Women Empowerment: Sara Blakely Creator of Spanx
Women Empowerment: Sara Blakely Creator of Spanx
When it comes to empowering women Sara Blakely, founder of the infamous Spanx, is a name you must know, so today we turn the KOKET women empowerment lens on this fun, passionate, driven, savvy and highly successful businesswoman!
According to Blakely to obtain success you must,
“Believe in your idea, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to fail. It took me two years from the time I had the idea for Spanx until the time I had a product in hand ready to sell into stores. I must have heard the word “no” a thousand times. If you believe in your idea 100%, don’t let anyone stop you! Not being afraid to fail is a key part of the success of Spanx.”
America’s youngest self-made female billionaire on the Forbes list and mother of 4, Blakely began the shapewear brand Spanx at the age of 27 with her entire $5,000 savings. She spent the next two years meticulously planning the launch of her product while working her day job as the national sales manager for the office supply company Danka, where she began as a door-to-door fax machine salesperson. Today Spanx is the number one name in shapewear and is worn by women around the globe including celebrities like Kim Kardashian!
A born entrepreneur, Blakely was always looking for ways to make money. As a young girl growing up in Clearwater, FL she set up a haunted house at Halloween and would charge her neighbors admission. In 1990, fresh out of high school, with no experience, no CPR training and no insurance she started her first real business, a kids’ club at the Clearwater Beach Hilton. For three summers she flew this business under the radar until at age 20 she tried to pitch it to the Hilton’s GM and got busted, “He literally escorted me off the premises,” Blakely remembers.
After obtaining a degree in legal communications and proceeding to fail the LSAT’s twice, Blakely applied for a job at Disney World as Goofy, but she was too short for the costume so instead took a job buckling park visitors into their seats at Epcot.
“I think I wanted to postpone reality, having spent my whole life thinking I’d be a lawyer,” says Blakely, who as a kid loved watching her trial attorney father in court. “It didn’t work. My first day at Disney I went on break and saw Snow White dragging on a cigarette.”
Spanx was born out of the uncomfortable pantyhose Blakely was forced to wear at Disney and Danka. After purchasing a new pair of pants and wanting the cinched in appearance created by pantyhose, Blakely recalls, “I cut the feet off my pantyhose and wore them underneath, but they rolled up my legs all night. I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to figure out how to make this.’ I’d never worked in fashion or retail. I just needed an undergarment that didn’t exist.”
After endless hours of prototyping, patent writing (she did this herself to avoid the cost of a lawyer), gorilla marketing and PR, including shilling her invention from a folding table in the foyer of Neiman Marcus with a giant before-and-after photo of her derriere in and out of Spanx and sneaking a rack purchased from Target stocked with her red Spanx packages next to the cash register at Neiman, in 2000 she shipped samples to Oprah Winfrey’s stylist and pulled off her biggest coup!
In November 2000 Winfrey named Spanx her favorite product of the year on her annual Favorite Things Show, Blakley resigned from Danka two weeks before the show aired, and Spanx took off raking in $4 million its first year and $10 million the next!
Thanks to a personal check for $750,000 and much inspiration from Richard Brandson after her stint on his reality show the Rebel Billionaire: Richard Branson’s Quest for the Best in 2004, Blakely fulfilled a long time dream and launched the Sara Blakely Foundation in 2006. On her foundation site she says,
“Since I was a little girl I have always known I would help women. In my wildest dreams I never thought I would have started with their butts. As it turns out, that was a great place to start! Before starting Spanx, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to invent a product that would make millions of women feel good. Spanx became my way to deliver comfort, support and confidence to women all over the world. At the same time, it became my platform to give back. From the beginning, I set aside a portion of proceeds to give away. As the company grew, so did my opportunity to empower women.”
“I am committed to the belief that we would all be in a much better place if half the human race (women) were empowered to prosper, invent, be educated, start their own businesses, run for office— essentially be given the chance to soar!
I pledge to invest in women because I believe it offers one of the greatest returns on investment. While many of the world’s natural resources are being depleted, one is waiting to be unleashed—women,” says Blakely.
- Fail Big – Failing big is a good thing – it means you really tired your hardest!
- Don’t take no for an answer – if you really believe someone else will too!
- You CAN figure it out – research what you don’t know and hire others to do what you can’t!
- Hire people you like and trust!
Thank you Sara Blakely for all that you do for women empowerment! Your story and success endlessly inspire us and our luxury furniture company!
With love, KOKET
For more inspiring women visit our Women Empowerment section!