On May 24 I received an interesting email from Build-A-Bear Workshop inviting me to participate in their first ever Build-A-Bear Workshop Brand Building Learning Session.
I didn’t zero in on the title of the event as much as I did what followed: free hotel for two nights and some other snazzy perks. I immediately asked if my family could join me in the hotel and was immediately given the affirmative and then I pretty much immediately forgot about the whole thing for two weeks.
Pretty soon we started telling people what we were doing that week and when they asked what it was I was going to be doing with Build-A-Bear Workshop, I had absolutely no idea. I finally dug up the original email and saw the title again. Still, I had no idea. We went anyway.
I’m going to sum this up in one short sentence: I was seriously surprised.
I’ve been to a handful of corporate sponsored blogging events, though nothing of this magnitude for sure. The events are always about what we can do for the company. They give us some cool stuff in exchange for some free press on our blogs/Twitter accounts, etc. I don’t have a problem with this, it’s part of the gig and I just don’t participate in the things I have no desire to promote.
This was not the case with this event, from here on out referred to by the Twitter hashtag we used, #BABWconnect (you can follow BABW on Twitter here). The intent behind this event was to *gasp* benefit the blogger and not the company. I couldn’t have been more surprised.
Among the sessions included were Building a World Class Brand with Maxine Clark (owner and Chief Executive Bear of Build-A-Bear Workshop) and Adrienne Weiss (a favorite) and one on cyber-safety for kids where we were given some insight into the digital habits of kids by people who know. I was blown away to find out that kids spend an average 10,000 HOURS on games and internet activity by the time they graduate high school – roughly the same amount of time they spend attending school. PARENTS, WHERE ARE YOU? Just. Say. No.
We were given a tour of the facility, invited to dinner at the home of Maxine Clark, shown some new products/ideas that BABW is considering, and given the full Build-A-Bear Workshop party experience at the local mall.
So much fun.
I could pull up my notes for you, but there is still so much I’m processing from the event that I think will coincide very nicely with the upcoming Savvy Blogging Summit I’m attending next week. Namely, that of owning your own influence (this phrase is actually Craig’s but it’s one we’ve been talking about lately that seems to be popping up in my life over and over as of late). Also, that of weaving story into your business concept. You really aren’t just selling a product, you are offering something else as well. Identify that, own it, make it part of who you are and what you are doing.
So, to sum things up:
Most surprised by: The intent: That this was as much about helping us as it was about helping them.
Most impressed by: The heart: BABW does an amazing job of giving at almost every level. They receive about 2000 requests for donations each MONTH and they try to respond in some form or fashion to every request. They passed out $25 gift cards to each of us to DonorsChoose.org so we can also participate in the giving.
Most thrilled by: The family inclusion: My entire family enjoyed the hotel, tour of the BABW facility, and dinner at Maxine Clark’s home where not only was the food amazing, but the magician and balloon artists who were hired to entertain the kids were indeed a huge hit.
Most fun personal connection: Joy Missey: Joy works for BABW as the Manager of Interactive Operations. We randomly sat by each other the night of the dinner at Maxine’s. As we were chatting about where we lived we realized that we’re about 1 mile away from each other and attend the same church. It was fun to see her the following Sunday and know that’s a connection I will be able to keep up with.
Biggest take away: What am I going to do about this now? Still thinking about that one.
Now for the disclaimer: Build-A-Bear Workshop provided my family with two nights of hotel accommodations, and dinner. I was given the Hello Kitty I made during the BABW party as well as an additional $100 gift card for a return visit with my kids. These gifts, while appreciated, did not influence my opinions here, indeed, they are my own.
THANK YOU, BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP AND MAXINE CLARK! We had a super fun time!