How Sarah Blakely grew From Disney world clown to the first self made female billionaire

Sarah Blakely is worth 1.12Billion dollars.

She is not into real estate or  oil &gas rather she produces and sells women’s underwear, tights and leggings.

Her product is called Spanks. It tucks in all women’s cellulite and fat into a place without any seams, wires or bulge thus making clothes fit beautifully.

Spanx are sold in 60 countries, from the UAE to Sri Lanka and Peru, and have become red-carpet mainstays. Celebrities  the Kardashian -Jenner clan, Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton all use Spanx.

‘Sara Blakely is 100% owner, has zero debt, has never taken outside investment and hasn’t spent a nickel on advertising.

How did she become a billionaire by selling women’s underwear?

23years ago; her life was a mess:

She always wanted to be a Lawyer like her Father, but failed the test for graduate law school twice. Devastated and disillusioned she got a job at Disney World“I was 22 and with my degree, I was putting people on rides dressed in a brown polyester suit.’

She then went on to sell fax machines door-to-door for seven years for a Florida-based office supply company. She was rejected almost daily. People would hang up on her cold calls and rip up her business card in front of her.

She identified her strength &  set a goal  

I remember feeling like I was in the wrong movie, thinking — there’s a mistake here. I knew I had to rewrite the movie of my life. I sat down and wrote in my journal what my strengths and weaknesses were. The predominant thing in my strengths column was knowing how to sell.

Once I identified that, I wrote down that I was going to invent a product that I could sell to millions of people — something that made people feel good. Then I let it go

The big idea is ….Spanx

For an office party, she’d bought a new pair of cream trousers, but she couldn’t find any undergarment that did not show panty lines and expose body fat.  So Blakely created her own solution.

She cut the feet off a pair of panty hose, though she didn’t see panty lines but throughout the party the hose rolled up her legs. Blakely realized at that point that her footless take on panty hose could be a brilliant product.

Day job by day, big idea by night

Blakely, then 27, set aside her entire $5,000 savings and spent the next two years meticulously planning the launch of her product.

She kept her day job selling fax machines and worked on the product prototype nights and weekends.  She spent seven nights straight at the Georgia Tech library researching every hosiery patent ever filed. She visited craft stores like Michaels to find the right fabrics.

Once Blakely had a prototype designed for her shape wear, she spent months driving 5 and half hours to mills and factories in North Carolina seeking a manufacturer. Each time, she was turned away. Part of their reluctance was due to her lack of financial backing “One Manufacturer eventually took pity on her,” she said. “It turns out he had daughters just like her.”

Sara Blakely  didn’t have the money to hire a patent lawyer,  so she wrote her own patent, with a text book from Barnes and Noble.

Hello world, this is my product “spanx”

Well, it was not that easy. She had to find a way to bring her product into big time retail stores.  Her breakthrough came when she managed to make an appointment  at Neiman Marcus’ corporate HQ in Dallas. She flew there with a pair of Spanx in her lucky red backpack, a throwback from college.

Two minutes into her meeting, she could tell she was losing the attention of Neiman Marcus’ buyer. She whisked her into the bathroom for a little show and tell, trying on her own product — slimming, shaping footless pantyhose — under a pair of white pants.  The product was sold.

Blakely’s product was sold in seven Neiman Marcus stores as a result of the meeting. Bloomingdale, Saks & Bergdorf Goldman soon followed

Fake it till you make it…

At least initially, Blakely worried that the departmental stores would drop the product if there weren’t many buyers. So she called up everyone she knew and asked them to purchase Spanx, then mailed them a reimbursement check.
She also went to the stores to help the sales girls with the product. Using herself as a Mannequin with before and after pictures

She kept pushing things with spanx, until one day in 2000 Oprah Winfrey named spanx as one of her favorite things.

The rest is history.

Meet Sarah Blakely….again

Today, Sarah Blakely owns multi million-dollar homes in Atlanta and on the Florida beachfront, among others, five figures’ worth of diamonds.  she’s also  part-owner of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team.

In 2013, she signed The Giving Pledge along with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, promising to donate at least half of her wealth to charity.

She is still innovating, expanding and growing her business.

Just recently she launched a  Spanx arm tights

Perseverance, hard-work and a clear vision, a hot combination for success.

Readers Comments (2)

  1. A dreamer must be strong!
    I love this woman. Her strength and her passion.

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