Meet the Founders

by Learning Journey | 09 Aug 2021

Biographies and Interviews

Meet the Founders of The Learning Journey International, LLC

A look into the inspiration behind the award-winning, educational product line

August 9th, 2021



Names, Past & Current Titles, Where from?

J.B. Frere – President and Owner. JB worked 10 years at General Electric in the Appliance Division

Debbie Frere – CFO and Owner. Debbie was a small business lending officer at First National Bank of Maryland.

We are both from Maryland.

How did they meet each other?

We met on a blind date. Debbie’s sister was dating JB’s college roommate (best friend). That’s how they were introduced.

Best parts of being husband and wife business partners?

As married business partners you have someone who you know and trust giving you solid and honest feedback about the decisions you both make on a daily basis. Sometimes, you just get tired of talking about work though!

What inspired you to create The Learning Journey?

Back in 1994, we had the opportunity to join World Book International’s UK division. They were looking for a new way to expand their UK and worldwide markets and recruit more salespeople to sell encyclopedias. At the time party plan was all the rage. We started a new sales force for them selling low-cost educational toys in a party plan format. We rolled out the program in six countries and had nearly 5000 sales consultants world-wide. As you know, our toy industry margins lack significantly behind those made on a high end set of encyclopedias. Seeing the writing on the wall, we approached World Book with an offer to buy The Learning Journey. On January 1, 1998, we launched The Learning Journey International, LLC. 23 years later, we remain “true to the core” of the company’s main focus of offering high quality, award-winning, non-licensed educational products for children.

What's the mission of The Learning Journey?

As parents ourselves, we have a strong passion to inspire creativity and spike curiosity in a fun and educational way. We are on a Journey to make learning fun by creating kid-friendly toys and games. On this journey, it is our goal to help children build confidence and develop skills that are vital during their early learning years.

What was your first product? 

We had quite a few for our catalog, but the most memorable first of our proprietary, designed from scratch products was Quiz Kid. It was a handheld electronic learning toy with touch sensors and question cards.

How do you come up with ideas for more product?

We collaborate between the creative team and our sales team to come up with new ideas. We get feedback from our buyers and take that into consideration too. We also own and operate a Child Development Center – Explorers In Learning – where we test our products to see how kids react before the products go out to market. It gives us great, honest feedback – straight from the mouth of babes.

What makes the Learning Journey product special?

When we create new products we look at curriculums and create the concepts that are being taught. It’s about creating intentional products that hone certain skills. We like to provide a great product, but also at an affordable price.

What were your favorites toys/games growing up? What are they now?

Debbie had one of the first Cabbage Patch Dolls and played a lot of BattleShip and Sorry.

JB had the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle and loved it. Still does actually!

During COVID when things were shut down tight, our adult daughter and her boyfriend ended up staying with us for three months. We played board games several nights a week and completed several 1000 piece puzzles. Ticket to Ride is our favorite board game – it now comes on family vacations with us! Billiards, Ping Pong and Cornhole are also high on the list.

How do you see the future of The Learning Journey?

The name of the company is very appropriate as every day is "A Learning Journey". We hope to continue to grow and evolve. We are changing as the market changes - learning new ways to create and sell. When we look at our logo, we always say “as long as the sun is rising and not setting, we are OK!”

What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?

Use the “So What” factor. Don’t just present a new concept, be ready to tell why it’s different, unique, and what’s compelling about it. Read your product description and at the end ask yourself “So What?”  If you have a good answer, then you’re ready.

What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?

Take advantage of internships, part-time jobs, and work experience. Get exposure to the real work world so you can see how things operate and have a better idea of where your skill set might best be suited, and what you enjoy doing.

Where can people shop Learning Journey products?

Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, Aldi, most e-commerce sites, specialty stores

Social Media links / other resources?

Instagram: @the_learning_journey

Facebook: @learningjourney

LinkedIn: @the-learning-journey-international

Pictures, videos, etc.






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