Interview: Toni and Nikki (tonic)

Australian small business creators Toni Joel and Nikki Horovitz are celebrating the 20th Birthday of their brand, tonic, and I found out a little more about them and the brand in this recent chat.

What made the two of you decide to go into business together and start Tonic?

Prior to having children, Toni and I had really fulfilling careers. I was a senior buyer at Sportsgirl and Toni owned a wholesale fashion accessory business called Gypsy Rose.

After we both had our first children, we wanted to keep working and have flexibility; this was a major contributor to our decision to start Tonic.

Our goal was to utilise our experience but in an environment where our families wouldn’t take a back seat.


Can you tell us a little about how Tonic got its start?

We saw a significant gap in the market for fashion forward personal care and gift ranges and we cut our teeth doing product development of gifts for major retailers including, Myer, Sportsgirl, Witchery, Sussan, Portmans and Esprit, some of which we are still supplying 20 years later.

Without any financial outlay, our start was in my family dining room. We put together denim scrunchy and Bonds’ singlets and packaged them in acetate boxes and wrapped it with raffia.

We took it to Diamaru and were blown away when they ordered 500 units. We panicked a little but knew we had a sound business concept.

Where did the name come from?
It’s a combination of our names Toni and Nikki – tonic (perfect name)

2012 marks your 20th Birthday, are you planning a celebration?

Of course! Not many small business start-ups survive, let alone thrive for 20 years.

We are celebrating with our staff and partners but we are also celebrating with our customers by offering them an incredible new range. We definitely wanted to do something that would mark this year.


Can you tell us a little about your brand philosophy?

Our brand philosophy is really simple: we make the mundane magnificent.

As an example we have taken the “daggy corduroy heat pillow” and made it really desirable. We really enjoy selecting the magnificent fabrics that help make our products unique, and beautiful to merchandise in stores. Highlighting beauty in the design of heat pillows, eye pillows, shower caps, and fabric-wrapped soaps is really unique and this helps to set us aside from our competitors and we apply this principle to everything we do.

What inspires your product and design choices?

We are inspired by fashion and home ware trends across the globe. Our aim is to produce locally and we are proud to say that tonic is all Australian made!

Have you got a favourite product?

The Heat Pillow…for many reasons. It is both beautiful and practical. We need several in our household. It is forever in and out of the microwave, and used for period pains, sporting injuries, soothing tight neck muscles and general warmth and comfort.
And from a business perspective it is our best selling product! We love to think that we are helping Australian farmers too, as we use locally sourced organic barley and lavender for the filling. We are also employing myriad local manufacturers to sew and fill!

Do you have plans to expand the product range?

We are always very curious so we always keep our eye out for the next big thing but for now, our focus is delivering great products, beautifully designed and at price points our customers want.

Is there a secret to your longevity?

Fun, respect and friendship and not taking ourselves too seriously!

Why should we choose Tonic?

Tonic is all about beautiful Australian made products, perfect as a gift… and perfect for you!
Our fragrances are beautiful, and all items are of the highest quality.

How has your brand evolved since the early years?

In the early days we would produce and pack just about whatever the retailers wanted. For example, the scrunchy and singlet we mentioned earlier.

We now focus purely on the little indulgence that our customers are looking for and only in the personal care area.

We are more professional, and sleek, and the emphasis on our packaging ensures it is world class.

What’s next for Tonic?

We are excited to be heading into the UK and USA markets in 2012!

Thank you so much for your time, it was lovely having you here and good luck with the next 20 years.

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