You've probably come across one of its stores in a mall. It's the one filled with kids and parents scurrying around to find just the right accessories for their freshly stuffed and stiched teddy bears. Build-A-Bear, a St. Louis-based company, has hit it big with its "build-your-own-bear" concept. So big, in fact, that it operates 152 stores, including a recent opening in Denmark, and is one of the largest privately held companies in St Louis.

But what can you learn from this niche toy business? Doug Fleener outlines a five lessons the bear store can teach any small-business owner in Stuff every small-business owner can learn from a bear, from the Boston Business Journal.

  1. Sell the experience. Buying a teddy bear -- boring. Get in on creating your own -- brilliant. It's the experience of building something that sells and helps this store stand out. Selling an experience in a crowded market can help a business owner bring new life to a product.
  2. Personalize the product. Offer customers the opportunity to put their "stamp" on the products you produce.
  3. Differentiate yourself in the market. FAO Schwartz was gobbled up by the big chains. To stand out, companies have to find their unique value propositions and exploit them.
  4. Create an intuitive purchasing process. It's the KISS principle. Make the path to purchase easy on your customers.
  5. Fun sells. Fun keeps people engaged. Take the pain out of making a purchase by being a bit more lighthearted in your sales efforts.