How Eli Yonas Turned Her Side Hustle Into a Small Business


Photos courtesy of Kyson Dana

As Head of Partnerships for mobile mall app Dote, San Francisco-based mama Eli Yonas already had a fairly full plate. After her second pregnancy, as she spent quality time with her baby girl on maternity leave, she noticed a gap in the market for a well-designed and child-safe play mat. And so, she set out to change that.

Toki Mats began as Yona’s passion project — ultimately just trying to create something she had a personal need for — but soon enough it had moved from a humble side hustle to a reputable small business. Of late, the brand has even partnered with other women-run business like Rifle Paper and Wee Gallery to create super-cute collaborations. While Eli is still enjoying her day job with Dote, it seems that her former side project is showing no signs of slowing down — much like her little ones! Because of her unique situation as the full-time employee of a startup, a budding entrepreneur, and a mama, we thought we’d ask her a few questions to see how she handles it all, including the tips she has for keeping her home healthy, the other brands she dreams of teaming up with for Toki Mats, and how she’d spend and ideal family day.


In addition to founding Toki Mats, you’ve got a day job! Tell us about your work with Dote.

I manage relationships with all the fashion brands that are shoppable from the Dote app. Think any brand that a Gen Z female would love — I connect with them! After working in sales at Pinterest for a couple of years, I wanted to make a greater impact at a smaller startup like Dote. I love working for a female-run company that is making moves in mobile commerce. Pretty awesome for a day job!

Toki Mats is made of totally, safe, kid-friendly materials. What are some other ways you try to keep a non-toxic household for your littles? And what's the biggest tip you have for other moms to help make their home greener/safer?

Totally. Safety was a top priority for me when designing Toki Mats and I'm so excited about the premium materials we source. I try to be conscious of any purchase we make for the family, mostly focusing on the day-to-day and what my babes come in contact with most (soaps, foods, etc.) Even at the candy store, if my son wants a gummy worm I'll switch it out for chocolate and call it a win — ha! My biggest tip is making it routine: sign up for non-toxic and healthy subscription services like Tubby Todd or Nurture Life and save yourself the hassle of having to scramble.


You've done some cute collaborations with Rifle Paper Co and Wee Gallery; and other brands you'd love to work with?

Thanks! I love how excited our Toki mamas have been with these modern play mat designs. I've connected with many other mom-run small businesses via Toki Mats, and I'd love to collab on future play mat designs. The exciting part about our design is how flexible it is, so the sky is the limit when it comes to patterns! Some that come to mind are Oh Joy, Rookie Humans, and The New Denim Project.

You've decidedly got a full plate! What do you love most to do when you set aside undivided family days?

Don't we all? I do intentionally carve out family time versus everything-else-time and make sure to put the phone down and focus on the kids — and hubs too! I love staying at home, and letting the littles take the lead. We're big on floor play, which has morphed from tummy time to yoga to fort building and wrestling. Our kids have such great imaginations, and their ideas for family downtime are way better than mine :)