Eli Yonas came up with the idea for her much-loved Toki Mats while on maternity leave with her second baby. Now as a mom of (almost) three, she manages her family, a full-time career in tech and her own business. We caught up with Eli to learn more about Toki Mats and gain some insights into how she does it all.
First, tell us a bit about how the business got started.
I came up with the idea on maternity leave with my daughter in the summer of 2016, and spent my leave doing all the research, product testing, and business foundation. After returning back to my day job, I slowly continued to work on Toki during nights and weekends. We finally launched our site on Small Business Saturday in November 2017
Do you ever think about focusing on Toki full-time?
In addition to Toki, I currently work full-time in Partnerships at Facebook. I'm actually planning on using this upcoming maternity leave to launch our newest collection! While sometimes I wish I could work on Toki full time, I'm grateful for a job I like that allows me to invest back into the company to grow it and reach more families. It's also a great exercise in focusing on what will really make a difference with our product and customers since my time is so limited.
Toki Mat designs always stand out! Do you design the patterns? Where do you find inspiration?
Thank you! For all our patterns since we launched, I source the designs from fabric makers across the U.S. I go to fabric shows (usually with a baby in tow!) and have partnerships with fabric factories nationwide. It's fun to "shop" for fabric designs to use, and I always make sure to pick a diverse selection that will still be appealing for the modern and style-focused mom. For our newest collection (14 designs launching in July!), I am doing something completely new! I collaborated with artists and graphic designers to make exclusive Toki prints. I'm SO excited about them! Each artist's collection is true to their style and talent, while remaining on-brand for Toki to provide modern and beautiful play mat designs. Thee new collection has been nearly a year in the making, and we are so close to launching!
We love that the company uses all non-toxic materials in making the mats. How important is sustainability to your overall mission?
Super, super important. I spent the first year just doing research on sustainable materials and practices. Ultimately, I ended up using materials that have never been used in the play mat space, but are taking off in the adult mattress industry. From a values perspective, if I was going to be adding a new product to people's homes, it couldn't be anything less than 100% non-toxic and safe.
We know first-hard how difficult it is to juggle running a business and family life. Can you share your tips for how to best manage it all?
First, admitting that I don't do it perfectly. It would just be impossible. Second, is recognizing that that's OK. Lowering my expectations of myself in all areas (work, family, etc) allows me to be more forgiving when things aren't perfect (and they never are!). My motto has been to just take it one step forward every day, big or small, and that's what's gotten Toki to the place it is now.
On any given day, what do you pack in your ToteSavvy?
Now that I'm expecting baby #3 (right around the corner!) I'm so happy to have a ToteSavvy already packed in my hospital bag to be fully prepared. I have diapers and wipes of course, pacifiers (multiple to make sure the babe takes one!), my nursing must-haves especially for the newborn phase, a change of clothes (or two) for those inevitable blowouts, my baby wrap that I can't live without, and a swaddle. that gets thrown in my purse where I have my own essentials, and I'm all set!