Stuffed Animal Ambassador

Elizabeth Beltrán Martí, BSBA ’04

A global perspective prepared the peripatetic polyglot SiSi Beltrán Martí, BSBA ’04, for her career in international marketing for Build-A-Bear Workshop. (Joe Angeles)​​​

Across the world, kids agree on one thing: a stuffed animal makes a pretty good best friend. At St. Louis–based Build-A-Bear Workshop, it’s Elizabeth “SiSi” Beltrán Martí’s job, as senior manager of international bear marketing, to make the introductions.

Build-A-Bear Workshop stores in Australia, Martí, BSBA ’04, explains, sell unique animals, such as kangaroos and koalas. In Mexico, kids flock to the animal costume clothing (Spiderman, Batman, the Avengers). And in Japan, the Chinese zodiac animals are very popular (2013 is the Year of the Snake).

But in most countries, teddy bears are tops. After all, she says, “Who doesn’t love a bear hug?”

Build-A-Bear Workshop is a retail toy giant founded by businesswoman Maxine Clark, a Washington University trustee, in 1997. At its stores, children create and customize teddy bears and other stuffed animals in a fun retail setting. They can further personalize their animals in a massive variety of outfits. Worldwide, the company has sold more than 100 million stuffed toys.

Martí started her career at Build-A-Bear Workshop in 2004 after graduating with a degree in international ­business and marketing. She had met Clark at a meeting of the university’s Board of ­Trustees, for which she was the student representative her senior year. Clark connected her with members of the Build-A-Bear Workshop international team, who eventually offered her a newly created position developing the company’s growth into international markets through marketing.

“Our [Build-A-Bear Workshop’s] biggest challenge is in bridging cultural ­differences and managing the brand’s different stages of development in various countries.”

— Elizabeth “Sisi” Beltrán Martí

Today, Martí is responsible for brand marketing in more than 150 stores outside the United States and Canada, including corporately held locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and franchised locations in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Mexico and Brazil.

A native of Puerto Rico, Martí speaks English, Spanish, French and Italian, and she has traveled to every continent except for Antarctica. “Our biggest challenge is in bridging cultural ­differences and managing the brand’s different stages of development in various countries,” she says. “I might work with people in the U.K., which opened its first store eight years ago and now has 50 stores, and one hour later work with Brazil, which opened in 2011 and has just two stores.”

Martí’s accomplishments extend outside of her Build-A-Bear Workshop work. In 2007, at age 24, she was named one of the St. Louis Business Journal’s “Top 30 Under 30,” a recognition honoring young professionals who achieve excellence at work and in the community. She has given her time and talent to the United Way, FOCUS St. Louis, the Regional ­Business Council Young Professionals Network, and the Olin Alumni Board.

Martí showed the same level of commitment as a Washington University student. An Annika Rodriguez Scholar, she served as Association of Latin American Students president, Student Union sophomore class president, Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity chancellor, Chimes Honorary ­member, and co-founder and president of ITALO, the campus ­Italian club.

She cites the importance of her summer ­study-abroad program in Arezzo, Italy, and spring semester in Madrid, Spain, in helping to shape her life’s work. “These experiences helped me prepare for my career by seeing how brands can change and adapt to reach their target market,” she says. “I learned how to work with people who were ­different from me and the importance of not being ethnocentric.”

Her work at Build-A-Bear Workshop has been an expression of that philosophy. “No matter how many late-night or early-morning international phone calls I’m on,” she says, “my reward is in knowing that our work leads to kids of all ages having an incredible time in our stores.”

— Lisa Cary

Leave a Comment

Comments and respectful dialogue are encouraged, but content will be moderated. Please, no personal attacks, obscenity or profanity, selling of commercial products, or endorsements of political candidates or positions. We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. We also cannot address individual medical concerns or provide medical advice in this forum.