show it off, without showing it all off. I have to feel whatever I’m wearing. If you feel it, nobody else has a choice, but to feel it too. I dress free. When I was growing up people would always try to comment on things that I wore. My mom would always tell me “people will go their whole lives trying to look this good.” That gave me confidence and I don’t care what anyone else has to feel about it. I’m going to wear what I want.
How do you practice self-care and giving love to yourself while being a business owner?
I have learned to be kind to myself. I always say a prayer and one specific scripture that I say every morning and every night. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful.” PSALMS 1 39 14 Another form of self-care for me is Tommy Tuesday’s, which started as hashtags and posting a cute picture on Instagram of myself. Now, Tommy Tuesday’s are personal days. I would work two jobs and always make sure that I’m not working on Tuesday’s. Tuesdays are for me. Whether it is buying a new lip gloss or getting my nails done, I have to treat myself in some way.
How do you encourage the women around you to be their best selves?
I tell them. I acknowledge them when I see them. I used my toothbrush to get some coconut oil at the bottom of the jar while on FaceTime with my friend and she said: “I feel seen.” I see so many women being their best selves. I will tell you, I will share it, I will tell someone else about you. So many people talk to others and say they see this person, but why not tell THEM. I get so happy for everyone and telling them makes them inspired to do more.
The fashion industry can impose many beauty standards on women. How do you get your clients to exude their confidence from within in their looks? What was your source of confidence growing up?
I try to create that feeling of confidence with our website and content. I wanted to have a welcoming, confident feel for women who visit our site and social media pages. One of our slogans is “The closet you deserve.” I want people to know that they can be their comfortable, genuine, unapologetic self, and look good while doing it.
I try to be as descriptive and transparent as possible with each of my looks. Customers need to see the styles on a real person so that they can get a feel for how it would fit on them. We repost and celebrate our customers through social media or with feedback. We are very transparent when it comes to customer service.
My confidence was instilled early on from my mother, my ace boon coon, my BFF. She will gas me with confidence until she can’t anymore. She has always been very supportive, and my family right behind her following suit. She would always say “People go their whole lives trying to look this good.” To this day, I can call my mom and say “Okay mom, what do you think of this fit?” Her favorite thing to say back is, “Aww yeah baby, that’s it!”
One thing you love about yourself?
I love my loyalty to my people. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my people. I also love my raspy unique voice. If I’m talking, you know it is me!
One thing you are learning to love?
I am learning to love people for who they are, and not always what I want them to be. I’m also learning to love the fact that I don’t have it all figured out. There is growth in the place of the unknown.
Follow Miss Tino Boutique on instagram @shopmisstino and visit their website at the link to see their latest fashions!