Tag: Build a Bear

It’s hard to keep the sighing, heavy-eyed students of a night class engaged. But on this Tuesday evening, I sat in a buzzing room—with classmates swapping stories of stuffing and stitches from their first Build-A-Bear experience. Taking the podium to kick off our Women in Leadership class that night was Maxine Clark, philanthropist, serial entrepreneur, and the founder and former “Chief Executive Bear” of the Build-A-Bear Workshop retail company.

Over the next two hours, Maxine took our class through her career journey, explaining some of the personal and professional decisions that she made along the way. From leaving Payless to launch her own company, to leading projects supporting education and nonprofits in St. Louis, Maxine embraces change while staying true to her core values. I left class that night with a few favorite nuggets of wisdom to carry with me:

Be open to the teachers around you.

Maxine has a very apparent appreciation for the teachers in her life, and she recognizes that they come in all forms—whether a schoolteacher, supervisor, or child (Build-a-Bear’s core customer). In being open to learning from others, Maxine has found the strength to improve from mistakes, the drive to rise to challenges and surpass expectations, and even the inspiration to build new businesses.

Passions change. Keep up.

At the heart of Maxine’s story is an unshakeable faith and courage in following her passions. With several career pivots—becoming an entrepreneur and then entering the nonprofit space—she has maintained the self-awareness to recognize that her passions are malleable, yet always worth chasing. By embracing her passions at different stages of her career, Maxine continues to feel fulfilled in her work.

Live and lead with authenticity.

You can’t help but love Maxine’s unapologetic attitude. Her words are charged with a certain fearlessness and wrapped in sincerity. Maxine’s ventures speak to her values, and she makes no excuses for conducting business in a way that is authentic to who she is and the things which are personally important to her. As her talk came to a close, she signed off: “That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.”

Guest Blogger: Neelam Vyas, MBA ’18 & GSBA President

Elizabeth “SiSi” Beltrán Martí, BSBA’04, is Director, Bear Marketing Activation at Build-A-Bear Workshop. She is an active alumna at Olin and has participated as a classroom speaker, a member of the Olin Alumni Board for the last 11 years, a current member of the Olin Alumni Board Executive Committee, a founding member and the current Chair of the Olin LEAD Initiative, a mentor with the Industry Insider Mentorship Program, and a judge for Olin’s Freshman Case Competition.

Because of this and much more, she exemplifies what it means to be a Friend of Olin. Friends are those who are giving of their time, their knowledge, share their years of experience, open the doors of their companies to students and faculty to help Olin build better leaders.

Some friendly questions for our Friends of Olin:

SiSi BeltranWhat is the most compelling thing your mentor has shared with/done for you? A senior leader once asked me what my next role at my company would be and I had only one response. He challenged me to always think of multiple “next roles” for myself and continue to explore other opportunities and not work myself into a narrow path or professional corner!

What is the one behavior or trait you have seen impede leaders’ careers?  Not developing their team! It is important for success for people to be constantly challenged and growing with every new task or project. Neglecting to develop your team and continually learn is a direct recipe for failure.

What are you grateful for today? Why? I’m grateful for the St. Louis area! While St. Louis isn’t unflawed, it has the perfect composition for creating opportunity and empowerment for community involvement. There is a big focus on engaging young professionals across multiple organizations and by being involved, it is very easy to have impact. When I talk to my friends in other cities they are always surprised by how much opportunity for civic involvement there is here. And if you can’t find what you want to be involved in… you can create it!

Sisi Beltran Marti, speaking to Olin students about international marketing

Sisi Beltran Marti, speaking to Olin students about international marketing

Who is your favorite business speaker or author? Why?  One author and business owner that made an impression on me early in my career was David Wagner, author of Life as a Daymaker. In his book he talks about how focusing on making someone’s day will lead to you making your own. While this is a simple premise, it has become one of my guiding principles and serves as a reminder of the benefits of true altruism. This can be applied to both professional and personal situations and the payoff can be exponential and an extreme high!

Maxine Clark, founder of Build-a-Bear Workshop, Inc. shared her business experience and expertise with the MBA Class of 2015 yesterday afternoon during their Gateway Olin (GO!) Orientation Program.

Clark shared her personal and professional journey with the students to inspire them to follow their dreams.  Her message included the importance of mentors and taking risks as the MBA students begin carving their professional paths, as well.

She graciously answered questions from the audience for the last 30 minutes of the program and concluded by sharing her email address so the conversations could continue. @CheifExecBear tweeted last night after the event that, “their questions were energizing!”

Build-A-Bear stores first opened their doors in St. Louis in 1997 and expanded to 400 locations around the globe under Clark’s leadership. She retired in June from her position as “Chief Executive Bear”, but remains on the company’s board. She is a frequent and popular speaker on campus. Build-A-Bear’s new CEO is Sharon Price John.

Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim