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Around the Columns



As an intern for Build-A-Bear, Jessica Haar developed several garments, one of which was chosen for the company's winter line. Photo by Rob Hill

Designers wait for the chance for a celebrity to wear their creation, but getting a foot in the door to fashion doesn't always take a celebrity. Sometimes, all you need is a teddy bear.

Jessica Haar, a textiles and apparel management major with an emphasis in product development and a minor in business, graduated in May 2008. She spent the summer of 2007 interning at Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. in St. Louis. Haar chose Build-A-Bear because she wanted a fun company with fashionable clothing and a great product development program.

Build-A-Bear Workshop started in 1997 in St. Louis when Maxine Clark decided to take teddy bears, an American icon, and turn them into a "retail-entertainment experience." The company now has stores in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, France and the United Kingdom.

"It was a perfect fit," Haar says. "Because they have a relatively small product development department, I was exposed to all aspects of the development process." Haar worked with marketing, development, planning, quality control and licensing while at Build-A-Bear. She also learned the invaluable lesson of catering to a market.

"We did a lot of market research for trends," she says. "Eight to 12-year-old girls are the big target market for the company. We had to find out what they are watching, what they are doing, what they will want from us."

After working in research and business, Haar got to participate in her favorite part of the internship: product development. She developed several garments, one of which was chosen for the Build-A-Bear winter line.

"I got to see the garment go from the early stages of development to the finished product and end up in the stores for people to buy," she says. "It was very exciting."

The experience gave Haar the chance to use school and book knowledge she has accrued, and she got to see how it works in real-life situations.

"Everything comes together when you are exposed to hands-on experiences," she says. "I could visually see so much I had previously just been able to read about."

Editors note: Haar works as a procurement specialist in the purchasing department of Paramount Apparel International Inc., a manufacturer of custom headwear and apparel in Bourbon, Mo. She purchases goods for the Oarsman division of the firm.