Educational toy company The Learning Journey International will mark its 20th anniversary this year, reports azcentral.com. The Phoenix-based company was founded by husband-and-wife team JB and Debbie Frere in the spare bedroom of their home. Today, it operates from a 50,000-square-foot facility built in 2010.
JB, formerly with General Electric in Phoenix, and Debbie, a small-business lender, saw first-hand how to start a business from scratch when they worked for World Book’s division in London. They also realized the impact of the children’s educational books the company produced, and headed back to Phoenix to start The Learning Journey. A year later, World Book sold the Freres the business, according to azcentral.
The Freres launched their company with 50 products they developed themselves. Today, it offers 200 SKUs – the maximum the Freres feel comfortable working with. Their original goal was to expand the line each year by 20 to 30 percent. Today, they replace that percentage of products annually with new items to keep the line fresh, reports azcentral.com.
Learning Journey’s toys, books and electronic devices for children up to age 12 are sold to schools and parents through independent teacher and toy stores, as well as big-box stores. Some are sold as a store brand under a private label. “At least one large department store requests a Black Friday product, and a custom set is made for it,” notes the article. The customized pieces are designed by The Learning Journey in addition to its core product line.
All the products are designed and created in Phoenix. They are tested by students in the Freres’ learning facility, Explorers in Learning, before they are manufactured overseas. The products are made in eight languages and are distributed in 26 countries. The company operates two warehouses, in Phoenix and Hong Kong.
Many Learning Journey products are designed for children with special needs. JB explains in the article that because the items are tactile, they elicit a bigger reaction compared to traditional learning tools. Incorporating puzzles and games, different modes of learning, and the principles of teaching, reinforcing and play gives the toys an edge, he adds.
Debbie attributes The Learning Journey’s growth and longevity to a sound financial plan, no debt and putting all profits back into the business.