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The Monkey Business – shine a light on the little things that make up your day

Monkey Business has been adding the extra to the ordinary since 1994.
The company aims to shine a light on the little things that make up your day so you can enjoy them from a new perspective.

Monkey Business was founded by Oded Friedland in 1994 as a young design graduate struggling and striving to realize his designs.

Oded studied Industrial design at the Bezalel Art and Design Academy in Jerusalem where he teaches courses on design entrepreneurship.

“I was always in the ‘decoration committee’ in my high school in the Scouts, In elementary school I used to make keychains and sell them to friends, and as a teenager I designed and hand printed T-shirts for my friends, with their favourite rock bands”. “After the army, I started designing T-shirts for the Gazoz Surfing company [Friedland is an avid surfer]. I applied to study graphic design at the Bezalel School of Design, and someone who saw my portfolio recommended that I also apply to industrial design department. I didn’t get into the graphic design school which I was sad about then, but I did get in to the industrial design major, even though I didn’t really know what that was.”

Upon graduation in 1994, Friedland founded Monkey Business where he provided design services, and also began developing his own products.

“The first product was the plughole ashtray that I had designed during my studies. I made one and sold it, made another and sold that… until i started mass producing them- smoking was healthier in the 90’s, and this item was discontinued many years ago for ethical reasons, recently we found one in the Vintage category on Ebay” 

Monkey Business now develop dozens of products a process that takes around 18 months from the initial idea to reaching the market –“we launch several new items every year the majority designed by other Israeli designers, but still a few of my originals. Normally, we come up with the initial idea and together with our designers work on the development. We then share the initial concept and design with our distributors around the world and get their feedback. 

Then we’ll decide which products to continue developing. Many nice ideas fall on the way for different reasons- development, pricing or production problems can kill a great idea.

It is important for us to be truly original which is becoming a difficult mission these days, we were pioneers in our field and over the years the niche of “design gifts” has grown, many companies come up with similar ideas, there is also a lot of “me too” going on, but we try to avoid doing things that have already been done- what’s the point” says Friedland. Cheap copies from China is also a big problem, these items are selling online and in one dollar stores, sometimes using images of the original item, supplying low quality, using uncertified and in some cases hazardous materials- beware.

We believe in good quality and long living products, this is also our way to do less environmental damage.

“We have a small operational staff and collaborate with over 20 local designers. Omri, my brother and partner, takes care of all the export and finance. My wife Liat is head of our social media and sales in the local market where we sell in over 100 stores, and I take care of the product development.”

We are proud to champion the leading product designers of Israel, from talented youngsters to experienced professionals.

The combination of raw talent with experienced development, production and marketing processes have provided us with a recipe for originally designed and commercially successful products.

Over the years Monkey Business has kept and managed an archive of the development processes of each and every one of their products, including sketches, prototypes, production tests and different packaging designs, in May 2019 the design processes of over 20 products were exhibited in the prestigious Design Museum in Holon in an exhibition curated by Adi Hamer named “Forms of Smiles”. Among the products exhibited were Morris and friends, the animal shaped memo holders designed by studio Yaacov Kaufman, the “Corkers” – a series of pushpin parts that combined with wine corks create collectible figurines, the Blue Bears- Ice packs for lunchboxes in the shape of polar bears, designed by Alma Shaham and Oded Friedland, and more.

A colorful wall illustrated by Eitan Eloa presents a timeline of the products launched over the years, providing insights to the changes in consumer habits and the evolving lifestyle over the years.  

Oded’s advice to young designers that wish to build their own brand:

Choose a product category that you are truly passionate about, you must love what you are doing in order to succeed.

If possible find a business partner that complements you, things that we did not study in design school like negotiations, logistics or finance can be really helpful in a business. Keep your expenses as low as possible and be patient, things take time, more than you think…