How I Quit My Job and Opened a Toy Store

Shelley Hobson left a successful career in broadcasting, and her New England home, to open a Learning Express Toys store with her husband in Wilmington, North Carolina 21 years ago. We asked Shelley to tell us about her decision to leave the corporate world and become a toy store owner.

Read on to find out why she made the switch – and has never looked back.

Learn More About Toy Store Ownership!

Shelley Hobson headshot
Shelley Hobson has been a Learning Express Toys store owner since 1995.

What did you do in your previous career?

SHELLEY: For 15 years, I was a broadcast copywriter, creative services director, and, finally, part-time news producer, living in Charleston, SC, New Orleans, LA, and Boston, MA. When my boys were born, I transitioned out of broadcasting and worked part time as the youth director of my church in Needham, MA, where I lived and was a customer of Learning Express Toys!

What was your favorite part of your previous career? Least favorite?

SHELLEY: I loved the fast pace, the opportunity to be creative and to figure out ways to communicate to viewers, whether I was working on a television commercial for an advertiser, the station itself or a news story about women’s issues (the focus of the news segment I produced for two years at WBZ-TV). When I was a manager, I disliked all the meetings that went on for hours and took me away from what I loved doing most. I worked for Westinghouse, where there were many layers of bureaucracy.

What made you look into buying a franchise?

SHELLEY: My husband, Ed, was in outplacement after his bank was sold, and his job moved to Pittsburgh. We made the decision not to follow the job and to move to the North Carolina coast where we eventually wanted to retire. Ed was networking in Wilmington and also looking for businesses to buy. In the course of that process, he met a franchise consultant who told him about Learning Express. We were customers of the Needham, MA store, loved shopping there, and were immediately drawn to the idea of owning a toy store.

How did you find and decide on Learning Express Toys?

SHELLEY: We were Learning Express customers. When we heard the company was selling franchises, we began researching right away. We visited Wilmington, NC to see what the competitive situation might be like and, determining there was an opportunity for a specialty toy business here, we moved pretty quickly. The process began in March 1995, and by September that year, we had moved our family to Wilmington and opened our own Learning Express Toys store.

What was it like making the transition from a corporate career to being a franchise owner?

SHELLEY: It was scary because of the financial risk and we didn’t know the toy business except as parents, but we were confident that we had found a proven business and a good location, and that our skill set combination (marketing, event planning, management for me and accounting and management for Ed) was a good fit. Ed and I had never worked together before, so we had to figure out how to balance home and work, so work wouldn’t take over our household.

The Learning Express Toys Home Office provided education and support that helped us get up the learning curve much more quickly than if we had gone on this journey alone. Support from and friendships with the Home Office staff and other Learning Express store owners around the country grew and have been an asset to us as we have operated this business for 21 years.

Any advice for those considering making the switch?

SHELLEY: Visit several Learning Express Toys stores, and interview the owners. If you are a hard worker who loves making people happy; if you are very flexible and enjoy the creative freedom of growing a business and the feeling of success when something you do is works; if you want to work hard in a business which is family-friendly (to your family as well), it is well worth the consideration!

The first step to discovering whether owning a Learning Express Toys store is right for you is just filling out a quick form. We’ll follow up with a call from our franchise development department so we can introduce ourselves and get to know you.

Learn more about becoming a toy store owner by visiting our franchise page.

Learn More About Toy Store Ownership!

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