Celebrating Twenty One Toys' 10th Birthday!

We’re Turning 10!

A cute puppy sitting on a furry pink rug in front of a floral background. The puppy turns toward the camera and a caption appears which reads say what.

We know, we can’t believe it either. Somehow, this summer Twenty One Toys will be cracking double digits and celebrating our tenth anniversary!

We've Come a Long Way

A pair of pictures on a blue background. On the left is a picture of Ilana Ben-Ari showing her fourth year design project that would become the Empathy Toy to the former director of the CNIB. On the right is a picture of 2 people playing the Empathy Toy at a conference. Both players are blindfolded and smiling, while a crowd looks on behind them.

After some experiments and adventures, Twenty One Toys was founded and incorporated on July 25, 2012 and we got to work to bring our big ideas about revolutionizing education to the world.

The early days had us sneaking into education conferences, making our first big sale of Empathy Toys to a school board, and luckily winning over 17 awards, including the C2MTL Emerging Entrepreneur Award, the Spin Master Innovation Award, and the Core77 Design Award. It was a time of borrowing outfits to give speeches to industry leaders, crowdfunding our first mass production of toys and recording playful music with members of our co-working community.

Our company (and the world) has changed a lot since then.

We moved into and out of 3 office spaces in 2 different buildings, we’ve added a second toy to our collection (with 7 more to come ) and have expanded our offerings to include in-person and online workshops, training, and certification. The team has also worked hard behind the scenes on manufacturing both the Empathy and Failure Toys long-distance during a global shipping crisis, and shipping out some truly massive orders that required all hands on deck.

3 photos of some of the biggest shipping and logistics feats of recent years, including working across timezones to manufacture the toys, shipping our largest ever single order, and packing all of the Failure Toys for our hundreds of Kickstarter backers!

Some behind the scenes photos of manufacturing our toys across timezones, shipping out our largest single toy order, and packing Failure Toys for our Kickstarter backers!

We’re so excited for what is coming next, but first we wanted to look back on some of the great moments from the past ten years.

Fast Facts

If you're a data nerd, this section is for you! While our lucky number is 21 (obviously), we're pretty happy to see these numbers too!

  • We’ve shipped out almost 6,700 Empathy and Failure Toys. If you stacked those toys on top of each other, they would build the second tallest freestanding structure in the world!

  • We’ve delivered workshops to over 24,000 people. That’s enough people to fill more than 126 airplanes.

  • We ran two successful Kickstarter campaigns, supported by 766 backers.That’s enough people to fill almost 4 movie theatres!

  • We’ve shipped toys to over 50 Countries. We're not at full world domination yet, but we're working on it

  • We hosted 40 global play sessions in the past 2 years. While we started hosting these free one hour workshops to try out our Empathy and Failure Toys as part of our pivot to online programming in early 2020, they've become one of our favourite ways to connect with our global community. If you haven't been able to join us to play the Empathy or Failure Toy online, you can join this list to be notified when we announce our fall dates.

Playing with the Very Best

A group of Twenty One Toys Facilitators ready to lead a workshop

We don't like to brag, but we really do get to play as part of our work, and we get to do it with some of the most wonderful facilitators we could imagine. These folks bring incredible expertise to the table and they help make our workshops outstanding.

They're also some of the most fun people to hang out with. Our facilitators come from all different professional backgrounds, having worked in law firms, military bases, K12 classrooms, engineering firms, martial arts dojos, not for profits, and boardrooms. No matter what their experience, they share a thirst for knowledge, a perfect balance of humility and confidence, and a dedication to making each workshop with us the best it can be.

Whether they're delivering a workshop dressed like Batman, posing in a Nashville-themed photo booth, or taking Munari pictures in front of major landmarks, our facilitators keep play at the top of the agenda.

3 photos of Twenty One Toys facilitators. The photo on the left shows a facilitator wearing a Batman costume while leading a workshop. The centre photo shows three facilitators posing with prop musical instruments in a photo booth. The photo on the right shows two facilitators taking a Munari photo in front of One World Trade Center in NYC.

Empathy Around the World

Running our workshops online for the past couple years hasn't stopped us from playing with wonderful people from around the world. That said, we're happy to be getting back on the road and meeting more of you in person!

A GIF of an airplane flying overhead.

Travel has also given us lots of opportunities to witness and experience empathy, resilience, and kindness while on the road. A group of students applauded us like rockstars as we left their school after a workshop. A stranger went out of their way to return a lost cell phone to one of our facilitators. We've celebrated birthdays with new friends, and of course made time to play everything from board games to bumper pool in cities around the world.

We also hear about amazing examples of empathy from members of our global community. Ethiopian and Eritrean refugee children played the Empathy Toy with Kenyan children in their new community and built meaningful connections. A school in Winnipeg built a student leadership program to address conflict in their school. A software company plays the Empathy Toy as a team to improve their internal communications and customer service. We often get emails and social media posts from people who are using play to help their communities be more inclusive, resilient, and empathic.

3 screen captures of social media posts shared by members of the Twenty One Toys community.

Changing the World

We're proud of the positive impact we've been able to have on the world in the past decade. But we're not finished.

The world has gotten much more complicated, interdependent, and divided in the past 10 years, and we all could use more empathy, creativity, and resilience. We're seeing more examples of people choosing to close themselves off instead of opening up and being vulnerable and honest. Companies are choosing the bottom line over the people and planet. Leaders are choosing the way things have always been done instead of imagining the way things could be. Children are getting more anxiety and pressure to conform at school instead of a space for creativity and play. Every time we open up the news or social media, we see another list of reasons why these twenty-first century skills matter.

The good news is, we also see lots of reasons to be hopeful. We are always happy to see all of you out there, finding ways to practice and teach these skills and bringing our toys with you. Our revolution isn't over; we can't wait to show you what we've been working on to build the world's first global community of toy educators and facilitators! There's lots of change to come, and we couldn't ask for better people to play with as we make that happen.

Here's to another 10 years of revolutionizing education, building better companies, and learning together.

A picture of the Twenty One Toys Team celebrating the successful funding of our Empathy Toy Kickstarter Campaign in 2013

A toast to success from our first Kickstarter campaign!

Want to Play The Empathy Toy and Failure Toys Online?

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