Thursday, May 1, 2008

US Trip Day 2...

I woke up and loathed the first day that I had to wear a suit. I woke up early so that I wouldn't rush my suit armoring process. I don't like wearing suits. But I think I cleaned up nicely. LOL!

I met up with Maru for breakfast downstairs and we waited for the Frima boys to pick us up.

I've never met the guys from Frima Studios in person before. So meeting them was definitely interesting. They're a funny bunch. The constant sarcastic banter was great for laughs. These French Canadians sure know how to make things light at any given moment.

With Simone on the wheel and Luc as the human GPS, we proceeded to Build-A-Bear Workshop's headquarters, or should I say "Bearquarters".

The Bearquarters was so surreal. All the walls were painted yellow, riddled with all the bear paraphenila you can think of. It was spacious but fet like a whimsical maze at the same time. After a while, the place looked like a theme park.

We were led to the Bear University where the 2 day planning session was going to take place. I saw Joy and Dave once again. But I also met a lot of new faces that I can finally pair with the names that I've been dealing with for months now. Edin and Greg were there among other people. And my impressions of what they look like were totally wrong. LOL!

We started off the day with a smaller meeting with only Joy, Edin, Frima, and DME involved. Come 12:00NN, the rest of the planning session participants trickled in, including the Empress of all there is Build-A-Bear, Maxine.

The session began with a very specific agenda. However, the energy in the room was high, so ideas tend to fly across the room that most often take the session off to a tangent.
To be honest, I've never seen so much positive energy all in one room. My boss described how BABW people were. But I never really fully understood it until I physically experienced it myself.

The session ended for the day. As we were wrapping up the last activity, I felt like expressing my thoughts to the group. I felt that quite a number of people were afraid the Virtual World would change what BABW became famous for in their retail channel. I told them that although I am a relative outsider to the group, that I do know that BABW is not selling teddy bears. They were selling an experience and a culture. I see that culture emanate from the people in the room, and all around the office facility. And as long as we go back to the company's mission and formulate guiding principles that willl influence every decision that is made, it doesn't matter what medium we deliver BABW to its customers. Retail, VW, or otherwise, it is possible to translate that very culture properly. Maxine surprisingly agreed along with all the other session participants. They thanked me for reminding them what BABW was all about in the first place. And the words I said ended up being the last remarks of the day. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (OMG, I'm turning into a bear myself).

All of us from Barkley, Frima, and DME, were then accompanied to the Galleria, where the first ever BABW store is located. The store has the same exact feel as their Bearquarters. I was tempted to get a bear for my little niece Kami. However, it would be a shame if Kami and the rest of my family didn't go through the whole experience of creating the bear. So I decided to just get Kami a bear at a nearby BABW store when I fly to New Jersey.

Greg, apparently, had went through in-store training and therefore can assist with the bear creation without the help of one of the store clerks. Greg made a mess a little at the bear stuffing section, which was hilarious. The funniest moment was when Greg was stuffing the bear that one of the Barkley guys was making. After Greg stuffed it nicely and pulled the stich seams shut, he then realized that he forgot to put a heart in the bear. So technically, the bear was a corpse. LOL!

After creating all the bears the group wanted, we then headed to the restaurant that BABW arranged for everybody. It seems it's customary to have cocktails and a few local St. Louis finger food before dinner. So I ended up mingling with a number of people from the group. The most interesting person that I spoke to was a girl named Carrie. Aside from her obvious attrative looks, she excuded a warmth and genuine interest in what you had to say. She made something as trivial as a conversation seem thoroughly enjoyable.

We then began dinner which had several courses, from the appetizer pasta, to the salad, and then to the main course. By the time I made it to the main course, I was already so full that I couldn't finish it. That was unfortunate because the beef tenderloin steak I had tasted so good.
During dinner, I had an interesting conversation with one of the Frima guys named Pierre. He was the business development guy of the bunch. The rest were more technology and operations related. He was impressed with the remarks I gave at the end of the session earlier today. And we continued on talking about the gaming industry, to US customs/immigration, to politics, etc. Definitely an eccentric but likeable guy. Not to mention that he was the only other person that smoked cigarettes in the group. LOL!

After dinner, we got dropped off at our hotel by the Frima boys. After ditching our stuff in our respective rooms, I met Maru downstairs at my favorite smoking spot and had a few cigarettes while discussing how today's events went. Not a bad second day of the trip at all. As I headed back up to my room, I gave myself another pat on the back.


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