BGBS 015: Maxine Clark | Build-A-Bear Workshop | Everyone Needs A Teddy Bear

BGBS 015: Maxine Clark | Build-A-Bear Workshop | Everyone Needs A Teddy Bear
July 26, 2021

BGBS Episode 015: Everyone Needs A Teddy Bear

Maxine Clark is one of the true innovators in the retail industry. During her career, her ability to spot emerging retail and merchandising trends and her insight into the desires of the American consumer have generated growth for retail leaders, including department store, discount and specialty stores. In 1997, she founded Build-A-Bear Workshop®, a teddy-bear themed retail-entertainment experience. Today there are more than 400 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores worldwide.

Maxine Clark is the founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop & Chief Executive Officer of Clark-Fox Family Foundation. She’s made many impressions with her skills and abilities to have the vision of the consumer and her unique strategies when it comes to branding. While working her way up the chain in her career path, Maxine, at age 48, successfully managed to structure, build, and grow her billion-dollar company based on hugs and love…

In this episode we talked about:

  • Maxine’s loss of “Teddy”, her teddy bear, that had left her devastated as a child. She shared many experiences and secrets with Teddy and losing him was a traumatic event for her.
  • Maxine’s life growing up and wanting to be a civil rights attorney. She went to college, majored in journalism, eventually went off to law school, and started work in department stores where she made it into a company division in Washington.
  • What the retail experience was like back the day for Maxine and how malls were the highlights of the retail industry.
  • Maxine’s previous employment work landed her to great opportunities to becoming a buyer and then later working with the CEO as senior executive with May Company, and then later became the President of PayLess.
  • The customer-oriented natural skill Maxine has and how she’s applied it to her previous work and her business.
  • How Maxine sensed the rise of the internet and focused on the use of technology to create a better customer experience for her early start of Build-A-Bear Workshop.
  • Maxine used her skills and vision to build her business as an entrepreneur working for other companies.
  • The importance of children and the role they play for our future. How it’s important to hear their voices and ideas and help them live out those dreams.
  • Maxine shares the importance of sharing your own ideas and how to put your heart out there for it.
  • Some of the key components and operations that ran the success of the first early Build-A-Bear Workshop store and some of the issues Maxine had to face while starting out.
  • The Growth of Build-A-Bear Workshop and the gradual success, as well as the hard times facing the 2008 and 2009 recession and the change in the mall business due to factors such as higher gas prices and the rise of online shopping.
  • The events that led to Maxine leaving Build-A-Bear Workshop, in a heartfelt way.
  • The Delmar Divine non-profit project Maxine is currently working on.
  • Maxine’s unique look at how she views branding and what ideas she executed for Build-A-Bear Workshop.


[16:22] “The journey is far better than the destination.”

[17:03] “So I just really was able to know pretty firsthand what the customer was looking for. I had good instincts about that.”

[25:37] “You have to constantly be innovating and that’s what made retailing so successful.”

[26:37] “We do need to do a better job of connecting young people with talent and ideas to people who can execute it.”

[29:56] “Curiosity is really what made the world what it is today. Somebody thought there could be something better and they invented that better, and that’s what we’re all prospering from.”

[30:55] “If you don’t put your ideas out there, other people can’t add value to them. They also maybe can’t steal them, but more importantly they can’t add value to them…people can’t steal what’s in your heart.”

[55:49] “I look for the Bentley and then I figure out how to do it on a Ford-budget.”

Links Mentioned On Our Show:


The Bear Necessities of Business

Delmar Divine

Clark-Fox Foundation

May Company


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