Ilana Ben-AriTwenty One Toys

What challenges did you face as a woman entrepreneur?

When I was starting my business, my greatest hurdle was feeling like I wasn't even allowed to do so. I had very few role models, especially other female entrepreneurs.

What were your major successes?

  • The Empathy Toy was my University thesis project and it won a prestigious design award

  • My business was featured on a TEDx Talk

  • A year later, through the use of Twitter, we made our first major sale to a school board

Why did you start your own business?

I strongly believe in the power of play and design to create positive social change. I started Twenty One Toys because I felt our education system needed a reboot. I was a very good student but realized later that being a good student had little to do with being good at life or work for that matter.

At what point did you know you had achieved success?

When we spoke to the first 50 schools using our toys and they stated that not only was the guidance counsellor using the toys, but the toys were also being used to teach business, language and design. Even the teachers had adopted them for professional development. Another sign of success was that the toys went missing because the teachers were taking them home to play with their families!

Do you have any advice or suggestions for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Find a community that supports your business health and your mental health. Another suggestion is to get two credit cards as quickly as possible so you can separate your business from your personal finances.

What's next for you and your business? 

2016 is about us creating the world's first global community of toy educators and facilitators. We'll be travelling to 5 countries this year to train and connect the over 1000 educators and human resources practitioners in our network so that they can start incorporating empathy into their work. Even MBA programs and banks are using our toys in their work. We are also planning on launching a toy that teaches Failure. Let's Bring on the Toy Revolution!

Twenty One Toys

Twenty One Toys designs and manufactures toys that teach empathy, failure and other key 21st century skills. Their first toy, the Empathy Toy, is already in 43 countries, over 1000 schools, 30 post-secondary institutions, 100 offices, and even 3 MBA programs. It was featured in TIME magazine as “one of six new technologies shaping future” and they have now started a global training and certification program.

This success story is provided by SHeEO – an act of radical generosity to finance, support and celebrate women.

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