The idea for Tokki is routed in founder and CEO Jane Park’s love of gifting. “Gifting is my love language!” said Park.
It all started with a huge pile of Christmas presents a few years ago. After a large, festive gathering, (remember when big gatherings were a thing, pre-pandemic?) Park found herself buried under a mountain of wrapping paper, and ended up taking a lot of garbage to the curb. To her dismay, most of the wraps were non-recyclable as they were too thin, color-saturated, or coated. While reminiscing about her Korean grandmother who used to wrap gifts in beautiful squares of silk, she re-created a modern-day solution to this age-old problem. Enter Tokki. A gift that keeps on gifting.
Park also calls it “the sisterhood of the traveling gift wrap.” This eco-friendly gifting solution also comes with special embedded technology, where you can record a personalized message or even a video for your loved ones. While large gatherings might have to wait for a while, at least we can connect on a deeper, personal level with our loved ones.
At Tokki, you can buy thoughtfully curated gift sets, divine-scented candles with meaningful quotes, handmade chocolates by Frans Chocolates, pretty face masks (a collaboration between Tokki & Gravitas), or even just the recyclable gift wraps by themselves. The gift wraps are not only sustainable but also very aesthetic. They come in adorable, quirky prints like ‘winter forest’, ‘ginkgo leaves falling’ and ‘a waddle of penguins, to name a few. No more throwing tonnes of wrapping paper in the trash, or even trying to salvage crinkled-up pieces for future gifting.
You can feel the passion shine through when Parks talks about Tokki. Through ten questions, she tells us about herself, what makes Tokki different from other gifting solutions, and also incredibly special to her….
Seattleite: How did you create Tokki? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Jane Park: My Korean grandmother used to wrap our special gifts in colorful squares of silk cloth. That’s when I decided to launch Tokki – to create a more sustainable way to gift. Our reusable gift wrap comes with a QR card that is endlessly reusable. I wanted to find a way to make reuse even MORE fun – not just the right thing to do. Each year Americans use enough single-use gift wrap to circle the earth more than 110 times. This seemed like an easy way we could all start making a difference.
Seattleite: Could you tell me a little about your background and how it led you to where you are today?
Park: I’m the daughter of Korean immigrants. We moved from Korea when I was four, so I went to school not knowing how to speak English. My parents worked hourly jobs, then saved enough to become entrepreneurs, first running a gas station then a corner convenience store – so they worked seven days a week with only Christmas and New Years’ off. My father was also an orphan growing up because his village was right on what became the border between North and South Korea. He was ten years old when the border closed with his parents on the North at home and he was in the South with cousins – and he never saw them again. Seeing firsthand all that my parents have suffered and endured to create educational opportunities for me and my sisters has been tremendously inspiring. No challenge I encounter will ever be as hard as what they have survived.
Seattleite: When it comes to sustainability, how can an individual strive to create change at the grassroots level?
Park: The climate crisis is so overwhelming at the individual level, so I think one key priority is to find a way to remain engaged and not give up. One thing I’ve been trying is to layer on a new helpful behavior each week (or month!) and do the best you can. During the pandemic, we have tried to focus our ordering in on restaurants that use compostable packaging. I buy carbon offsets each time I fly. I look for companies that have sustainable practices to vote with my dollars. I think it’s as much about the impact as about finding a way to maintain a viable connection to the larger issue on a personal level.
Seattleite: What’s your long-term vision for Tokki?
Park: For me, what is most important about Tokki is what we are doing today. When I started my last venture-backed company, Julep Beauty, I sacrificed so many of my todays in pursuit of tomorrow’s growth and success. As an Asian-American woman, I felt like I had to compete to “put one on the scoreboard”. I thought my today had to be given up in service of tomorrow. With Tokki, I am trying a new thought experiment. I’m trying to use my longer-term goal of reducing waste to fuel and energize my today. I’m trying to use my hopes for tomorrow to fuel my today.
Seattleite: Could you tell us a little about the patented technology?
Park: I love bringing digital and physical experiences together to solve problems, which is why we have filed two patents on our QR card re-gifting capabilities. In a nutshell, we came up with a digital way for people to be part of “the sisterhood of the traveling gift wrap.” I’ve filed for three patents in my life, which I never could have foreseen growing up.
Seattleite: As a small business, could you tell me about your thought process while it comes to hiring and collaborations?
Park: Partnering with local companies I admire has been one of the biggest joys of starting Tokki. Even though we are still small, I love using our leverage whenever possible to make a difference. Whether you are a small business like us, or a consumer, or in charge of purchasing for a much larger company, I always encourage people to ask an allyship question whenever they are spending dollars. Hiring a lawyer? Ask the firm what percentage of their partners are women. Buying a car? Ask for a woman sales rep (heads up – this will make the dealership squirm because there are very few!). To level the playing field, we all need to take concrete action to vote with our dollars, not just during elections.
Seattleite: How does the sustainability factor come into play?
Park: Gift wrap is such an easy change to make – it’s low-hanging fruit to reduce our environmental footprint. Breakup with single-use gift wrap! You don’t have to use Tokki – you can use newspaper or pillowcases. Just reuse!
Seattleite: What do you find the most meaningful about your work at Tokki?
Park: The people I get to collaborate with and meet through Tokki make my work meaningful. While we are trying to create an impact keeping sustainability in mind, I’m grateful that I get to learn everyday from the incredible individuals I get to work with and meet.
Seattleite: You’re also known to give back to the community. Could you elaborate a bit on that?
Park: Like so many small businesses, we’re not waiting to give back! Last year we donated over 100,000 face masks to community organizations, and this Mother’s Day we are donating 10% of our proceeds to Every Mother Counts to support maternal health and survival in childbirth around the world.
Seattleite: When you are not working, what do you do?
Park: I love love love karaoke, and I can’t wait to throw a huge karaoke dance party as soon as that’s possible. My husband and I do a mean rendition of Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers’ Islands in the Stream.