One of the most admirable women entrepreneur in recent years is Maxine Clark, founder of the highly successful Build-a-Bear Workshop. Her Build-a-Bear Workshop, first launched in St. Louis in 1997, has grown to a $474 million business 10 years later.
I left Corporate America on a mission to bring the fun back to retailing and to give back to the industry that had been so good to me. I was 47 years old when I left Payless ShoeSource in 1996. At that time, my financial rewards in retailing were very high, but my psychic income account was nearly empty.
Despite the lucrative position as top honcho of Payless, Ms. Clark realized that money does not necessarily equal personal satisfaction. She was looking to build a unique shopping experience in retailing and reconnect with customers.
I was looking to re-create the excitement and magic I felt as a child when I visited certain stores. Going shopping was an event. You became part of the store, and it was special. The truth is, what it takes to engage and retain retail customers today is really not much different than it was in the past. Build-A-Bear Workshop is about what I call “good old-fashioned, it’s-about-the-customer retailing.”