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Establishing Business Synergies: 10 Lessons Business Owners Can Learn from Build-A-Bear Workshop (Part 3 of a Series)

June 2, 2012

This is part 3 of a series of blog posts.   On November 19, 2009 (yes over two years ago), I first listened to The Florida Retail Federation’s live webinar interview of Maxine Clark, President, Founder, Chairman, “Chief Executive Bear” of the Build-A Bear Workshop (“BAB”) retail chain.  I took notes re: 10 lessons we could learn from Maxine and have broken down the lessons into a series of blog posts.    Of the 50+ posts I have written for this blog, the BAB Post 1Post 2 remain most widely read.

Lessons 7: Establishing Business Synergies

7.  What synergies can you establish with charities or like-minded companies to cross-promote your products or services?

“Synergy” has always been one of my favorite words.  Defined in Wikipedia, synergy  is “two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.”  Like a chorale group, singing a chord in harmony.

Maxine says  that BAB “attaches a cause”  to certain products if there is a synergy between BAB and a particular charity.  She said that a consumer likes buying a product that in some way contributes to a cause.  For example, BAB sells several stuffed animals –Champ– A Champion Fur Kids™, Bearemy’s Kennel Pals® friends, and Read Teddy® – that are associated with causes that support children’s health and wellness, animal welfare, literacy, and education.   All causes about which BAB is also passionate.   Whenever a Guest buys one of these lovable furry friends, BAB’s make a donation to that cause.

Can you “attach a cause” to a product or service in your own businesses, even if that means you have to take a haircut on your profit margin?  What charity would you benefit? 

BAB recognizes children in the community who are also passionate about the same charitable casues.  Maxine has started a “Huggable Heroes” program honoring children who make a difference.  She emphasizes that there should be more of a push to recognize children who may not necessarily be the highest grade earners or the best athletes, but children who are making a difference in the community.  See “Huggable Heroes” video here.

Maxine also says that BAB has established synergistic alliances with other companies whose mission is aligned with BAB’s.  For example, BAB is committed to education and reading and has BAB online activities for kids through

 Do you carefully select your distribution channels or do you just sell to anyone?  What synergies does your business share with business partners/distributors/retailers to produce a result not independently attainable?

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