In the spirit of Valentine’s Day…

Do you all remember Valentine Grams? It was a thing we did in middle school.

A secret admirer/friend would purchase a Valentine’s Gram to give to another kid, and¬†during 4th period on Valentine’s Day, volunteers came into the classrooms to deliver the gram.

Still don’t remember?

Imagine red paper with a picture and simple message about love printed by an outdated photocopy machine taped to a lollipop.

Yes! Valentine Grams!

We remember those few lucky people who somehow ended up getting a ton of grams, while the rest of us stared at our desks thinking…”Who wants a lollipop, anyway?”

Really, we have no qualms with Valentine’s Day or the coveted Valentine Gram. ūüôā We are all for hoarding pink-colored, heart-shaped chocolates at clearance prices the day after V-Day. Who’s with me!?! Gordon actually has very fond memories of dealing with the awkwardness of not getting any Valentine Grams. Trying to beat the system, he bought¬†a jumbo pack of caramel apple lollipops the day before Valentine’s Day and passed it out to his other buddies that didn’t get any lollipop love. Good times.

Any opportunity to give a person a reason to be intentional and love on others is worth celebrating. Valentine’s Day is no exception. But sometimes…amidst the festivities, the celebration becomes exclusive, tense, or awkward to some. We get it..

So in an attempt to be more mindful this Valentine’s Day, we racked our brains for something to say that would be meaningful to even the most cautious Valentine’s Day person. We landed on the phrase in the photo: YOU ARE LOVED. You…your story, your purpose…on this day – you are worth celebrating. So, Happy Valentine’s Day to you.


This month, we’re spotlighting¬†Ruby’s Place, a non-profit in Hayward, CA that provides comprehensive prevention and supportive services to the community and people impacted by domestic violence, human trafficking or homelessness. Please take a moment to visit their website and learn about the wealth of services they provide – this shout-out doesn’t even scratch the surface of the incredible work they¬†do.

We started our relationship with Ruby’s Place last year, making quarterly soap donations to their shelters. Every time we go to drop off the bars, we are met with the most compassionate and friendly people – it’s one of those encounters that leave you smiling as you walk out the door, and you find yourself still smiling when you get to the car. We couldn’t be more proud to support an organization that provides for the practical and emotional needs of the individuals they serve. BRAVO!

10% of all purchases this month will be donated to Ruby’s Place, and of course, look for additional ways to support them on their website!

The Grass is Always Greener…

If you’ve followed us since the birth of this business a few years ago, you know we’ve gone through numerous changes – from 3 products to 8, from hand-wrapped bars to boxes, from one website platform to the next – change is the one thing we’ve learned is a guarantee in this business (and any business, I would assume).¬†With each change comes a fair amount of uncertainty, doubt, and fear – those nasty, butterfly-in-your-stomach, gut-wrenching, keep-you-up-at-night emotions that stop every business owner in their tracks and have them headed for the nearest exit.

So Gordon and I were experiencing one of those moments last week as we were making some final revisions to our website. I’ll be honest – we cycle through these moments on a weekly basis – ok, maybe even a daily basis when we’re¬†having a really¬†bad season. By God’s grace — and many “debriefing” sessions — we always get to other side and keep trucking along. But an extremely bad habit we have when we’re amidst one of these periods of doubt/fear/uncertainty is looking at other companies for “inspiration” (aka: comparison…).

We really should know better by now. Because with every new “about us” page we read or each article/blog that tries to convince us of the “best business model,” we walk away with even more doubt…more uncertainty…more fear. As they say, “the grass is always greener…”

Knowing this happens every single time, what, then, compels us to look at other businesses and compare? Well first, we rationalize: it’s market research, we’re studying trends, we’re getting to know our competition, blah blah blah. Then, we try to fit our existing vision into the mold of another company’s vision, thinking it’ll¬†only make things better. And before you know it, Gordon and I are in left field talking about something so far-removed from our original vision¬†that we hit a wall. We wander around in no man’s land because we’re now trying to live someone else’s vision and not our own. It’s usually at that point when we catch ourselves and give each other “the look” — the “ah crap, we’ve done it again” look.

This entire process occurs over a period of 1-2 days — after which we bounce back into¬†our reality. We remind ourselves of¬†our vision, and beyond that, we remind ourselves of our¬†whys.¬†Why did we, a soap company, pursue the social entrepreneurship route? Why did we choose¬†these¬†non-profit partners? Why does our very branding contain the sentiment, “thought of you?” All of the responses to our whys point directly back to our core values – those pillars that make up our characters and form the foundation for each and every one of our decisions (business and personal). And when we recall those answers, we smile, roll up our sleeves, and get right back to work.

“The grass is greener…where you water it.” – Neil Barringham

Yes, let’s keep watering.

P.S. Last chance to have 10% of your purchase go towards Building Futures!! Also, visit their website to learn about more ways to extend your support. A wholehearted thank you to those whose purchases have impacted them this month!!!

Say Cheese.

We all do it — get in front of the camera, fix the hair, stand at a certain practiced angle because you know it’s showing the good side, do a quick test smile just to get the jaw line warmed up, then 1…2…3….. “say cheese!!!”

I’m more a fan of the natural, unadulterated snap shots; the beautiful caught-off-guard moments. But I am quite the hypocrite — especially nowadays, when even my “natural” shots are run through some sort of filter before sharing with the world. Why? Because it just looks better; more presentable. But it looks better to who? It’s more presentable to whom??

To tell you the truth, I’m loving the filters Рphoto editing is growing to be one of my favorite past-times! But I’m constantly reminded I don’t want to filter so much so that it creates a false reality. Because face it, life is messy. Beautiful, but messy.

As you follow our blogs and social media outlets, we hope you‚Äôll make note of the types of non-profits we’ve chosen to support. We have intentionally selected organizations who help us recognize the messier sides of life; but more than that, these organizations look beyond the mess and help others rise above it.

Our son gave us his “say cheese” face¬†in front of the Building Futures office in San Leandro, right before dropping off our soaps for the shelter residents. What’s not pictured here are the amazing individuals behind the office door who dedicate their days to finding a safe and stable place for someone to call home. Learn more about their important work at This month, 10% of all proceeds from our web sales will go directly to them.¬†We hope you’ll join us in supporting their mission!

The Family Business

We started T.o.Y Soap with a very simple vision — we wanted something the family could do together, and hopefully someday (someday far far away)…be able to pass it on to the generations to come. ¬†How we landed on soap? Different story, different day. But today, we’ll focus on the family.

Gordon will share his perspective on this, as well, as he does the daily grind of being a¬†stay-at-home dad and probably has a slightly different outlook. You’ll get to hear from him on this blog when he gets a moment to breathe.

As for me (Allison), the thought of having a family business seemed, for lack of a better word, “cool.” I imagined the stuff you see on T.V. – the family spending a ton of time together, lots of laughter, the typical family dynamics,¬†jokes and sarcasm loosely thrown around because, afterall, you’re family, and you can’t really¬†be mad at family forever…

And what did I learn? Well, that T.V. has lied to me, yet again. Don’t get me wrong – I love many aspects of having a family business – especially the parts about spending lots of time together. That part, the T.V. didn’t lie about. But what would be the fun in reading about all the things I love? Probably much more meaningful (and truthful) to tell you what really goes on…

The picture above is our toddler. He’s helping us sort the soaps we’ll be donating to our community partners this month.¬†Definitely a great story. But if I may set the stage a little more clearly. Gordon’s standing a few feet away, staring at the boy while he insists on lining things up his way; not dad’s way – the toddler’s¬†way. Allison steps into the kitchen for her only 15 minute break of the day (she’s been sitting in the home office for the last 6 hours). She makes an unsuspecting comment to the toddler: “Are you being a big-boy helper to daddy?!” The toddler, of course, goes¬†off on a very lengthy explanation about how he’s a great helper and details exactly what he’s doing with the soaps. Meanwhile, Allison catches Gordon’s roll of the eyes.

Uh – what did I miss? Gordon debriefs the moments leading up to this: apparently after a morning of refusing to listen, eating 10% of meals, talking at decibels that should only be reserved for football games, and exercising the toddler rights to negotiate on anything and everything, we end up here – gladly, but semi-defeatedly, putting the kid to “work.” I take my cup of tea, give Gordon a hug, and with a big smile: “Thank you, honey; have a good rest of the day.”

That’s the family business. On a Wednesday. And¬†this repeats 7 days a week – because family businesses actually don’t have business hours. Imagine that. At any given time, on any given day, we are running this business. Yes, even as we lay our heads down to sleep: “Honey…I just had an idea!”

In all honesty, neither Gordon nor I would trade this gig for another — but there are definitely days when we question, “What did we get ourselves into?”

Then, there are days when we look back at pictures like the one above, and we laugh as we remember the context to that story. Our story. A story that probably would not have been as precious had we not run a family business. (I mean really…what toddler gets to sort and package soap?!)

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