With more than 250,000 woman-owned businesses in the US that bring in $1 million or more, it’s obvious that women have the potential to grow large companies. So why don’t more women try? That is what Forbes recently asked.

This question brings to mind an observation that Build-A-Bear Workshop founder Maxine Clark once shared with me: “Not dreaming big enough is one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make.”

Clark first became an entrepreneur back in the mid-1990s, after hatching a novel idea for a business: a retail chain that lets kids build their own personalized teddy bears. The company has taken the toy industry by storm since 1997, when the first Build-A-Bear Workshop store opened in St. Louis. From the beginning there was nothing modest about Clark’s goals. She envisioned a multimillion-dollar business with hundreds of stores, and she knew she needed outside investors to make that happen.

Clark carefully positioned her company as a prime investment opportunity for venture capitalists. Taking advantage of a valuable business network she had cultivated over the course of her career was a key factor in launching her company. Clark had shared her business plan with the Committee of 200, a group of female business executives of which she was a member. The members not only offered advice about her new venture but spread word of the company to potential investors.

Today, Build-A-Bear Workshop is a public company, with more than 400 stores operating worldwide. The company posted total revenue of $388.6 million in fiscal 2009.

Clark is a stellar example of a woman entrepreneur whose confidence allowed her to shoot for the stars. She never scaled back her entrepreneurial dream to suit anyone else’s lowered expectations.

Screenshot from Build A Bear Workshop

 

Originally posted by Angela Shupe on June 9, 2010 in Ideas.

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