The inspiration behind Build-A-Bear Workshop

My name is Katie and I am the lucky girl who Maxine credits as the inspiration for Build-A-Bear Workshop®.  This is a credit that Maxine generously bestowed upon me, though I feel it is equally correct to say that I was merely a young girl who was willing to share my definite point of view on teddy bears and other furry friends!

Katie Burkhardt, as a child, and Maxine Clark

Just as Maxine says she derives much of her inspiration from me and other children, I have found much inspiration in watching Maxine and the entire Build-A-Bear Workshop crew for the past several years.  I marvel at the sheer creativity and innovation behind the Build-A-Bear Workshop brand.  Build-A-Bear Workshop has changed what it means to be a toy store.  Never before has a store existed in which you experience the steps of creating a stuffed animal.  Never before have you been able to dress up your bear in army fatigues, a St. Louis Cardinals uniform, or, in my bear’s case, a printed sundress and espadrilles!  Maxine and her team have found a way to make Build-A-Bear Workshop continually new and relevant for all guests, and the new store concept is yet another shining example of this.  The fact that Build-A-Bear Workshop has disrupted the toy industry and set the new standard for how children shop is quite inspiring to me.  Maxine did the unthinkable – she was forming ideas for what kind of business she wanted to create and then started listening to the children (me, for one) in her target audience.  Who better to get business advice from than someone for whom you’re designing a product?  Fifteen years since the founding of Build-A-Bear Workshop, I’m beginning to understand why Maxine calls me her inspiration: because I helped her to articulate her business idea.

Katie Burkhardt

Now it is my turn to learn something about business.  After graduating from college in 2008 and spending two years working in consulting, and another two years working in retail, I’ve decided to attend graduate school.  Starting this fall, I’ll be enrolling in a two year Masters in Business Administration program at The Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania.  My goal is to learn all I can about the basics of business but also remember to never lose my sense of imagination.  Imagination, paired with hard work and determination, is a mix that worked for Maxine.  Her example is a continual inspiration to me, reminding me to dream big as I navigate my own path in the business world.

About Molly Saunders

I am a bear in the Digital Dept at Build-A-Bear Workshop. I work at World Bearquarters in St. Louis, Mo. View all posts by Molly Saunders

34 responses to “The inspiration behind Build-A-Bear Workshop

  • Lynette Webb

    Hi first I want to say that me and my children love this shop!! Beautiful ideas for teddies. The only downside for me is the price. These are not aimed at families in low income brackets as many of us now r. Not necessarily the prices of the actual bears but the clothes. The clothes for the bears actually cost more than the price I pay for my children’s clothes!!! Please try and make them a bit cheaper, clothing ur new bear is as important as choosing and building ur bear but when u have 2, 3 children in a family we have to avoid this shop like the plague. Thank you.

    • Molly Saunders

      Hi Lynette,
      Thank you for your feedback. We do our best to make sure our products are affordable and of the best quality possible for our Guests. We appreciate learning from you so we can continue to improve your Build-A-Bear Workshop experience for years to come! Thank you!

  • Megan

    That is a cool story thank you for sharing it

  • Marilyn Garcia

    Happy birthday

  • Michelle

    Enjoy Wharton! And take Total Leadership in your second year … a fantastic course! =]

  • Cynthia

    That’s so cool! I love maxine clark! Infact, I have maxine shoes on my account! I have one question, is maxine clark an account? Like someone plays on it?

    • Molly Saunders

      Hi Cynthia,
      Maxine gets on Bearville to play whenever she can. As you can imagine, she is a beary busy bear in the real world, but she loves playing on and meeting new friends. She runs her own account, so if you ever see her be sure to say hello!

  • Pamela Cura

    Thank you Katie! My daughter Breanne has been inspired and encouraged by Maxine as well and it has been wonderful to watch her interests and natural abilities begin to develop. I so appreciate Maxine’s passion and sincerity.

  • Dan

    When a Build-a-Bear Workshop open in my mall in Arizona in 1997 I made my very first two bears opening weekend and since then I have made over 100 bears if not a little more some were for gifts and most of them I made for myself.

  • lucy

    What a wonderful story, my daughter Loves her Build A Bears

  • clt

    woooooo hoooooooo girlfriend

  • Angelina

    I love Build a bear. I have two now!!!

  • Vivian Shippe

    We enjoyed our birthday party at build a bear metro centre Gateshead near Newcastle paula the rabbit made it special thanks to all the staff

  • Max

    I’m glad you were there to start it all. Build-A-Bear has been a wonderful highlight of my life. Thank you ❤

  • Shaymah

    I think that this was inspiring for and it makes me wanna go out and do it myself .Because i
    like inspiring kids,people and every time I see people inspiring people it makes want to jump in the tv becuaser I wanna get a chance to speak but thats only in my dreams……But I still think that inspired me and makes me wanna start inspiring people more.

    • Molly Saunders

      Hi Shaymah,
      You know, it doesn’t take a huge movement or a big grand event to inspire others. Simply sharing smiles or saying ‘Hello’ can brighten someone’s day and inspire them to pass along that smile to others.
      Our Huggable Heroes are always telling other kids how little things can make a big difference. They have helped millions of people all over the world, but they had to start somewhere small, too. Hopefully this video will inspire you to start something small:
      Come back soon!

  • beverly lawrence

    My granddaughter started a family tradition. My granddaughter passed four years ago from cancer. When shopping on her make a wish she spent 300.00 at build a bear. Now every year for her memorial family and friends purchase a bear in her name and send it to children health care aflac clinic to be given to the patience. These bears are mailed from all over the country. Thanks build a bear for bringing that joy into my granddaughter life.

    • Molly Saunders

      Hi Beverly,
      Your granddaughter sounds like she was a truly inspirational and giving person. How wonderful that you continue this tradition of spreading hugs and smiles to other kids who need it most!
      Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Nancy Featherman

    I really do Love build a bear. i have 28 bears now!! but please please please can you make the clothes cheaper.

    many thanks.
    Miss featherman

    • Molly Saunders

      Hi Nancy, Thanks for visiting our blog! We truly appreciate your feedback and look to our Guests for advice and suggestions on all aspects of the Build-A-Bear Workshop experience.
      We will share this with our team. Come back and visit us soon!

  • Mariah

    It is very inspiring to see a woman work for her MBA in a company that shares the same values that I do but with a focus on children. When I hear about stories like hers it gives me renewed hope in my own ambitions and to see my son as even more of an inspiration to work harder and climb higher in whatever company I’m in. Thank you Katie, for being an inspiration to many.

  • Top 10 things to do before October is over «

    […] Octobear is our birthday month! – This year we turned 15. Find out how Build-A-Bear Workshop began and the girl who helped start it […]

  • private

    Hey I was wondering if you could make things a bit cheaper because we recently adopted 3 kids and now we have 6 kids.Thanks in advance!!:)

    • Molly Saunders

      Thank you for visiting our blog and thank you for your feedback about the cost of our products. We always do our best to work with suppliers and figure out creative ways of keeping the cost as low as possible for our Guests. We will pass along your feedback to our Team. Thank you!

  • Alisa

    You are my inspiration for life and I’m only 10 when I sad mad I grad my teddy bear and if it wasn’t for you I don’t know what I would do so I thank uuuuuu

  • hiya


    we have 1 small kid (5) and then we a big girl (11) Now all i want to say is if you can please make it a bit cheaper. The clothes are more expensive then the clothes for my kids! My 11 year old still likes build a bear but she picks outfits which we cant afford and then i have to buy two because of my 5 year old. So please make cheaper

  • I

    I would really appreciate if you would run specials online where there is AUTOMATIC FREE SHIPPING and you can then use a coupon code for a % or $ amount off. Recently I ordered two bears and two outfits for my daughter and they were all free shipping items, yet when I added my coupon code I got charged for shipping on free shipping items? That seems so backwards and just wrong. I emailed to get a refund and received no response. I’m so tired of not being able to combine free s/h and coupon codes for money or % off. If you can only get one it nearly cancels the deal. Thanks…

  • Laura Giunta

    Do you have Best of 2012 post in a few weeks?

  • Laura Giunta

    I like 5 posts.

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