My 3 year journey designing the world’s first Failure Toy

Designing Failure

This is a photograph from September 2015, of me and my design intern at the time, Jenny. Jenny’s great, incredibly talented, and during her 4 month internship with my company, Twenty One Toys, I had her work with me on our second toy, the Failure Toy, the follow-up to my startup’s shockingly successful Empathy Toy. This was taken just a few weeks into Jenny starting with us, 2 months before our big Failure Toy launch party, on a bench, steps away from the Empathy Toy booth we were supposed to be…


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Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

My startup Twenty One Toys turned 5 years old this summer, and I feel weird about it.

I knew when we turned 5 that it was a big deal. Statistics show that 50% of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years. Just ‘not dying’ is a HUGE achievement. But, we’re not just ‘not dying’, we’re thriving.

So, why do I feel weird?

Well, I’m not a parent. But the best comparison for my company turning 5 that I can think of is… well… an actual human 5-year-old.

When I look at a typical 5-year-old child I think: Wow…


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These are photographs of me at various events that I’ve spoken at. None of these outfits are mine. The pants are my sister’s, the shirts my roommates’, and the dresses are my old friend and roommate’s, Akua’s. She’s famous now, so it’s fine.

There are a lot of secrets when it comes to starting a business. The first secret I discovered when I started my own business, designing toys that teach empathy and failure, was that entrepreneurs barely pay themselves for at least the first few years. That’s because we are merely vessels, dare I say, train stations for money…


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SheEO Purple Carpet Event — photograph by Dahlia Katz

Originally published on Yonge Street Media

“Just two weeks ago, Ilana Ben-Ari, founder and CEO of Twenty One Toys spent the weekend with four other female CEOs, in the woods, negotiating for her portion of half a million dollars. Ben-Ari emerged as one of the five winners of the SheEO Radical Generosity Fund, which meant access to a $500,000 interest-free loan, spearheaded by serial entrepreneur Vicki Saunders, and funded by 500 women from across Canada who contributed $1,000 each to the fund.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day and hear about extraordinary women making a dent in the world, here’s…


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Photograph of the SheEO Radical Generosity 2016 recipients: Abeego, LunaPads, Skipper Otto, MagnusMode, and Twenty One Toys

Six months ago I was one of five winners of the SheEO Radical Generosity Fund. You can read “What fighting in the woods for $500,000 taught me about supporting female entrepreneurship” to get the whole story, but the shorter version is that 500 women took a gamble on me and my company (and 4 other female-led businesses) to prove that we need to change the ways in which we support female entrepreneurs.

Led by Vicki Saunders, SheEO is on a mission to support female-led (and female-identified) companies dedicated to making the world a better place. In late 2015, SheEO’s initiative…

Ilana Ben-Ari

Toy designer turned social entrepreneur, founder of @21Toys and #EmpathyToy #FailureToy inventor — https://ilanabenari.com/

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