Turning toffee into help for teachers
Words by Paige Townley
There isn’t much that a little butter and sugar can’t fix—at least not in the South—and that theory has been proven to be quite true with the Oklahoma Toffee Company.
Anthony and Chelsea Archie were both teachers in the Sooner State, Anthony a middle school social studies teacher and Chelsea a middle school science teacher, who were constantly dealing with the stress of public school underfunding. “It became a groundswell of discomfort, displeasure, and frustration—not just for us, but teachers all across the state,” Anthony explains. “We were constantly dealing with a lack of resources and tangible goods that were desperately needed in the classroom.”
Already bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, the Archies started thinking about ways to help solve the problem. They had both dreamed of starting their own business someday, and they realized that this could be the solution—as long as the business was set up in a way to give back to teachers. That’s when Anthony’s mind turned to one of his sweetest loves: toffee. “Ever since I was a little boy, I just loved toffee,” he says. “It is my favorite candy ever, so I thought, ‘What if we started a toffee company?’”
Adding to the allure of a toffee company was that it was doable with a teacher’s schedule. Anthony knew they could make the toffee at night and sell it at trade shows on the weekends. The next step was to develop their own toffee recipe, and that’s when Anthony did what any smart Southerner would do: he called his grandmother. “I told her about our idea, and she loved it,” Anthony says. “She said, ‘You have to put in a lot of butter, sugar, and love.’ She gave us her blessing, which meant a lot to me. Our whole family rallied around us.”
Anthony and Chelsea established Oklahoma Toffee in 2017 and turned to Kitchen 66, a Tulsa-based food business incubator that helps business entrepreneurs by providing access to affordable commercial kitchen space. After pulling an all-nighter, Anthony prepared the first 57 bags of toffee to take to their first trade show in Oklahoma City. “At the time, I just thought if we could sell half of those bags, it would be a success,” he says. “We sold out of all 57 bags in just a couple hours. It was amazing. As we began to share our story and that our goal was to help teachers, people wanted to help. We were met with so much support.”
From there, the Archies began traveling to trade and arts and crafts shows all across Oklahoma, and the support continued. Eventually, they decided to take it out of state and started traveling across America. “The first time we went out of state, I wasn’t sure people were going to be receptive,” Chelsea says. “But everyone has been so supportive. There is a camaraderie. Everyone wants strong education, and everyone wants teachers to be supported. Education connects everyone. It’s very rare that we’re having a conversation with someone that doesn’t have a connection with a teacher.”
The Archies also began searching for teachers throughout the state who needed classroom items. They started by getting the word out on Facebook. From there, they began experiencing organic growth by word of mouth. All teachers must do to be considered is submit their request through the online request form. “It has been really cool to help teachers directly with the supplies they need, and they don’t have to jump through a lot of hoops to get that help,” Anthony says. “There are so many different needs, and it’s amazing to see how many different ways there are that we can help our state’s teachers.”
Thus far, Oklahoma Toffee has fulfilled dozens upon dozens of requests. Some of those requests are for basic supplies such as paper and pens, but others have asked for—and received—items such as alternative seating, coding robots, storage organizers, and even class curricula. When Anthony’s not teaching, in the kitchen making toffee, or traveling the country selling it, he loves delivering those items to the classroom. “To see the students and teachers so excited that someone cares about them enough to give them the supplies they need is always so exciting,” he says.
They also love showing their kids—six-year-old Naomi, three-year-old Anthony, and one-year-old Evelyn—and students in classrooms across the state the power of teamwork and a willingness to help others. “If we all come together, we can meet the challenges and solve the problems that we’re facing,” Anthony says. “I hope we inspire others to see that anyone can do good in the world and make the world a better place. If we support one another, the future really is bright.”
And as long as Oklahoma Toffee is around, it will also be pretty sweet.