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 Senior 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.
Zasmine Johnson, a native of St. Louis, serves as Programs Manager working with the Blueprint4SummerSTL program. She received her bachelor’s degree in Health Science with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she also obtained a master’s degree in Public Health. She worked as a peer advisor within residential life providing guidance to freshman managing the transition from high school to college. She interned as a summer job coach for Paraquad helping high school students with disabilities gain independence through workplace training for job skill development. Zasmine previously conducted state-wide teen pregnancy prevention trainings and developed LGBTQ-focused inclusivity and cultural competency trainings as an adolescent health educator for the State of Missouri. She also was a lead child development teacher and volunteer soccer coach for the YMCA.