×

Learning Express Toys

Educational toy stores

OHIO

Todd and Connie Jacob, owners of three Learning Express Toys franchises in Ohio.
Source: Claire Sugrue
Todd and Connie Jacob, owners of three Learning Express Toys franchises in Ohio.
Description: Educational toy stores
Owners: Todd and Connie Jacob
Years in business: 15
No. of franchises owned: 3
Start-up costs: $225,000 to $300,000; $100,000 to $150,000
Franchisor fees: 5% of gross sales
2015 revenue, 2016 projection: $1,350,000; $1,668,215
2016 projected annual growth rate: 20%

In 2001, Tom and Connie Jacob were witnessing too many friends with longtime corporate careers lose their jobs. At the time, Connie was working for a medical firm as a sales coordinator and Tom was an electrical contractor, yet they still felt they weren't completely in control of their work destiny. That's when the couple decided to go into business for themselves.

Additional franchisee resources

With two children, who were 3 and 10 years old, the family would often shop at Learning Express Toys because Connie liked the educational aspect of their merchandise. The parent company has more than 130 franchised stores, locally owned and operated, that specialize in toys that combine fun with an opportunity to learn. Further, the stores are well integrated into the communities in which they operate, donating items for local school fundraising events.

At first, Connie didn't realize that Learning Express was a franchise, but after a little online research, she discovered that she and her husband could buy one and said it felt "like a door was opening for us. This was the business we were looking for." The Jacobs bought their first store in 2001 and now own two others — all in the Columbus, Ohio, metro area. Together, the stores employ 24 people and gross nearly $1.7 million a year. The couple works with several dozen preschool, elementary and middle schools in the area and donates toys to whatever fundraising events they have planned. "Anything that has to do with helping children learn is something that we want to be part of," she said.

The parent company has continued to help the couple grow their business by making available experts in areas such as direct marketing and product selection for their stores. "If we need help with any of these things, there is always someone at headquarters that we can speak with to get an answer," Connie said.

Finding and keeping good employees is still a major challenge, as is learning how to delegate responsibilities to valued workers. "There are not enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done, so sharing responsibilities is essential," she added.

Her advice for anyone looking to buy a franchise: "Ask yourself if you're okay with spending an enormous amount of time away from home. Even with the best franchise, you will need to be an active participant who is willing to roll up your sleeves and work. You most likely will work harder and longer than you've ever worked before, so have a passion for what you're doing."

"You most likely will work harder and longer than you've ever worked before, so have a passion for what you're doing." -Connie Jacob

Latest Special Reports

  • A globe-trotting look at the world of investing, from developed Europe and Asia trends to the least-traveled frontier markets.

  • Unlock the keys to building a successful long-term financial plan: manage your money, grow your money, and protect it.

  • Watch investments

    Covering the full set of tools and strategies for long-term investors: How to take everyday market fluctuations in stride, and when to know it’s time to take action or protect against a major economic shifts.