Our society is filled with compassionate people who work daily to bridge the gap communities face with accessing wealth, resources, and opportunities. While the movement toward equality continues to gain momentum, leaders and advocates must unite and do the groundwork necessary to implement sustainable change. One of these exceptional people, who is also my May Inspiration of the Month, is my good friend Maxine Clark.
Maxine is the Founder and Former Chief Executive Officer at Build-A-Bear Workshop, and her long-standing career demonstrates record successes in retail innovation and building stakeholder value. She recently received the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award from the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) in recognition of her successful mission to continuously practice the “Golden Rule” and inspire children’s imaginations everywhere.
Her honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Washington University in St. Louis is another representation of the dedication she pours into everything she does to enhance society. Maxine is a pivotal member of the St.Louis community and teaches the youth that if your bank account is full, but your heart is empty, you will not live life to the fullest. She suggests that one of the ways to live the most fulfilling life is to convert passions into actionable plans and turn ideas into modern business realities.
Maxine uses her expertise to encourage curious minds and support vulnerable communities and businesses. This empathetic entrepreneurial mindset is a significant theme in her book, “The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company with Heart.” Since stepping down from her Chief Executive Bear role in 2013, Maxine has wielded her diverse skillset to improve access to K-12 public education and invest in and mentor women and minority entrepreneurs. She is also a Managing Partner of Prosper Women’s Capital, a St. Louis-based fund created to advance women-led companies.
What inspires me the most about Maxine is her commitment to resolving racial and equity gaps seen throughout underserved neighborhoods. Clayco worked with Maxine on Delmar Divine, a project that reflects how building beyond the walls of our structures can make an immeasurable impact on residents’ lives. The “IN” in Delmar DivINe stands for INvestment, INnovation, and INclusion, which are top priorities for our team at Clayco and Maxine’s vision. Maxine helped revitalize a historic community asset, St. Luke’s Hospital, into a hub for at least 30 nonprofit organizations.
Maxine turns projects into the epicenter of reform for entire regions. She creates purpose-driven strategies for better, safer, and more sustainable products and services that reimagine life for countless people. Seeing how she cultivates spaces to address challenges and discover imaginative solutions is inspiring.
It has been great to witness Maxine’s vision for projects and initiatives come to life and build a brighter, more inclusive future. Her dedication has brought our industries closer to connecting more communities with the necessary resources to succeed. Thank you, Maxine, for your decades of continued commitment to positively turning the tides of history.