A Designing Woman

Regional designer is working to make it big in retail

Tamika Riley is your average Type A personality–she moves quickly, talks even faster and is highly motivated to achieve. She also has a trained eye for fashion, with certification from New York’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology. So it was almost natural for her to gravitate toward the business end of the high-energy fashion world.

Riley, president and CEO of the Newark, New Jersey-based Fashion Dome Inc., typically works 80-hour weeks in her upscale women’s clothing boutique, a 550-sq.ft. studio. Aside from designing elegant evening wear, corporate suits, casual sportswear and accessories, she singlehandedly oversees all daily operations.

Riley, 29, who also has marketing certifications from the University of Maryland and Jersey City State College, says the TV show Dynasty inspired her to create a fashion-based business. At the age of 15, she began to design clothes and wear her creations to school. Before long, her fashions were picked up by some local New Jersey boutiques.

“After high school, I worked as a flight attendant and as a supervisor for UPS,” Riley says. “I saved 50% of my paychecks to put toward starting the boutique. When I found my lease space, which cost $912 per month, my fiance and I were able to negotiate and didn’t have to make a down payment.”

In 1996, Fashion Dome earned a respectable $53,000, and last year, it nearly quadrupled its sales to $205,000. The projections for this year top $250,000. Riley is planning to open boutiques in Atlanta and Chicago. She’s also been nominated to the Newark Chamber of Commerce, a lifelong position.

The road to success has not been without its challenges, though. “Last year, I coordinated a buyers show that went bust,” Riley recalls. “I lost over $5,000 of my own savings. To add to that, my car was stolen and I had to move into my fiance’s mother’s house to save money and get back on my feet.” But Riley recovered and persevered. Today, she even finds the time to coordinate and host fashion shows.

Riley could easily talk her customers into purchasing her clothes, but she prefers to have her company’s motto do the talking: “Make a statement without saying a word.”

Fashion Dome Inc., 41 Commerce St., Newark, NJ 07102; 973-242-0444

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