UNIVERSITY PARK -- Four years ago, Hillsborough County resident Tina Goldfield lugged a cardboard box with her seamless T-shirts around, asking every store she could find to carry her clothes.
"I got a ton of doors slammed in my face as any new entrepreneur would," Goldfield said by phone from her Odessa headquarters. "When you believe in yourself, you keep going because you know it's the right thing."
Ever since La Pink Boutique in New Tampa said yes, more doors are opening than closing for Goldfield, who is preparing to open her second TINA Stephens store in October inside the Mall at University Town Center.
More than half of the mall's stores will be firsts to the Bradenton-Sarasota market, with several new to Florida, mall general manager Octavio "Tav" Ortiz has announced.
Goldfield, who ran Pilates by Tina around Tampa, started out with her Tees by Tina company making seamless, one-size-fits-most tops for women that could be worn from workout to work.
"I had a crazy life," Goldfield said. "I was a Pilates instructor, but I needed things that moved with me and I could wear walking out of the studio to pick up my children or go to a meeting without looking like I was wearing activewear."
The world traveler would go on African safaris or to tropical jungles, all with her trademark tops and tank dresses.
"You still don't have any makeup on or your hair's in a rat's nest, but you can still look fabulous," she said.
Now her line has grown beyond what boutiques and department stores can handle: She has more than 1,000 unique barcodes, so she opened a dedicated Tees by Tina store in Martha's
Vineyard last year.
Earlier this month in Charleston, S.C., she opened her first TINA Stephens boutique featuring a new line of cut-and-sew clothes alongside the Tees by Tina brand.
Come October, it will be a homecoming of sorts with the Mall at UTC opening in Sarasota.
"TINA Stephens gives me the opportunity to respond to our customer base with things they were asking for that we haven't done with Tees by Tina," Goldfield said. The Stephens name "sounds like the traveler I am."
Goldfield describes her clothes as versatile. Patrons can layer with clothes from her store or accessorize from other boutiques in the new mall. The 1,757-square-foot store will be on the second floor beside Lilly Pulitzer, near Macy's.
"We also love to be able to outfit a woman completely to show how our pieces integrate with her wardrobe at home," she said.
The Sarasota County location is ideal because of the area's robust year-round population as well as the visiting snowbirds from home and abroad.
"So many of our pieces you can wear in Florida with glittery little sandals, and our snowbirds from Wisconsin or Michigan can bring it back with tights or booties and wear the exact same piece," she said.
She's flattered celebrities such as Naomi Watts and Olivia Munn have been photographed in her clothes. Goldfield was ecstatic when she saw Christina Aguilera's baby shower photos in magazines featuring her wearing the Tees by Tina lattice maxi dress. The dress retails for $120.
"The great thing is that very, very same dress can be worn by a woman who's a little older or younger and not pregnant, or heavier or skinnier," she said.
While the celebrity attention is great, she knows celebrities have all the time in the world to work on their body and buy tons of clothes. The real success comes when everyday women buy and wear her threads.
"We cater to a great set of women as they progress through life. We dress your 30-year-olds -- the cutie-patooties as I call them -- all the way through grandmas," she said.
Goldfield doesn't have time anymore for Pilates -- both instructing and doing -- as she concentrates on expanding her brand from her Odessa headquarters near the Hillsborough-Pasco county line. She plans to open three to five stores a year, but the privately held company could very well change its decisions at anytime, she added.
Living in Florida for the past 14 years, she's committed to growing the company from her base in Tampa.
"I'm very tied to Florida and gotten to the point where I refuse to go in the water unless it's above 85 degrees and don't feel comfortable in a place with humidity below 80 percent," Goldfield said.
The company is hiring a store manager for the Mall at UTC location, and those interested can apply by visiting Indeed.com and searching for Tees by Tina.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.