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Local Businesswoman Turns Tragedy into Toymaking

It’s been said that every storm leads to a rainbow, and one NJ woman decided to make this saying a reality in her own life. After witnessing the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks and experiencing the wrath of Superstorm Sandy, Jennifer Schanker decided to walk away from corporate America and create her own destiny by opening a toy store; Learning Express Toys.

Schanker, owner of Learning Express Toys of Shrewsbury, took Best Of NJ back to the birth of her business venture and the moment she became her own boss.


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The Past

Schanker’s career began when she graduated from New York University as a Music Business & Technology Major and took a job in the entertainment industry.

learning express

“My most notable job was as Music Coordinator at Oxygen Media. I loved working in television, but after 9/11, I was laid off which was a total blessing in disguise,” Schanker recalled.

She decided to change her career path and landed a job in the finance industry.

“My last job was in Trust and Estates, which is where I learned a lot about the business of money and management. I learned how to use money as a tool and not depend on money to live. Without this experience I would not have been able to open my own business,” explained Schanker.

While Schanker continued working and welcomed a new baby, Superstorm Sandy struck, destroying her family home.

“I felt like after that experience there was nothing to hold me back. The fear of starting my own business dulled and a new fear of ‘what if’ took over,” Schanker recounted.

The Present

After researching different business options on the side, Schanker kept coming back to an article that she read about the Learning Express Toys franchise.

“I loved the idea of giving parents the option to buy better quality toys and providing a memorable experience for the kids.”

Schanker decided to visit her local Learning Express Toys and something immediately felt right.

Flash forward to today, Schanker has been in business for 3 1/2 years. Her first location was in Holmdel, but she’s since moved to a new spot in Shrewsbury.

She’s only been open in Shrewsbury for 6 months, but her personal customer service is already making a name for itself in the community.

“I remember how special the trip to the toy store was for me and I wanted to emulate that for my kids.”

learning express

In order to provide a memorable experience, Schanker invites customers and their mini toy experts for special ongoing activities, seminars and workshops.

She has also partnered with local businesses like Bricks For Kids, Artworx and Safe Hearts.

Every Sunday, the store hosts its hugely popular LOL Doll Trading Event.

Her merchandise fulfills every baby’s, tot’s and tween’s must-have list.

The Future

Becoming a specialty store staple in the community and opening more stores are high on Schanker’s list of goals, but serving as a positive influence for her kids is the business owner’s main priority.

“It makes me feel happy that my choices will teach them that they can be and do anything they want with a lot of hard work and determination,” said Schanker.

Apparently, she is succeeding.

Schanker’s daughter has decided when she gets older she wants to follow in her mom’s shoes and plans on opening no less and no more than 130 stores.

Schanker is looking forward to the healthy competition.