How Spanx Founder Sara Blakely Turned Billionaire With $5,000?
Spanx Founder Sara Blakely is the definition of a self-made billionaire. Blakely started off young with a hot pot of anxiety, creativity, and an unbelievable resilience to the word 'no.'
The Clearwater Flordia native initially started her business from $5000 in career savings. She is now the sole proprietor of a category-defining line of Spanx products that have gone on to have more than a billion-dollar in sales.
Today, she is the first female billionaire to join Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge Foundation.
Blakely Initially Wanted to Be a Lawyer
Spanx is akin to Kleenex or Xerox, in the sense that its name is synonymous with the product itself. You don't say, "I need a photo-copy of this page," you say, "Get me a Xerox." Likewise, it's not shapewear that people buy, it's Spanx.
That is how powerful the Spanx name is today. If someone told you that the multi-million dollar company was founded by someone who could not even qualify to be a Goofy at Disneyland and ended up selling fax machines over cold calls, you just might think that it was a farce. That is if you do not know the Florida State University alum, Sara Blakely.
One of the most common questions I get to this day is… “when you started Spanx, what was your business plan?” Here’s my secret: I didn’t have one! No, really, I didn’t. I had never even taken a business class. Because I had no idea how it was supposed to be done, I kept it as simple as possible. I focused on 3 things: Make it, sell it, build awareness. I made the product, sold it to as many stores as I could and spent the rest of my time building excitement and awareness. Then I would repeat the cycle. That’s it! I see a lot of entrepreneurs with really great ideas freeze in their tracks because of their “lack of experience” or knowledge. But what you “don’t” know could be the very thing that sets you apart from all the rest. Follow your purpose. Lead with your story. Focus on the product… the rest will work itself out. #Entrepreneur #Business #BusinessUnusual #SPANX
After her graduation in legal communication from her university, Blakely wanted to be a lawyer but couldn't crack the LSATs and soon realized that a career in law was not for her. So she drove to Disney World and tried out to be a Goofy.
Sadly, the vacancy could not be filled as Blakely was a mere two inches short of the required 5'8" height. Still, she still landed a job of putting people on rides at Epcot at Disney. That stint, however, didn't last more than three months.
Blakely was a Door-To-Door Salesgirl for Seven Years
After her run with Disney, Blakely worked seven years chasing cold leads as a door-to-door fax salesperson. "It was the kind of place that would hire anyone with a pulse," she recalled during an interview with CNBC.
The backbreaking job required immense legwork. So, the legendary entrepreneur had to wake up early and drive around from eight in the morning to five in the evening just to have people slam doors in her face. That is where she found her immunity, she no longer took "no" seriously.
I know a lot of you are feeling anxious and uncertain. I myself have felt those same emotions within the last couple of days… so much so that I have mixed up the days of the week! (For those of you who noticed, I posted MondayMotivation yesterday and it was Sunday!) ðŸ˜³ðŸ¤·â™€ï¸ÂÂÂ But I have always believed in the power of what I like to call the “hidden blessing.” So many times in my life, I have faced tragedy and hopelessness. I have failed more times than I can count and there have been moments that I have asked the Universe… “why is this happening?” The answer isn’t always simple and sometimes it reveals itself much later… but in every situation, I have always found that there is a silver lining. We may not know what is ahead of us, and that can be challenging. But instead of letting fear take over, we can ask, “what am I learning here? What can I do in this moment of stillness? How can I help? What is the hidden gift?” Sometimes life’s greatest challenges are just preparing us to change the world. #MondayMotivation #HiddenBlessings
Even though the tedious fax-selling stint, Blakely did not lose the drive to be self-employed and so she patiently waited for her eureka moment. Surprisingly so, that moment came when she was trying to look better in a pair of pants.
In the hopes of looking better in her fitted white pants, Blakely cut the feet out of a pair of pantyhose and substituted them for her undergarments, and just like that the idea for Spanx was born.
...This allowed me to benefit from the slimming effects of the pantyhose’s ‘control top’ while allowing my feet to go bare in my cute sandals. The moment I saw how good my butt looked, I was like, ‘Thank you, God, this is my opportunity!
She wrote the Patent for Spanx Herself
Okay, Blakely now had the idea that her entire life led to. All she needed now was to patent it. So far, the only thing Blakely had was a lifetime of savings that amounted to $5,000.
Problem number one: an average lawyer would charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 to $5,000 to patent Blakely's unheard-of idea. So, she did what any protagonist would do on the silver screen; she found a Barnes & Noble bookstore near her home and bought a book called "Patents and Trademarks."
After that, she started writing her patent. Later, she only paid the lawyer $700 to finish the remaining legalities over a weekend.
Problem number two was to convince a male hosiery mill owner that her product was revolutionary. During the process of developing a working prototype, Blakely came to understand that most of the hosiery industry was operated by men.
During an interview with Inc., Blakely even humored about her epiphany as to why pantyhoses were so uncomfortable until that point.
And then it dawned on me that maybe that's why our pantyhose had been so uncomfortable for so long because the people making them aren't wearing them
With her spirit resilient to the "no" tranquilizer, Blakely went and knocked at the doors of every hosiery mill she could find around North Carolina only to be turned down every time until one of her leads finally panned out and called her.
Apparently, the mill owner ran the idea by his daughters and they confirmed that the idea was actually brilliant and urged him to help Blakely develop the product. The rest is history.
And because Spanx could not rely on advertising to generate sales, it had to rely on bold red packaging. The girl from the fax-machine sales team came up with this idea 20 years ago and in 2019, Forbes recognized Blakely as the youngest self-made billionaire who was worth 1.1 billion dollars.
Sara Blakely Foundation is Doing its Part to Empower Women
Today, Sara is the first female billionaire to join the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Giving Pledge Foundation. As the founder of Sara Blakely Foundation, she pledges to invest a certain percent of Spanx profits into empowering women as she believes that women as a resource are waiting to be unleashed.
To date, the Sara Blakely Foundation has built homes for impoverished families, funded unable women to a college education, and donated $1 million to Oprah's Leadership Academy for girls in South Africa.
In my 20's and 30's, I felt a lot of pressure to get married. At every wedding (and there were lots of them), some nice lady would inevitably say, "hang in there, someone is going to figure out you're a good catch." The set-ups by friends, the sympathetic looks from couples as I dined alone, my biological clock ticking ... for women, it's a different kind of pressure! I met my husband at 35, got married at 37. Oh, and built my empire too. ðŸ’‹ðŸ‘ÂÂÂ#WorthTheWait #WomenEmpowerment #FollowYourDreams #BuildYourEmpire #YouGotThis