There’s been a great response to this series so far, and I’m really looking forward to reading about all these inspiring women! This first post is from a dear friend of mine, Noa, who lives in Israel with her husband and delicious toddler (who just turned two!). I met Noa when we were both living in St. Louis, many moons ago. Much thanks to her for being the very first to respond!
1) Who is a women you find inspirational?
Maxine Clark, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.
2) What is her relationship to you?
She was my former boss and CEO when I lived in the US.
3) Where did you meet her?
I worked for her in St. Louis for 5.5 years.
4) When did you meet her? Do you think the timing of your meeting affected her impact on you?
I met her when I was looking for a job after graduating from Duke’s MBA program. I was just about ready to give up on finding employment in the US when she called me up and flew me in for an interview. When I saw the company that she had founded, I knew that this was where I wanted to be, perhaps for the rest of my life, even. Luckily she liked me enough to offer me my first real break – a dream position. The 5.5 years that I spent working for her provided me with the tools to thrive professionally and personally. I’ll always be indebted to her.
5) What is inspirational about her (it can be more than one thing, i.e. personality, actions, overcoming hardships)? Can you share a specific memory (or more than one)?
She marches to her own drummer and sees opportunity where others don’t. What can I say – she’s an original free thinker who sees with her own eyes and feels with her own heart. That’s rare nowadays. She’s also the kind of person who’s driven by a sincere desire to make this world a better place, and she does with her stores, her charity work and all the people she helps on a personal level and on a daily basis. She’s a phenomenon – she receives hundreds and hundreds of emails every day and answers each and every one of them within hours (the woman sleeps about four hours a night).
Here are some examples of the kind of person she is:
- She hired me without any experience. She said that the fact that I was an officer in the military and wore red eye glasses was enough for her. It didn’t hurt that I was Jewish, either.
- She gave me my dream job, perfectly suited for my character and abilities even though I wanted a different one (thank G-d I didn’t get it).
- She helped me get a green card, and paid for a lawyer to go through the whole process with me.
- She offered to buy my then-boyfriend a plane ticket so that he could fly and see his family in Israel. She knew he was paying student loans at the time and wanted to help him in some way.
- She invited me to Thanksgiving dinner every year.
- In the cover letter that I had sent her, prior to getting the job, I confused one of her stores with that of a competitor’s. Instead of begrudging me for that, she said “obviously it’s Build-A-Bear’s fault for not differentiating our stores well enough from our competition” and still summoned me up for an interview.
- She donates insane amounts of money to charity.
- She still emails me once in a while and tells me she misses me even though she’s probably one of the busiest people on this planet.
6) How has this inspiration affected your life? Do you think it has made you a better person? How so?
She’s helped make me who I am today, definitely. She taught me to think out of the box and to go after my dreams. She believed in me and has helped me believe in myself. She’s given me the tools to make a good living and to realize my professional potential. She’s known for saying “don’t be afraid to make mistakes” and “always make your bed every morning”, and I make sure I do both as often as possible. ;-)
7) When do you find yourself thinking of this person? How do you feel when you think about her?
I think about her whenever I’m stuck at work and need some inspiration; the thought of her always gives me the confidence to keep at it until I find a solution. When I think about her I feel like there’s someone watching over me. I truly believe that my guardian angel brought me to her, so when I think of her I essentially think of my guardian angel. At the same time, when I think of her I sometimes feel a sense of longing and sadness. Maxine Clark embodies everything I feel about the US – she’s larger than life, exciting, challenging, confusing, loving and unreachable at the same time. I miss her and the US very very much. Thinking of her reminds me of the good friends and wonderful memories that I left behind. Luckily I managed to build myself a wonderful life in Israel so the sadness doesn’t last too long.