Sara Blakely is the owner and founder of Spanx. Blakley is a woman who, without family wealth, without a rich husband and without any investors, managed to develop a business that is worth more than a billion dollars today.
In 2012, American Sara Blakely, the founder and owner of the company Spanx, was named the youngest billionaire in the world by Forbes, emphasizing that she is a woman who earned her wealth herself and did not inherit it.
She was 41 years old then. Today, Forbes estimates the value of her company at $1.01 billion.
But before all that success, Blakely often faced failure. Find out how she created Spanx and what she needed to succeed along the way by continuing to read this article.
Sara Blakely was born on February 27, 1971 in Clearwater, Florida, USA. Her father is a lawyer by profession, and her mother is an artist.
From an early age, she showed an entrepreneurial spirit. So often for Halloween, she made her home a “haunted house” and then charged her neighbors for admission.
After finishing high school, she had a desire to become a lawyer like her father. However, since she failed the entrance exam twice, she had to change her plans.
She enrolled as a communications major at the University of Florida.
After graduating from college, she could not find a job and accepted a job at the Disney World amusement park, where she worked for three months and occasionally as a stand-up comedian.
Eventually, she found a job at Danka, a company that sold office supplies, where she began working as a door-to-door salesman for fax machines.
Despite constantly being faced with doors being closed, she did not give up and was quickly promoted. For the fact that Blakely never gave up, she thanks her father, who actually encouraged her in her failures.
“WHILE WE WERE GROWING UP, AT DINNER TIME, MY FATHER ALWAYS ASKED ME AND MY BROTHER WHAT WE FAILED IN TODAY. HE GAVE ME A SPECIAL GIFT IN LIFE, WHICH WAS THAT I WAS FORCED TO REDEFINE MY THINKING ABOUT FAILURE BECAUSE TODAY TO ME, FAILURE MEANS NOT TRYING AT ALL,” BLAKELY TOLD FOR MAKERS.
Her creation was attributed to her saleswoman profession. Specifically, she had to wear tights since she was a salesperson.
She liked the way the tops of the stockings molded her figure, but she disliked having to wear tights with open-toed shoes.
She so ripped off the bottom of her tights one evening before attending a party and wore them underneath her clothes. Even though the tights were increasing, she nevertheless achieved her goal of being able to wear open-toed shoes.
This is how toeless tights came to be. She continued to work for Danka while using her own funds to develop her concept.
Nevertheless, locating a manufacturer was the issue. She made the trip to North Carolina and approached almost every factory there, but she was rejected each and every time.
She got a call from a producer after she got home, and it was only after his daughters, who were thrilled with the idea, encouraged him to alter his mind and back her proposal.
Particularly, males, who naturally did not wear such socks at the time, predominated the business.
She had her first “office” in her apartment in Atlanta. As in any other business, it was not easy for her at the beginning.
The creator of Spanx struggled to get her product onto department store shelves and then, when she did, she was worried because sales weren’t going well.
She even had to pay fines to the merchants because of that. Blakely developed her invention using her own funds over the course of two years while she was still employed at Danka.
Blakely, her mother, and her friends wore the first toeless pantyhose, and she improved them with their aid and her own experience.
Upon discovering that all prior socks and underwear utilized the same belt size, she made the decision to create multiple sizes.
She continued to work on the package design after filing the idea for a patent.
She employed three animated female figures with distinct faces on the product package in addition to the color red, something no other manufacturers in the sector had done previously.
She was able to set up a meeting with members of the Neiman Marcus group, demonstrating that her efforts and investments in product development were successful.
They were more fascinated by the fact that she “dragged” a lady from a meeting to the restroom where she explained the difference between wearing pants without and with tights without toes than by the content of her presentation.
To say the woman was thrilled would be an understatement, and soon her product was available in 7 different retailers in 7 different locations.
Blakely made the decision to take action because she was concerned that the product wouldn’t sell.
“I LITERALLY CALLED ALL THE FRIENDS I HAD IN THOSE 7 CITIES. PEOPLE I HAVEN’T TALKED TO IN YEARS. IT SOUNDED SOMETHING LIKE THIS: ‘HI, THIS IS SARAH, WE SIT TOGETHER IN THE FOURTH CLASS. COULD YOU PLEASE GO TO THAT STORE AND ASK FOR A PRODUCT CALLED SPANX AND SAY YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR SOMETHING LIKE THAT YOUR WHOLE LIFE AND I’LL SEND YOU MONEY,” said Sarah, showing that persistence pays off.
Blakely even sent a product basket to Oprah Winfrey explaining her idea. After all her hopes were dashed, and she ran out of money and friends for advertising, she got a call from Oprah.
In 2000, Oprah Winfrey called Spanx one of her favorite things ever on her show, which led to an incredible increase in sales.
As sales grew, other stores, such as Bloomingdales, Saks and Bergdorf Goodman, soon became interested in the product.
Blakely didn’t leave Danka till after that. Sales of Spanx products totaled $4 million in the first year, and by the second year, they had reached $10 million.
Blakely committed to a deal with the retail network QVC in 2001. Around 8000 pairs of tights were sold in the opening six minutes.
It takes a lot of trust to believe someone would work for a firm that is still developing.
Beginning with marketing, logistics, and product placement in shops, Blakely managed the whole company on her own at the beginning.
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“WHEN WOMEN ARE ENTREPRENEURS, THEY MAKE THEIR OWN DESTINY. RESEARCH SHOWS THAT THEY HELP THEIR ENVIRONMENT MORE THAN THEMSELVES AND WHEN THEY ARE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY, WE ALL BENEFIT”, SAID SARA BLAKELY IN ONE INTERVIEW.
For Sara Blakely, today her spanxes, as well as other clothing products that she has developed and marketed in the meantime, ensure dizzying earnings.
She is still the sole owner of the company. Regardless of the fact that she is now globally popular, she is still afraid of public appearances, but she travels around and regularly gives lectures.
She is also afraid of flying and heights. She married Jesse Itzler, co-founder of Marquis Jet, in 2008.
Even today, she recounts how she panicked because she revealed to her partner at the last minute before the wedding how rich she really was, and until then only her family knew that secret.
Blakely established the Sara Blakely Foundation in 2006. The organization offers a variety of education and training programs with the intention of assisting women in becoming business owners.
She received assistance in starting the charity from Richard Branson, who served as her mentor while she competed on “The Rebel Billionaire.”
Branson also surprised her with a cheque for $750,000, which she used to launch the organization.
Several female entrepreneurs have received training from the foundation since its establishment, and in 2006, Blakely gave $1 million to the Oprah Winfrey-founded leadership academy for females.
Sara Blakely has made significant contributions to several charities and non-profit groups, making her the first billionaire to join the “Giving Pledge” list and one of a select group of persons who have given more than half of their wealth to charitable causes.
Blakely’s net worth is currently believed to be in excess of $1 billion, although she has never had investors in the company.
Blakely is continually developing new goods even though it has been several years after the release of her first one.
Her current product line comprises everything from bras, underwear, socks, undershirts, bodysuits, and even the newest jeans.
In 2014, she produced tight jeans. 200 items from its selection are offered for purchase in more than 40 different nations.
“TODAY I AM WHERE I AM AND I ACHIEVED THAT SUCCESS WITHOUT MAKING COMPROMISES TO MY OWN DAMAGE. I CAN LOOK AT MYSELF IN THE MIRROR AND SAY THAT I CAME TO THIS BECAUSE I WAS KIND, HONEST AND HONEST. IT’S A GREAT FEELING”, CONCLUDED SARA BARKLEY.
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