Sara Blakely is an American entrepreneur and inventor who founded Spanx, a brand of body-slimming women's underwear, and became the world's youngest female self-made billionaire in 2012. She was born in Clearwater, Florida on February 27, 1971, and graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor's degree in communications. She worked as a salesperson and a sales trainer before deciding to cut the feet of her pantyhose off to create a smoother and more flattering look beneath her clothes. She founded Spanx in 2000 with $5,000 of her own money and no outside funding. She promoted her invention by traveling across the country, meeting with store buyers and demonstrating it. She also gained attention after appearing on Oprah Winfrey's show and the reality television show Rebel Billionaire. Her product line was expanded to include leggings, jeans, bras, activewear, and men's apparel. In 2021, she sold a majority stake in Spanx to Blackstone Group for $1.2 billion, valuing the company at that time at $1.2 billion. She is also a philanthropist who supports a variety of causes, including education, entrepreneurship, and women's empowerment.
Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx and one of the world's youngest self-made female billionaires, grew up with a creative, determined, and entrepreneurial spirit. She grew up in a middle-class family in Clearwater, Florida, where her parents encouraged her to think outside the box and pursue her dreams. Blakely's childhood was shaped by her father's influence, who taught her the importance of taking risks and accepting failure as a stepping stone to success. Her childhood experiences cultivated her innate curiosity and resilience, paving the way for her groundbreaking shapewear innovation and remarkable journey to becoming a trailblazing entrepreneur and advocate for women's empowerment.
She earned a bachelor's degree in communications from Florida State University in 1993. In college, she joined the debate team and the sorority Delta Delta Delta. She intended to be a lawyer but changed her mind after receiving a low score on the Law School Admission Test. She went on to work for Walt Disney World and Danka before founding Spanx in 2000.
Sara Blakely had planned to become an attorney, but she changed her mind after receiving a low score on the Law School Admission Test. She then worked as a ride greeter and stand-up comedian at Walt Disney World in Florida for three months. She later worked as a salesperson and national sales trainer for the office supply company Danka. In the hot Florida climate, she was required to wear pantyhose for her sales job, but she disliked the appearance of the seamed foot while wearing open-toed shoes. She also desired an undergarment that was undetectable beneath her clothing, comfortable, slimming, and could be worn with open-toed shoes. She cut the feet off a pair of pantyhose and discovered that she had made a garment that other women would like.
Sara Blakely used $5,000 of her personal savings to market her invention in 2000. She called it Spanx, a cute word that also sounded like "thank you." She created her own logo, which was modeled after herself, and wrote her own patent application. After receiving encouragement from his three daughters, she found a hosiery factory in North Carolina that agreed to produce her footless hose. She then drove across the country, meeting and modeling for the boards of Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, and Saks Fifth Avenue. She persuaded them to carry her product by demonstrating the before and after effects of wearing Spanx under white pants.
Oprah Winfrey's popular nationally syndicated television talk show, Oprah Winfrey's Oprah Winfrey Show, featured Spanx in late 2000. Following that, sales skyrocketed, and Blakely quickly built an empire without the help of advertising or outside investment. She relied on word-of-mouth marketing as well as celebrity endorsements from celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, and Beyoncé Knowles. She also promoted her product on television shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She also modeled for herself on television and at in-store public appearances across the United States.
Blakely's product line has grown to include leggings, jeans, bras, activewear, and men's clothing. She also pioneered the use of reversible tights, denim leggings, and arm tights. She founded sub-brands such as Sara Blakely Assets, Spanx Haute Contour, and Spanx Star Power. She also launched online platforms to sell her products directly to consumers, such as Spanx.com and Shapewear.com.
Blakely sold a majority stake in Spanx to Blackstone Group for $1.2 billion in 2021, valuing the company at that time at $1.2 billion. Blakely retained a substantial stake in the company and continued to serve as CEO and executive chairwoman. She stated that the agreement would assist Spanx in expanding globally and reaching new customers.
Sara Blakely is a philanthropist who supports a variety of causes including education, entrepreneurship, and women's empowerment. In 2006, she established the Sara Blakely Foundation to assist women through education and business training. She has given millions of dollars to charities such as Dress for Success, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, and The Empowerment Plan. She also took part in The Giving Pledge, a campaign launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage wealthy people to donate at least half of their wealth to charitable causes.
Blakely is also an investor and a mentor who assists other entrepreneurs in realizing their goals. She has invested in a number of startups, including Spanx, Bumble, Alice, and The Riveter. She has also appeared as a guest judge on the reality TV show Shark Tank, where she gave aspiring entrepreneurs advice and funding. She also collaborated with Virgin Group founder Richard Branson to launch The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best, a reality TV show in which she competed against other entrepreneurs for the opportunity to work with Branson.
"Don't be intimidated by what you don't know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else." ~Sara Blakely
"It's important to be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you become memorable." ~Sara Blakely
"I think failure is nothing more than life's way of nudging you that you are off course. My attitude to failure is not attached to outcome, but in not trying. It is liberating. Most people attach failure to something not working out or how people perceive you. This way, it is about answering to yourself." ~Sara Blakely
"You've got to embrace what you don't know." ~Sara Blakely
"We can make the world a better place, one butt at a time."~Sara Blakely
"I made a conscious decision not to tell anyone in my life. Now I tell people - don't tell anyone your idea until you have invested enough of yourself in it that you are not going to turn back. When a person has an idea at that conception moment it is the most vulnerable - one negative comment could knock you off course." ~Sara Blakely
"My advice for an entrepreneur just starting out is to differentiate yourself. Why are you different? What’s important about you? Why does the customer need you?" ~Sara Blakely
"The smartest thing I ever did was to hire my weakness." ~Sara Blakely
"Never hire someone to do your initial sales." ~Sara Blakely
Sara Blakely is an inspiring example of an inventor and entrepreneur who started from the ground up and built one of the world's most successful and innovative businesses. She transformed the shapewear industry and added value to the lives of millions of women and men. By overcoming various challenges and obstacles, she demonstrated her creativity, passion, and perseverance. She is a visionary leader who contributes to society through philanthropy, investment, and mentoring. She is one of the most powerful and well-known business leaders.
"Money is fun to make, fun to spend and fun to give away."~Sara Blakely
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