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, discount and specialty stores. In 1997, she founded Build-A-Bear Workshop®, a teddy-bear themed retail-entertainment experience. In 2004 she took the company public on the NYSE. In 2022 Build-A-Bear celebrated its 25th anniversary. Today there are nearly 500 stores around the world and over 225 million stuffed animals have been sold.
In June 2013, Maxine stepped down from her Chief Executive Bear role to apply her entrepreneurial skills to her passion for improving K–12 public education and to invest in and mentor women and minority entrepreneurs. Maxine credits her teachers as her foundation for success—classroom teachers and mentors alike. To honor them she gives back. Her next “act” is making public education much more consumer friendly by creating more access for families and students to systems and supports to enrich each child’s learning experience. Launched in 2015, her first product, Blueprint4.com, is a free and easy-to-use mobile app designed to help ALL families navigate the best summer activities, pre-college programs, and career options for their family. Her latest venture is the Delmar DivINe™—the transformation of a neighborhood eyesore into a multi-use real estate development that opened in Fall 2021. Maxine is also a Managing Partner of Prosper Women’s Capital, a St. Louis-based fund created to invest in women-owned businesses and a member of the Board of Advisors of Lewis & Clark Ventures, a St. Louis-based private equity firm and is a trusted advisor and mentor to several women and minority-owned businesses.
In 2008, Maxine Clark was named one of The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing by Chain Store Age; in 2006, she was inducted into the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame. Maxine was named one of the Wonder Women of Toys by Playthings magazine and Women in Toys and was also one of the National Finalists in Retail for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2004. In 2005, the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies made Build-A-Bear Workshop Portfolio Company of the Year; it was named one of the International Council of Shopping Centers “Hottest Retailers of 2004” and the Retail Innovator of the Year for 2001 by The National Retail Federation. In 2018, Build-A-Bear Workshop was named to the FORTUNE Best Companies to Work For® list for the 10th year in a row. In 2017, Maxine was named to the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame and in 2019 was given the Missourian Award for her outstanding public service to Missouri.
In addition to her seat on the Build-A-Bear Workshop Board, Maxine is a recent past member of the Board of Directors of Footlocker, Inc. Ms. Clark is a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Barnes Jewish Hospital and its Goldfarb School of Nursing, the national Board of PBS, and an Emeritus member of the local Nine PBS Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees of Washington University in St. Louis. She currently serves on the Boards of Operation Food Search and the Delmar DivINe. She is also Co-Chair of the ReadyNation CEO Task Force on Early Childhood, and she is a past board member of Parents As Teachers. Maxine is a past member of the national Board of Trustees of Teach For America and is on the local St. Louis regional board.
Maxine is a graduate of the University of Georgia and holds an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University, a Doctor of Humane Letters in Education from the University of Missouri St. Louis, and an Honorary Associates degree from St. Louis Community College. In 2006, she published her first book, The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company with Heart.