The Face Behind The Name: Jo Hayward - TOAST Naturals
TOAST Naturals was a company I stumbled upon when I started opening the possibilities to scents, perfuming/cologne making, etc. Obviously with things like Instagram today it’s so much easier to research and learn about brands. When I came across TOAST not only did I get a good organic brand message but also that this was something started from scratch, with little to no direction at the beginning and it blossomed into what it is today. Jo is the founder/mastermind behind TOAST Naturals, and has a very important message with all of the products – We need to protect the earth – all of her products have the least amount of ecological damage as possible as well as are packaged in biodegradable materials, etc. What attracts me to brands like this is they stand for something other than just the bottom line. Of course, making money is important and necessary to thrive and create more, but brands that really stand for something outside of that is what I always look for. As a side note Jo has formal schooling in fine art and spent lots of time doing artist management in the music scene as well. I hope you enjoy the read!
R: Hey Jo, thanks so much for doing this interview with me. I love interviewing all of the makers that I collaborate with to really help show the market who you are and what you stand for.
J: Thanks for having me, this is great
R: So lets jump right in, you come from a music management background with some schooling in fine art [which is super rad], to now working at the Ontario SPCA as well as doing TOAST all at the same time. Was TOAST the first thing that you decided to dive into or were there other endeavors beforehand?
J: At the beginning I started a jewelry line and there was a few years in between TOAST and that actually. The reason why that ended was because it just wasn’t sustaining itself anymore. With TOAST I’ve been experimenting with different scents for a couple of years now. I had an idea in my head with what I wanted to create but took my time and didn’t feel any pressure right away. Then the pandemic hit and all these sanitizers came out that smell like tequila and have that terrible scent. I thought maybe I should add some of my scents to this and boom finally it began. The first one I did was called Smoke and it was a complete fluke that it came out that well. That’s how it all began. I figured it's topical and everyone is using it right now, so this would be a great product for me to start with.
R: So it seems that it’s a bit of a trial by fire – which is great because we are totally in the same boat. Which as a side note if anyone is reading this and wanting to just dive into a new project or business, do it! So let's step outside of the pandemic and it's over [hopefully sometime soon] what direction did you want to move with the brand? I know there is a huge eco-friendly side to the brand and protecting the earth, is there more to it?
J: In terms of the brand itself I really want to expand into lotions and more skincare with a huge focus on the fragrances. I want to create scents that aren’t necessarily feminine or masculine. I’ve always been envious of men and their spicy colognes, so you’ll notice spicy scents are popular in a lot of my products. That’s the direction I’m moving more towards including keeping all ingredients super simple and expanding the product line. I have so many ideas I’m excited to work with and try out.
R: What other fields are there that you could open yourself into? I know you have soaps now, what other products could you add to the roster?
J: I haven’t really thought too much outside of the skincare and candle side of things to be honest but in regards to the natural stuff, I’ve recently discovered soap nuts if you know what those are. Basically you take 5 of these things and throw them into a muslin bag and toss it in your washing machine. They’re the most natural way to clean your clothes and are perfect for anyone with sensitive skin or allergies. They’re totally different from anything I have in my shop, but I feel like it would be a cool addition considering how eco-friendly they are.
R: Right on, that’s wild. Do you find that there’s been any challenges as you started the business – either from consumers or the industry that you’ve run into that were totally unexpected hits or things you didn’t even see coming?
J: I think the only unexpected challenge has been how social platforms like Instagram and Facebook have changed over the past few years. As many people know, Instagram is becoming more of a video-based platform so it’s really just about adapting to these changes and consistently pushing out content.
R: What about on the sourcing side of things? Or discovering new scents that you may not know yet etc.
J: Oh totally. There are so many Canadian suppliers which is fantastic because it’s a supporting local movement as well, and they have so many fragrance blends, which really spark inspiration, even when it’s by mistake. You come across new stuff all the time. Packaging has definitely been a bit of a challenge, especially when you're trying to be entirely eco-friendly. You can’t put everything in glass and the world isn’t quite there yet with having biodegradable paper containers or bottles. We have it for our candle kits, but we’d love to have it for a deodorant stick you could use for body butter. I’m always looking for things like that. Luckily the suppliers that I work with are very in touch with their consumer base, so they try and get us what we want.
R: TOAST right now is for the most part, a part time gig because of your work at the Ontario SPCA to pay the bills. Is your goal one day to do TOAST full-time or do you like having another job you’re passionate about to keep things balanced?
J: I really do love my job currently, but down the road, it would be great to be my own boss. That’s where I get excited and inspired to put in the extra work. After I’m done with my full-time job, at night, I get into this creative zone and can continue working all night. It's part of that entrepreneurial spirit in me.
R: Yeah, I totally understand that. So lastly, I always try to get owners to speak to the next generation of makers or new makers that are diving straight in. What advice would you have for the ones that are wanting to get into scents, cologne, candles, or whatever it may be, as if you were going to coach them through it or even just pass friendly advice so they don’t trip when they’re walking that new line.
J: Definitely, do your research on the types of products you want to create and what you want your brand to be about so you’re not side-tracking away from that. Also don’t be afraid to just go for it. I talk to my friends that are wanting to start a new business and a lot of them just don’t want to hit that “publish” button on their store. Failure is scary! We all want it to be perfect and successful the first day and it's just never going to be like that. TOAST is not even a year-old so sometimes, we will get 4 sales in a day and sometimes 4 sales in a month. So just be prepared for the ups and downs and don’t measure your initial success on orders. It’s a lot about your branding and building relationships with other small businesses. Get involved in the community, online or offline.
R: Thanks so much for this Jo! I can’t wait for our collaboration scents and oils to come out!
A special thank you to Jo at TOAST naturals for hanging out and doing this interview online. One day I’m really hoping to have this platform as a podcast and in person but in the meantime [COVID] we are going to continue with magazine style.
Jo can be reached on Instagram @TOASTnaturals check out her awesome page and site [https://toastnaturals.com/] for some amazing products like her “Sweet Kush” candles and Old Soul hair and body oils… they’re amazing!