I am Benjamin Akande, dean of the School of Business and Technology at Webster University. Welcome to the Success to Significance Speaker Series.
Let me tell you a little story. our youngest daughter, Reny, was getting ready for bed and had been assigned the task of picking up her toys from the floor. But, she left a stuffed bear she had received from her Auntie Nike lying on the floor.
I said, “Reny, does your teddy bear want to sleep on the floor?”
To which she replied, “Oh no daddy, that’s not a real teddy bear.”
I said, “Well honey, what IS a real teddy bear?”
Without missing a beat, she said, “Daddy, it’s not a real teddy if it’s not from Build-A-Bear.”
Today we have invited one of the retail world’s most innovative thinkers. she is known for taking a successful product and making it significant. Since the turn of the century, the teddy bear has served as a child’s favorite companion, it’s a staple found in toy chests throughout the world.
As popular as the teddy bear has been, it lacked the excitement and the interactivity of today’s high tech toys. Maxine Clark saw a unique opportunity to transform the teddy bear as we know it – She Brought the Teddy Bear to life.
In the process, she empowered the very young, and even the young at heart, by giving them the creative power of giving birth to their own teddy. the creation of the Build-A-Bear Workshops, a personalized production line in a store setting has revolutionized the shopping experience.
The build-a-bear experience is a dynamic process, never ending, full of expectations and excitement and as a father of three young daughters, I had made the pilgrimage to the stores in west county, london to tampa, florida, and from the business perspective I have followed the numbers and the successful IPO. But, it took the statement of my five-year-old, Reny, to drive home the point.
Maxine clark has ensured that her target market also feels part of the Build-A-Bear family. She has successfully “brought them into the den”, so to speak, by having a board of children advisors, by holding on-line conversations with her customers and by personally answering upwards of 1,500 email a day.
This begs the question – How do so many children know where to send email and how to be part of an on-line conversation? Well, Maxine’s business card is handed to every customer; it’s the build-a-bear receipt of sort. Maxine has extended the shopping experience and opened the avenue for an enriching conversation.
In recent years the company has grown in creativity by establishing licensing agreements with professional baseball, basketball, hockey and football leagues. she has made build-a-bear more accessible with the addition of a mobile store that can be seen outside stadiums.
She recently introduced the Friends 2B Made line and signed agreements for the introduction of luggage, backpacks, greeting cards, and scrapbooking supplies. As a result of her drive and ambition, the business has experienced phenomenal growth. In fact, if I stand here and quote numbers from last week, they would only be outdated today.
The future for build-a-bear is unlimited. it is a future that will transform the way we buy, what we buy and how we buy it. yes, maxine clark is successful but more importantly she is making a significant impact on today’s youngsters, tomorrow’s teenagers, future college students, and the mom’s and dad’s that will own the 21 st century.
Finally, In the spirit of the holiday season, Build-A-Bear Workshop donated 70 bears to Webster University’s Behavioral & Social Sciences Club to benefit the St. Louis County Police Department’s Comfort Bear Program. The students collected the bears for officers to carry in their cars and distribute to children involved in car accidents and other traumatic events. I would like to thank Maxine for supporting our students in their collection.
Please join me in welcoming to Webster University Maxine Clark, Chief Executive Bear of Build-A-Bear Workshop.
""My friends, I welcome you to a new era of institutional accountability where we will be measured not by how many students we enroll but how successful we are to embolden our mission to prepare lifelong learners." "
- Dr. Benjamin Akande
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