The Clark file Featured

7:00pm EDT February 24, 2008

Born: Miami

Education: University of Georgia, bachelor of arts, journalism

What is the biggest business challenge you have faced?

I’ve had two. My early years starting out in the retail business. I’m a petite person, and I’m female. Getting people to take seriously that I wanted to rise up the ladder and run an operating division some day and be a success (was a challenge). Over time, my results proved that I was capable of that. When I left my job as the president of Payless ShoeSource Inc. to start Build-A-Bear, it was getting people to take the concept of making your own stuffed animals as a business model and convincing them it wasn’t a fad.

It’s kind of a soft and cuddly business. People think of New York Stock Exchange companies as manufacturing and big numbers. We’re a publicly traded company today on the New York Stock Exchange, and we’ve been in business for 10 years. There are still some naysayers, but I always see those as people that present opportunities for us to do a better job.

What is the most important business lesson you have learned?

It all comes back to people. You get so much more than you give. The joy in business is creating successful businesses that are made up of successful people. That for me is the greatest joy. It’s seeing the people grow and, in turn, helping the business grow. It’s hard to separate the two. I know it’s always about people. But really understanding what that means has been a life journey for me, and I really have enjoyed that journey.

What is your favorite board game?

Monopoly. It was about business, and I didn’t even know it at the time when I started playing it. I loved collecting things and money and thinking about what did Boardwalk look like and what did Park Place look like and putting houses on those streets. It was my very favorite game and it still is. I don’t know that I ever really got through the game that much. It was the fun of playing it, not necessarily winning at it but the imagination that goes into it.