Successful Sistas: Carmen “Mimi” Fleming

26 01 2009

Successful Sistas is an interview series featuring successful women pursuing their dream careers.

100_4251Job Title: CEO, CMO, CFO, COO, Chief ‘Do it All’ Officer of Tomoka’s Twists

Job Description: Designer of Tomoka’s Twists ~ Unique, fashionable, and functional hair accessories created especially for natural hair and dreadlocks.

Why did you decide to pursue your career/job? Sometimes people look to their jobs to measure their success. They may think that reaching the top of the Ivory Tower is how you succeed. It is if that’s your own business. But I am an artist at heart and did not major in the arts but the sciences at Virginia Commonwealth Virginia. A biology major with a chemistry minor did not seem to put me in position to be a grand author or painter. When I sought out a career, I chose chemical labs because no animals would be hurt in the process.

After years of being bored and over-worked, I took a Sisterlock class and launched Tomoka’s Twists. A month later, I looked at my bank account and counted the months I could live off of without working, and I quit my job. It was scary because I have a house, car and a dog. A few months later, I had Tomoka’s Twists going and a few clients as well. I looked for a job and took a temporary lab job and eventually was hired [there]. During those laboratory jobs, I learned that I did not want to move up to a supervisor or manager. I had no true interest in the product; it passed or failed. So I found my life work in Tomoka’s Twists. 

 What do you love most about it?The design process is my favorite part of my work. I love beads and matching them up to come up with something unique. I get an adrenaline rush when I’m looking for beads. Sometimes I can see how I want the TT to look just by looking at the beads. The TT’s are very easy to design for me. They are already unique as is, so it’s basically placement that defines them. The earrings can be challenging; they have to have an impact because earrings are everywhere. I have to be as creative as I can in a little space while keeping them in tune with the coordinating Twists. That requires me to be as relaxed and imaginative as I can be.

 What is the most stressful aspect of your job? I have had stressful moments. But I have found that I have allowed situations to become stressful for me because I did not have the answer or solutions. Once I experienced something that I found stressful, I would seek the advice of my parents, my boyfriend or co-workers.

What is the most rewarding aspect? What I enjoy the most about working for myself is the feedback from customers. It is very rewarding to make something and read blog posts about them. I am very humbled when people send photos and leave such wonderful comments. I’ve been to a few forums and seen threads with Tomoka’s Twists mentioned throughout.

 What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you at work?I have a dog and all by herself she is funny. I do my designing and orders in the wee hours of the night, and she tries very hard to stay awake. While I was sitting on the floor trying to come up with a new pair of earrings, she sat on the love seat behind me looking over my shoulder. As I began to see the earrings come to form, I felt her hand on my back. I turned around and moved it. I picked up my tools and started again. Hand on my back. One more time I moved her hand. One more time, hand on my back. I started to get aggravated with her, and then I stopped and switched my thinking. She wasn’t hurting me, and it didn’t bother me. I said to myself, ‘maybe she’s trying to give me a pat on the back.’ 

 Describe a typical day at work for you. I get home at about 5:30 am and immediately walk the dog. I slither upstairs with my laptop and turn it on to Twitter. I shower or not and then greet the ‘good morning tweeple’. I make orders, and I try hard to stay up to go to the post office; sometimes I can, most of the times I can’t. I’ll eat and go to sleep. When I wake, it’s a rush to get ready for my job; I have to be there at 5pm. Once I get to work, it’s Twitter, Ning groups, Facebook, and email time! It’s gotten so bad that I hardly look for beads anymore while I’m at work.

 What advice or tips do you have for someone who wants to do what you do? When designing any product, the key two questions to ask is “Why is it helpful?”, and “How is it different?”. With beauty and fashion products, the answer to the first question is people like to adorn and enhance their natural beauty with jewelry and other accessories. If you say, “Oh I can make that and sell it”, then how many other people have said that too, how many other people are doing just that? Closhave book coming out one of these days. In the meantime, visit tomokastwists.blogspot.com for tips.

Finish the sentence: This career is for you if…you dare to give your natural talent 100% and prayer because then you will become Super~Natural.