Build-A-Bear with Wheels

Business Week:

In 2005, Larry Andreini approached two entertainment producers about a possible television show, but their meeting didn’t lead to a TV hit. Instead, the pair gave Andreini the concept that would become his next business: Ridemakerz, a do-it-yourself custom model car retailer.

At the time, the pair, Gillian MacKenzie and Jane Startz, had been hammering out an idea for a business, dubbing it Construct-A-Car. And although they thought it was a potential blockbuster, they needed help to execute a business plan, raise money, and recruit a team to translate the concept into a business. “The minute I saw it, I thought what a great idea,” recalls Andreini. “My immediate reaction was that I couldn’t believe someone hadn’t thought of this before.”

Actually, someone had. That someone was Maxine Clark, the founder and chief executive of the wildly successful Build-A-Bear Workshop, the St. Louis-based chain of customized-teddy-bear stores. Clark had come up with a similar toy auto concept in 2002, internally called “Build-A-Car” but had put the plans away to focus on running the company, which was experiencing double-digit growth.

Boys do not shop like girls. There was a real void in the market. Following a meeting with Clark, Ridemakerz went from 0 to 60 fairly quickly. Andreini and his investors raised about $5 million in seed money–including $700,000 from Build-A-Bear–and set about figuring out how to manufacture parts for the customizable model cars.

Photo by Ridemakerz.

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