Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Beary Amazing Place

Last week I attended a brand building conference in St. Louis by way of an invitation from Build A Bear Workshop.*

Now I know what you are thinking, 'WM, why would you attend a brand building building conference? You have a great brand that is,..............well we don't know what it is, but we love it!'. To that I say, with a house full of kids, pets and insanity, I am not foolish enough to turn down an invitation of 2 nights and 3 days to go away all by myself and not cut up any food for anyone else.

In reality, I was incredibly excited to have been invited. Not just because of the mini vacation aspect of the deal, but because Build A Bear Workshop has played a Beary special role in the life of Weaselville.

We first started taking the Weasels there when they were a fairly new store in the mall. It looked fun, but it also looked expensive. When I noticed that BABW had bears starting at $10 and realized that we could say yes, we took the kids in. It was fun and we all loved it. The entire experience of creating your own bear was wonderful and the cub condos that they came home in were adorable. We liked BABW and would be back from time to time over the years.

When our daughter Claire passed away, my arms ached a tangible and physical pain from wanting to hold her again, not to mention the ache in my heart. Within a few weeks, I went to BABW by myself for the first time ever. I picked out the softest, most cuddly bear and made her just for me. I dressed her in little PJ's and would cuddle her in bed at night. She brought me comfort and gave me something to hold tight during long sleepless nights.


When Mr. Weasel and I were expecting our next child, we wanted a special way to tell the Weasels the happy news. Once again, I went to BABW. I made a bear, and dressed it in baby pajamas, wrapped it up in a baby blanket and recorded a message to tell the Weasels that we would once again have the joy of a baby in our house when they squeezed it's hand.

Build A Bear has indeed played a role in important life moments in Weaselville.

That being said, the conference was amazing. I learned so very much, not just about the company, but brand building information that will be beneficial to me. I met, networked and bonded with other bloggers and started real friendships. However, my real take home experience, that will stay with me always is the generosity of spirit of the BABW family. A relatively small team considering the global reach of the company. It was completely evident that these were some truly exceptional people that love what they do and really do care about each and every customer on a personal level. Everyone was completely approachable, warm and real. You just can't fake that level of caring .

After hearing the Founder and Chief Executive Bear, Maxine Clark speak, it was obvious why this was. Maxine is not what you picture in your mind when you think of the CEO of a large global corporation. Yes, she is a smart, savvy and successful business woman, obviously, but more than anything she is real and she truly cares about her community, customers and everyone within the BABW family. She has brought these values into every niche of the company from the stores and through the Headquarters BearQuarters. Her spirit was palpable through the entire building and everyone who works there. It truly is a family. Even the mood of how the BQ offices are decorated is that of warm friendly, fun and real.

The Bearquarters is decorated with the same feel and bright colors of the stores. It is a dog friendly workplace scattered with happy pups all around people's desks and bears (the stuffed variety) making it an amazing atmosphere full of people who really love what they do. Maxine's spirit, kindness, generosity and self, impressed me more than her jaw dropping resume ever could.

Along with all the information, tips and hospitality that were given, we also were taken to one of the local BABW stores and were treated to our own Build A Bear party, where we had a blast Choosing, Stuffing, Bathing, Dressing and Name our own bears to take home with us. Just to put whipped cream, a cherry, sprinkles and nuts on top, to my great surprise we were each given a thank you gift for coming. Maxine teared up at our being completely overwhelmed and excited when we were given $100 gift certificates to take our families to Build A Bear.

Once again, Maxine is touching our lives in Weaselville more than she knows. This Friday is the launch of a special limited edition line of ice cream bears for the summer of 2010 (That I fell head over heels for). This Friday is also the 8th Anniversary of the death of our daughter Claire. Thanks to this generous gift, Mr. Weasel and I are taking the Weasels to Build A Bear on Friday and taking what is usually a long and lousy day in Weaselville and folding in some sunshine and smiles.

I am proud, awed and honored to now be, in Maxine's own words, "a member of the Build A Bear Workshop family", because I know from my experience there that this is more than just words.

Don't believe me? Check out this video summation from

*Photos to come. My phone is being all wonky.

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