HUSBAND AND WIFE TEAM, JB AND DEBBIE FRERE, WORK TOGETHER TO CREATE HIGH-QUALITY, EDUCATIONAL TOYS
Phoenix, AZ- JB and Debbie Frere started working together at World Book Encyclopedia in their newly created educational toy division – which later became The Learning Journey. Because of the association with World Book, the product line was developed in conjunction with World Book educators to ensure that the products reflected the high values and educational content reflective of the company. The couple travelled around the world setting up home-based businesses selling educational toys as part of World Books international distributor network. After 3 years, the Freres moved back to the United States to run the program. In 1998, World Book decided to refocus on its core encyclopedia business and JB and Debbie, along with two partners who were their top international customers, purchased The Learning Journey.
Relaunched as The Learning Journey International LLC in 1998, their first customer was Avon. The Learning Journey educational toy line became a mainstay in the Avon bimonthly catalog that was distributed to hundreds of thousands of Avon customers worldwide. In 2000, the Freres expanded the line to focus solely on the wholesale/retail model which they still they have today. Their products are distributed in countries all over the world in many languages.
Prior to joining World Book, JB held key sales and marketing positions within the appliance division of General Electric, and Debbie specialized in small business lending with First National Bank of Maryland. As a result, as President and CEO of The Learning Journey, JB oversees all product development, sales and marketing efforts, while Debbie uses her financial and operations expertise in her position as CFO and COO.
As The Learning Journey began to grow, the couple realized that the money spent on research, product development and conducting focus groups with kids and parents could better be spent by opening a child development center across the street from their headquarters to get that “first hand” experience. As a result, they now have a 200-child care center called Explorers in Learning that allows them to directly learn from the consumers of their products on a daily basis.
JB graduated from Loyola University of Maryland and Debbie has a degree from Towson University in Maryland. They live in Phoenix, Arizona and have a daughter who recently graduated from the Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Journalism and a son who is a junior at the University of Arizona in the Pre-Med program.