At Belly Bandit, we're big believers in celebrating other female-founded companies. Our "Moms Who Made It" Q&A series spotlights inspiring entrepreneurial moms and the joys and challenges of building a business while raising a family.
This month, meet Eli Yonas, founder of Toki Mats. Toki Mats makes a line of baby play mats that are non-toxic, foldable, and washable—plus they come in a variety of super cute, modern prints. Keep reading to learn all about how Eli created her company!
Tell us a bit about your company and the products you’ve created.
Toki Mats makes safe, functional products that support babies and toddlers during their development with designs that moms actually want to have in their home. From our first product, the original Toki Mat, to our chic nursing pillow covers—all of our products are made from the softest, safest, non-toxic materials available, because we think all parents should have peace of mind when their kids are playing, tumbling, and growing.
What was the problem in the marketplace that you set out to solve, and how did you go about finding a solution for it?
After my second baby, I realized that I didn’t have a way to safely play with my newborn and toddler on the floor. All the play mat options I could find were either an eyesore, not comfortable, or made with harmful materials. Finding something that met my standards for my kids AND fit my aesthetic was impossible. So like any mom will tell you, if your kid needs something, you find a way to get it done. That inspired me to make the softest, safest, chicest play mat I could ... and Toki Mats was born.
Describe your business philosophy in a few words.
Keep moving forward and don’t forget to laugh along the way.
What has kept you motivated throughout the journey of starting your own business?
100 percent, my kids. The older my kids get the more I’m surprised and inspired by their creativity, imagination, and unique personalities. They keep me on my toes! And the incredible Toki Mats community, which inspires me every day to continue to show up as the best person I can be.
When did you start to think, “I might be on to something here”?
When we had repeat customers! I was totally blown away. People started buying multiple Tokis for different rooms, trips to grandma's house, or for their friends! That was a huge signal to me that we were making play mats that people truly loved.
Who is your mentor?
My younger sister, for sure. I tend to get sucked into work and feel stressed about juggling all of the things with family and our home. My sister is the opposite—she has the magical ability to find balance, be calm, and find joy in the journey. I want to be like her when I grow up. :)
What’s your No. 1 tip for moms interested in starting their own business?
Only one? I’d say do your research and know your product. What problem in the market are you solving? And what makes your product the solution? That’s the core of your business, so use that as your North Star in everything you do. For any other tips, I absolutely love connecting with other entrepreneurs, so reach out!
What does “me” time mean to you?
Sitting down when everyone is asleep to work on Toki with a cup of tea.
Any favorite books or podcasts that you’ve found particularly motivating?
The Second Life podcast! Also, We Can Do Hard Things is so good.
What’s on your bedside table?
My Saje oil roller, Hatch sleep, and baby monitor.
Share your favorite inspirational quote, if you have one!
You can either be happy, or change.