Job Envy: Jackie Smith
30, Bear Stuff Designer-Developer, Build-A-Bear Workshop
Ever wonder where those Build-A-Bear Workshop toys get such stylish threads? Meet Jackie Smith. After weaving her way through a handful of jobs involving fashion and kids’ toys, Smith found her home at Build-A-Bear Workshop, where she’s married those experiences into one very cool job: designing clothing and accessories for some of the most loved stuffed animals on the planet. Truly a kid at heart, Smith brings a boisterous energy and enthusiasm to her workaday world.
How She Got Into the Biz I started with a visual merchandising internship at Ralph Lauren, in the childrenswear division. I eventually moved to Houston and worked for Charming Charlie, where I launched Charlie Girl. That’s also where, as a buyer, I was able to experience product development and realized that I wanted to be involved in that stage of the retail supply chain. When a position opened up at Build-A-Bear Workshop, it was the perfect opportunity to be involved in both the kids and design industries.
Education/Training I graduated from Texas Christian University with a BBA in entrepreneurial management and a BS in fashion merchandising.
Best Work Day Ever Working at one of our local Build-A-Bear Workshop stores (for Bear Builder training), I was able to see firsthand how kids interact with our products. One of the kids kept calling me “teacher” as I took him through the steps to build his own bear, and then he named it Captain Barnacles, which for a 4-year-old I thought was so impressive and imaginative. My job is to be imaginative and to color outside the lines, which is what kids do, so being around them in the store was very inspiring.
Why Her Job Rocks Being able to think like a kid, design for kids and be inspired by their fashion is pretty awesome. One thing that really rocks about our Build-A-Bear Workshop offices is that I get to bring my strawberry blonde Pomeranian, Tootsie Pop, to work with me every day.
Typical Day Most of my day is spent reviewing samples and answering emails from our vendor partners. I design new furry fashions, collaborating with our internal teams and licensors to complete each season's key stories. I work closely with our merchandising and planning team on collections set to hit stores over nine months in advance.
Proudest Moment During my interview with our Chief Executive Bear, I began rambling—so I thought—about retail theory. She stopped me and said I was wise for my age. It was incredibly humbling for our CEB to tell me this and I thought, “Wow. Maybe I do know what I’m doing. Maybe I will be hired.” I had a job offer the next week.
Best Job Perk Working as a designer or a buyer, one of the best things is being able to travel for inspiration. It doesn’t happen as often as we would like, but when it does, we travel to trade shows in Las Vegas, New York or Los Angeles to see what’s on the leading edge of fashion and toy trends.
Favorite Industry Anecdote I dress to my mood, which doesn’t always get rave reviews. There are times when my outfits are questioned by my co-workers, either based on age appropriateness or the question of “Does it really match?” I try to explain that I have to understand my target market (6- to 12-year-olds), therefore I dive right in and dress like them. But I have to admit that a past director of planning offered to submit me for “What Not to Wear” during a vendor appointment.
Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino