Friday, February 12th, was very, very rainy. All the more reason to look forward to an entire day of conference sessions at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, where I would stay warm and dry!
It’s hard to describe what the day was like. Intimate. Organized. Educational. Inspiring. The speakers were fabulous. Below are some of the highlights of their presentations.
President of Walt Disney World Resort, Meg Crofton, introduced Maxine Clark, the Chief Executive Bear of Build-A-Bear Workshop. She spoke of what inspired her to create this unique company.
- Maxine wanted to leave the world a better place, to leave a legacy and create value for future generations. “It’s about doing what you love, and loving what you do,” she said.
- Once the president of Payless Shoe Source, she left corporate America to bring the fun back into retailing. “You can never have too many shoes or too many teddy bears!”
- “Retailing is entertainment and the store is a stage. When the customer has fun, they spend more money.” One of her favorite quotes, by Stanley Goodman, former chairman of the May Company, where Maxine worked for many years.
- Her inspiration? Maxine went shopping with her 10-year-old friend Katie, who was frustrated because she couldn’t find a Beanie Baby anywhere. Katie suggested making them… and what began as a craft project turned into so much more!
- Started in 1997, BABW now has over 400 stores in 18 countries, and nearly 80 million stuffed animals have been sold to date.
- 1+1=10. Every business partnership can be enhanced thru better collaboration. When two partners work together they come up with something 10 times more powerful than they could accomplish alone. DonorsChoose.org, World Wildlife Fund, and First Book are just a few of BABW’s partners.
- Maxine believes in empowering kids to make a difference. For example, the Huggable Heroes program recognizes kids that have made an impact in their own communities by giving of themselves to others.
- There’s only one word in BABW’s training manual – YES. You can teach someone to run the register, but you can’t teach them to care, so they don’t necessarily focus on hiring people with retail skills. Build-A-Bear Workshop was named to Fortune’s ‘Best Companies to Work For’ list for the 2nd year in a row.
I spoke with Maxine for a few minutes during lunch, and she is just the most gracious person. She’s engaging and truly enjoyed connecting with all of us. I told her how my daughter’s Build-a-Bear got her through a 30+ hour bus ride to Walt Disney World – she hugged that pink bear the entire time. Maxine was touched. She really does have “the beary best job in the entire world” – her words! For more on Maxine and BABW, follow her on Twitter @ChiefExecBear, visit her blog, and you can also find her on buildabearville.com with the name bearylucky.
- “I don’t do speeches, but I do talk shows!” She sat in a chair and answered questions instead of doing a traditional presentation. Very laid back!
- One of her early acting jobs was a line in American Beauty – “You are so busted!” Now I have to go back and watch it again… this is how she got the part in Hairspray.
- She’s a cancer survivor! Just months before starring on Broadway, she found out she had cervical cancer. She underwent a hysterectomy, and went on to win a Tony. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, was sort of like Marissa’s fairy godmother for the Tony Awards. She didn’t have a dress, and Anna took care of her!
- Dancing with Stars… long rehearsals, 8-10 hours a day. Marissa got on the show when Belinda Carlisle dropped out. She’d head over to the media room after the show each night and would talk to all of the media outlets, including bloggers, to get as much exposure as she could. Marissa said that those contestants that didn’t take the time to visit with bloggers, update Facebook, etc, didn’t do as well. She had a baby via a surrogate just after the show ended.
- Ultimately, Marissa showed us that she’s just a regular working mom. Juggling a baby and work. We saw a video of her wearing her baby while taping voiceovers, for example.
- She had a blog on People.com about being a mom, surrogacy, Hairspray, her struggle with cancer, and being an overweight actress. It’s going to be turned into a book. Lots of good stuff to read there.
We all know Kathy Ireland as a former supermodel. Now she’s CEO of a design and marketing firm, Kathy Ireland Worldwide, which sells over 15,000 products in 27 countries. Her presentation focused on “real solutions for busy moms.”
- I was impressed by her poise. She’s a great presenter and talked about balancing her business with family. She may not have always have known what she wanted to be when she grew up, but always knew she wanted to be a mom.
- There’s no career more challenging, rewarding, or important than that of being a mom and raising children. Moms are the CEOs of our households, but because a paycheck isn’t attached, often times it’s a job that’s not appreciated enough. She praised everyone in the audience; we’re her “heroes” for taking the time away from our family and busy lives to be there.
- Social media has changed the world. Now people are more aware of her; before she was “occassionally seen but very seldom heard.” She joined Twitter looking to connect with other moms and learn from them – and from looking at her Twitter stream, she really does engage!
- It’s important to note that “cyber footprints” never disappear. Only put messages out there that you want the world to see; an important lesson that we need to teach our children.
- Full of good quotes! “Underpromise and overdeliver.” “You are your own brand.” “All that you give is all that you get, so give it all you’ve got.” “You are engines that move forward, rather than anchors that weigh everything down.” “If someone says “No” you need to ask, “Why?” If they say “Yes”, ask “How?”
- Kathy believes we can have it all, but not all at once. We have to figure out what our priorities are. Hers? Faith, family, and helping others. We have to keep it all balanced and “put on our oxygen masks first” – a great metaphor!
Follow Kathy on Twitter @kathyireland and visit her website at kathyireland.com. She just released a new book called Real Solutions for Busy Moms Devotional: 52 God-Inspired Messages for Your Heart.
Chris Brogan, President of New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency, and best-selling author of Trust Agents, is a blogger and a true social media expert. He has such a soothing, mellow voice. So pleasant to listen to! He talked about relationships, business, and trust – what’s behind social media. I didn’t take great notes at this point… it was a long day.
- Social media is a way of saying “I see you.” There is someone on the other side.
- Companies (like Hanes and Disney) really want to understand what it all means to us… they want to know what the experience feels like from the user/guest perspective. They want to understand what our family is really doing. For the longest time, marketers would do surveys to decide “what bucket to put you in”.
- He mentioned that after listening to Maxine Clark speak he “kinda wants to go to the store more” (BABW). It’s true… we buy from people we like.
- Relationships are the goal… the right way to sell and build an audience. “The difference between an audience and a community is which way you point the chairs.” Something to think about!
- “The customer’s not a moron. She’s your wife.” – a quote by David Ogilvy. Meaning, don’t treat a customer like they’re stupid!
- The three big parts of social media are listening, connecting, and publishing.
- Grow bigger ears! Look at @comcastcares. Know the names behind the brands. Find ways to be partners with the kinds of companies that you want to be their trust agents, or make relationships with those trust agents, because those are the people that you want to get to know. Get to know the people that “talk like us and walk like us.”
- “Don’t ever treat a ‘little blogger’ like poop, because little bloggers grow up!”
- “Companies don’t just want you to review products… they want you to tell stories in a very human way.”
- “Never sell out your community… ever, ever, ever.” And don’t work for free.
- Don’t worry much about your numbers. It took Chris 8 years to get his first 100 subscribers.
Maryellen is a stand-up comic. Her act is about motherhood and marriage, and is absolutely hilarious! She picked on some of the attendees in the audience, which is always fun (because it wasn’t me! Ha!) I haven’t stepped foot inside a comedy club since before my kids were born, so this was a real treat! A wonderful way to end our day. My favorite line – “My friend gave birth at home in her bed with no drugs. I didn’t even want to conceive that way.”
We all came home with a DVD of her new show, “Stinky Flowers”: A “Stand-Up” View of Marriage, Motherhood, & Life. It’s basically the same show she did for us, with some animation and videos of family mixed in. So funny! I hear it’ll premiere on TV soon. Visit Maryellen”s blog and maryellenhooper.com for more information. She’ll be in San Antonio and Las Vegas in the coming weeks!
I felt bad for my family, as the rain kept them from enjoying the parks most of the day. Thank goodness it stopped in the late afternoon, just in time for our dinner at Hollywood Studios. We originally had a reservation for dinner with Cinderella, but after spending extra money on bus fare, it just wasn’t in our budget, so I decided to skip it, and I’m glad we did. The dinner and dance party were so much fun! There was plenty of good food, beer and wine, and a great DJ playing all of our favorite dance hits.
Mickey and Minnie dropped by to take photos, as well as Goofy and Pluto, who stuck around to dance with the kids all evening. These character visits were probably my 5-year-old’s favorite part of the trip!
Hollywood Studios was closed, but they opened up Toy Story Mania! just for us and I walked over with my 5-year-old and my brother to check it out. Other than Cinderella’s Carrousel, this is the only ride that Maya begged to get on over and over again. That says a lot! It’s a fairly new, interactive adventure inspired by – you guessed it – the “Toy Story” films! You get into a two-person vehicle and zip off into a 4-D world of carnival-style games hosted by Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and friends. Using a spring-action shooter to throw virtual projectiles at targets and rack up points, you compete with your fellow rider for the high score. We got some face time with the characters afterward.
Come back tomorrow to read about our last day at Walt Disney World, and to hear all about the people I met there. You can also go back and read about Day One, if you’d like. 😉
Disclosure: I paid a fee to attend this conference, but as an attendee I received complimentary items, special discounts, and other exciting benefits such as food and entertainment, so my family and I could experience the magic of Walt Disney World.