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. Cumulative sales have exceeded $5 billion and over 140 million stuffed animals have been sold world-wide. 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 encouraging and investing in women and minority entrepreneurs such as Goldie Blox, myEDmatch.com, Wondermento and St. Frank. Her newest addition to our education community is Blueprint4SummerSTL, an easy to use FREE app that assists ALL families in navigating best-fit summer programs for their children. Maxine is also a Managing Partner of Prosper Women’s Capital, a St. Louis based fund created to invest in women owned businesses in the St. Louis area and a member of the Board of Advisers of Lewis & Clark Ventures, a St. Louis based private equity firm.
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 2014 Build-A-Bear Workshop was named to the FORTUNE Best Companies to Work For® list for the sixth year in a row.
In addition to her seat on the Build-A-Bear Workshop Board, Maxine is a member of the Board of Directors of Footlocker, Inc. and Gymboree. Maxine serves on the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of Washington University in St. Louis as well as the Board of Directors of Beyond Housing and Parents As Teachers. Maxine serves on the national Board of Trustees of Teach For America and the local St. Louis regional board, the National Board of Donorschoose.org and the KETC Channel 9 – PBS Board of Directors where she is Board Chair. She and her husband Bob Fox are founding donors of KIPP Inspire Academy and Maxine is the former chair of the charter school advisory Board of Trustees. She is also a member of the Committee of 200.
Maxine is a graduate of the University of Georgia, and holds an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Saint Louis University. In 2006, she published her first book “The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company with Heart”.
As a child, Maxine’s favorite summer activity was art because it allowed her to take her creative talents to a new level. When she was old enough, she became a counselor at an art camp and loved every minute of it. She is working hard to make sure that children in St. Louis experience learning gains in summer rather than learning loss, have the opportunity to take their creative talents to new levels as well, and above all, have fun!
Allie Cicotte serves as the Programs Manager for the Clark-Fox Family Foundation and Project Manager for Blueprint4SummerSTL. She graduated from Truman State University in 2011 with bachelor’s degrees in German and Spanish. Allie then joined Teach for America where she taught Kindergarten-8th grade Spanish, and then transitioned to teaching Kindergarten. While teaching, she loved working with students directly, integrating innovative approaches alongside traditional classroom curriculum, and learning new things about the educational landscape both nationally and in St. Louis.
During this time, she also got involved with a local non-profit organization where she serves on the Board called The Disruption Department. The Disruption Department is developing a pipeline for high-tech talent in St. Louis by offering the opportunity for every student in St. Louis to become a Maker. To be a Maker is to be a problem solver, a critical thinker, a techie, and one who appreciates the process of creating a prototype, testing, and implementing feedback into your design is just as important as the final product.
She saw a bigger opportunity to support families, schools, and students through work with The Clark-Fox Family Foundation. In her role as Programs Manager she seeks to create products and programs designed to create better experiences for all constituents, higher engagement, and successful children in the community.
As a native St. Louisan, Allie participated in a variety of summer programs throughout her childhood. Some of her favorites included taking summer classes at the local community college, swimming camp, and drama and theatre camps. She is excited for other St. Louis children to experience the wide variety of summer programs that St. Louis has to offer, to discover a passion, and stay engaged during the summer months!
La’Shawn Thomas was born and raised in New York City, NY. She earned her degree in Elementary Education from the City University of New York, but she did not begin her career in education right away. She spent some time in the corporate world writing ad copy, advocating for patients, doing medical coding, to name a few, but something was missing. La’Shawn decided to pack her bags and move to Atlanta, GA (not knowing anyone there) in 2000 to pursue a career in education. She joined Drew Charter School, a Blue Ribbon school in Atlanta as a first grade teacher where she taught for 2 years.
After spending some time working with her husband’s custom home building business Derrick Inc. as a PR Manager and home decorator, she later went back to teaching and joined Confluence Academy Old North where she taught for 8 years and aided her students in making 1.2 years gains in both reading and math. La’Shawn Thomas is an educator who is committed to providing learning opportunities for children, by any means necessary! This was apparent when you walked by her classroom. Her energy kept her students engaged and her creative side allowed for incorporating music and movement into her lessons. You wouldn’t be surprised to hear a song the class created about the writing process or witness a dance created to help with counting. Helping people students become life-long learners was her passion!
La’Shawn has transitioned out of the classroom and is exploring ways to still aid students in under-served communities. She has joined the team at Blueprint4SummerSTL where she serves as Programs Associate. To her surprise, she is still able to service children in under-served communities by helping to provide a service that connects students and families to summer opportunities.
La’Shawn’s favorite summer memory is taking annual summer trips to the Dude Ranch in Upstate New York. Her mom would team up with several neighborhood parents, rent a charter bus and spend a few days at the ranch, exposing their children to life outside their neighborhood. La’Shawn and her neighborhood friends would go horseback riding, enjoy hayrides, swimming and reading. By far, her best childhood summer experience, and she is dedicated to working with Blueprint4SummerSTL to ensure that other children have positive summer experiences that expand their world views as well.
It’s more than what happens in the classroom that adds up to a child receiving a great education. Fun and diverse summertime opportunities ensure that kids will develop their own creative pursuits, expand their education, and spend their summers constructively. Blueprint4SummerSTL was designed to be an easy-to-use mobile app that connects ALL St. Louis-area kids to summer learning opportunities. Blueprint4SummerSTL was built with the generous support and partnership of community leaders and organizations who want to help St. Louis-area kids succeed. That’s the plan. Blueprint4SummerSTL – where to plan 4 fun!
In the News
- Local schoolchildren get about three months of summer vacation, but St. Louis’ Maxine Clark believes learning should not stop just because school lets out for the summer. To help St. Louis parents plan for their kids’ summer weeks, Clark recently founded an app and website called Blueprint4SummerSTL. The app and website launched in February, and... Read more »Read More »
- What are kids doing when school’s out for the summer? A new app will make finding summer camps, classes and activities easier for parents. “Blueprint4Summer is actually a technology tool that has been created to help aggregate all of the information about summer programs that exist in St. Louis, Missouri,” app funder and Build-A-Bear Workshop... Read more »Read More »
- Temperatures are slowly on the rise, making it the ideal time to start thinking about summer. Make this summer a valuable and memorable one with a camp experience that fosters your child’s growth and development, contributes to their independence and confidence, and helps them connect with other youth their age. Here to take some of... Read more »Read More »
- MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO (KPLR)- Busy parents have a service to help find their children fun activities for the summer. Knowing what to look for and where to start can be time consuming. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Maxine Clark and Allie DeSmet created and manage Blueprint4SummerSTL. It’s a free online resource that provides parents... Read more »Read More »
- ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Busy parents have something else to their already crowded plates: finding summer activities for their children. Knowing what to look for and where to start can be time consuming. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Maxine Clark and Allie DeSmet created and manage Blueprint4SummerSTL, a free online resource providing parents access... Read more »Read More »
- We get some tips on finding great local summer camps for kids. See more at: http://www.kmov.com/great-day-st-louis/Blueprint4SummerSTL–294697681.html#ixzz3UftoUFaoRead More »
- The weather outside is frightful, but summer is right around the corner and many parents are already planning activities for children during summer break. This week we are taking a look at summer learning and Maxine Clark joins us to show an innovative way to find the best summer programs in St. Louis so Stay... Read more »Read More »
- Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark has spearheaded and helped fund a new endeavor for St. Louis parents. It’s a free app called Blueprint4SummerSTL, which provides mobile access to summer camps and events in the St. Louis area so parents can more easily plan summer activities for their kids. Blueprint4SummerSTL currently has more than 1,000 summer sessions... Read more »Read More »
St. Louis American : Blueprint4SummerSTL links students with fun and learning during school off season.Summer vacation is something most students dream about, but when it comes to mapping it out it can be more of a nightmare for moms. “Over the years I’ve spent countless hours online and playing phone tag trying to find a solution for my son,” says Naretha Hopson, a busy mom. It’s a story Maxine... Read more »Read More »
- We are looking to provide programming options in St. Louis for the summer that enhances the 360 degree child,” said. Maxine Clark. “We want them to discover their passion and to do something that makes them smile every day.” Clark is applying the acumen and savvy that aided her in growing Build-A-Bear Workshop into a... Read more »Read More »
Link to Blueprint4SummerSTL
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