Best Internal Design (www.buildabear.com)

  - St. Louis Business Journal

1st place: Bev Schofield, Diane Ressel, Stacy Kass, Brad Reno -

Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc

 

Margaret Jackson
You might not be able to snuggle up to the bears on the Build-A-Bear Workshop Web site, but you can have a darn good time playing games and building a bear to cuddle up to later.

The site represents the teamwork and creativity that are at the heart of each Build-A-Bear Workshop store, said Ronnie Gaubatz, master Web bear.

Bev Schofield, Diane Ressel, Stacy Kass and Brad Reno are responsible for the Web site's graphic design; Gaubatz, Andrew Hockman and Adam and Keri Longaway are the programmers; Stacy Alfermann is the copy writer.

The Web site, like the company's stores, sets out to attract, entertain and inspire creativity. "What we're really doing is building a community around our retail locations," Gaubatz said. "We have a force from coast to coast now. A lot of people come to our retail locations because of our Web presence."

Visitors to the site can listen to Build-A-Bear Workshop music, play seasonal and educational games, print personalized party invitations and certificates of achievement, send free e-cards and much more.

E-business judge Greg Gomez III, director of MBA recruitment at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, was drawn to the site's clean look, easy navigation and all-age appeal.

"The icons were self-explanatory," he said. "The animation and use of bears is excellent. The message is clear: Build a bear that's uniquely your very own."

The site offers all the company's services online, including making and sending a bear, creating a "birth certificate" and planning a Build-A-Party.

The Web site registers more than a half-million hits a day, and the average guest visit is more than 18 minutes.

"Most of the hits came from children who had visited one of the workshops and wanted to continue a relationship," Schofield said. "They felt like it was a club they belonged to."

The Web site binds a community of Build-A-Bear Workshop guests from all over the world and helps the company respond to the suggestions of people who may not live near a mall location.

"We're quick to respond to e-mails we receive from children," Schofield said. "They e-mail (founder and chief executive bear) Maxine Clark. She has several little e-mail pen pals. Imagine being a 10-year-old and getting an e-mail from the CEO in four hours."

Clark opened the first Build-A-Bear Workshop store in October 1998 at the Saint Louis Galleria. Today, the company has 40 retail stores in 23 cities nationwide and plans to open 30 stores this year.