About Us

Stand Up Speak Up is an online community store with giving back at its core. Each of our products promote the themes of hope, healing, gratitude and giving and all proceeds of sale are donated to community organizations. Started as a passion project by entrepreneur Karla Tolstoy as she battles Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer and her son, Zach, we dedicate ourselves to putting as much kindness and goodwill into the world as possible. Each purchase is custom packaged with gifts straight from our founders. 

We are also devoted to building a community of allies and advocates throughout the world and promoting equality and inclusion. In addition to our online store, we are home to the Empowered & Kind Blog dedicated to inspiring and supporting women, the Circle of Strength Workshops on self-care and personal growth and reflection and the Allyship Workshop Series. You can also tune in for the Stand Up Speak Up podcast, which includes over fifty interviews with interesting people who have beat the odds and persevered through trauma and discrimination. 

The recently launched Allyship Workshop Series is based off our founders’ own learning on becoming an effective and active ally. We began volunteering for at-risk youth and mental health advocacy programs years ago and started to realize being a positive ally to these communities meant more than simply donating money or time. It meant taking the time to listen, learn and take cues from community members themselves and continuing to adapt with each new realization. In this series, we wanted to pass on what they have learned and welcome anyone to continue to learn alongside them.


About Zach (as told by Karla):

Zach has always been thoughtful, with a strong moral code and fierce independence. As he grew up, his father and I traveled extensively for work and Zach was exposed to many different cultures and ideas. His curiosity and drive to do good led to long conversations about world issues well before he reached high school. He would ask smart, pointed questions about topics his dad and I were discussing.

These talks led to Zach sitting for 2 years on the Halton Youth Committee for Mental Health. Together we both have been trained in Mental Health First Aid and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills. I also joke that he was a feminist before I even really understood how to be one. 

Zach’s mission in life has always been to see the world from multiple perspectives. Whether that be scuba diving, boating, or flying. Zach is an old soul who has taught me lessons on love, kindness, self-esteem and why the world still needs me to fight my cancer like the badass I am.

Zach, I love you.
Karla xo

About Karla (as told by Zach):

My mom had a very successful corporate career at an early age and still is renowned for her innovativeness, out-of-the-box thinking and never being afraid to try new approaches. She then transitioned into entrepreneurship, launching her first business on her return to Canada. My mom has been fighting in that arena for over a decade now and although she has been cut and bruised, she has only become stronger and wiser.

I should probably mention my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in October 2018, but who gives a shit. My mother has not let that define her and strives to live a productive life that works towards aiding others and provoking change. She is actively working with the Child Welfare PAC, an initiative focused on foster care reform. One of the causes close to both our hearts is Mental Health Awareness and Support.

The world needs more people like my mom – people who lead with giving and kindness and genuinely want to be become better every passing day. 

Mom, I love you.

A little more about Us

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