Sara Blakely is the youngest self-reliant female who transformed her life around with her concept of producing a new line of enhancing undergarments.
As the sole owner of her company ‘Spanx’ and once touched a net worth of more than a billion dollars, Sara Blakely also reached the yearly list of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
Early Life and Education of Sara Blakely
Sara Treleaven Blakely was born on February 27, 1971, in the Tampa suburb of Clearwater, Florida. Her mother Ellen was an artist, and her father, John, was an attorney. Her brother Ford is an artist. In 1989 she graduated from Clearwater High School.
She graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1993. While at FSU, Blakely was a part of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.
Sara intended to grow as a lawyer like her father, but her LSAT scores were too low to get into law school. Rather, she went to work at Walt Disney World for three months and served as a stand-up comedian in the evenings.
Career of Sara Blakely
There was nothing significant in her resume except a part-time job at the Walt Disney World. Later she accepted work at a local stationery company named ‘Danka‘. Apart from that, she also sold fax machines door-to-door.
Observing the weather in Florida, which is very hot and humid, Blakely was decided on a kind of pantyhose that did not have seamed toes and did not roll up the legs after being cut.
She determined to use all of her life’s savings of fifty thousand dollars and flew to Atlanta, where she coincided with many manufacturers in the hope of making a contract with them.
Turning Point of Sara Blakely Career
She met with Sam Kaplan, the owner of Highland Mills, who initially did not display any concern in Blakely’s idea. However, luckily he asked his two daughters whether they would be interested in such a product and like to buy it. Both of them said yes immediately, which directed to Kaplan’s support.
Thus Blakely’s order was eventually taken, and she made her first batch of pantyhose in August 2000.
Sara Blakely considered the name ‘Spanx’ herself as she believed it presented the perfect representation of the sort of products she wanted to market.
She not only created the logo herself on a friend’s computer, but she also trademarked it herself. ‘Spanx’ was started from her home in August 2000, a company that is now worth more than a billion dollars. The one-product wonder has now become the preference of millions, including almost all Hollywood actresses making ‘Spanx’ a billion-dollar powerhouse.
Up to date, its annual revenues reach 500 million dollars, with Blakely never having to take any external investment and any unique marketing strategies.
Sara Blakely established the Sara Blakely Foundation, which helps women in education matters and training them to be promising entrepreneurs. She also finances scholarships for young females in Africa at Community and Individual Development Association City Campus. Blakely made a television appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006 and contributed one million dollars to Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy.
She was a member of The Rebel Billionaire’ and a judge on the reality series ‘American Inventor.’ In January 2008, Sara Blakely went on Free Radio as a guest star. Sara Blakely’s creativity was a solution for millions of women’s issues worldwide. Her design was authentic, and with only 5000 dollars, she appealed to the masses because of her unusual and exceptional plan. She fulfilled her dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Sara Blakely Personal Life
Blakely is married to Jesse Itzler, who is the co-founder of Marquis Jet, in Boca Grande, Florida, in 2008. The couple met at a Net Jet Poker Tournament and dated for a year before getting married. Sara and Jesse have four children.
In 2005, Blakely was a participant in “The Rebel Billionaire.” She achieved second place and Richard Branson gave her a $750,000 check to begin her foundation. She started the Sara Blakely Foundation in 2006. The foundation supports women through learning and entrepreneurial training.
Blakely joined The Giving Pledge in 2013. She has been a guest judge on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
In 2015, Blakely and Itzler were part of the group led by Tony Ressler that got the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks for $850 million. In 2019, Blakely paid $162,500 for the black pants worn by Olivia Newton-John in “Grease.” Proceeds from the auction helped Newton-John’s cancer treatment center in Melbourne, Australia.
Sara Blakely Net Worth:
Sara Blakely, who is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, her a net worth is $610M as per October 2020 Forbes records. She is the founder of the very profitable shapewear brand Spanx. She is also a member of The Giving Pledge.
How Sara Blakely Reached Success:
Throughout history, inventors have discovered inspiration from the most unusual places. For Spanx founder and owner Sara Blakely, the influence came from VPL (visible panty lines) and uncomfortable thongs.
In 2012, Spanx founder Sara Blakely was honored by Forbes as the youngest self-made female billionaire.
When she finally tried out to be Goofy, Blakely was told she was “too short to wear the costume.” They made her a chipmunk instead, which she did not end up doing.
“The way Disney worked was that you had to stay where you were initially employed for a period of time before you were allowed to transfer positions,” she revealed.And so, Blakely continued to wear her brown polyester spacesuit and put people on Epcot rides.
Eventually, she got bored of working at Disney World and returned home to live with her mother.
Seven years of fax machines
Still, without much direction, Blakely accepted a job at a local company selling fax machines door-to-door. “It was the kind of place that would hire anyone with a pulse,” she said. “On my first day, they handed me a phone book and said, ‘Here are your four zip codes. Now get out there and sell.’ There was no list of accounts that were likely to buy from me. I had to 100 percent drum up my own leads.”
Blakely would wake up early and run around cold-calling from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. “Most doors were slammed in my face. I saw my business card ripped up at least once a week, and I even had a few police escorts out of buildings,” she recalls in an interview.
Blakely never gave into drowning in the suffering of her job, and it was not long before she learned resistance to the word “no.” At times, she even got her situation amusing. “During my fax-selling stint, I would spend much of my free time trying to figure out what I really wanted out of life and what my strengths were,” she remembered. “I knew I was good at selling and that I eventually wanted to be self-employed. I thought, Instead of fax machines, I’d love to sell something that I created and actually care about.“
Appreciations to Spanx
One day, something favorable happened to Blakely.
“In the hopes of looking better in my fitted white pants, I cut the feet out of a pair of pantyhose and substituted them for my underwear,” she said. “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!‘”
And with that came the beginning of Spanx, an unusual type of body shapewear: Light, soft, and invisible under clothes. Little did she comprehend it would end up becoming a multimillion-dollar company.
“I knew I was good at selling and that I eventually wanted to be self-employed.” said Sara Blakely
Blakely believes much of her achievement was because of her father, who supported his kids.
“We’d sit around the dinner table and he’d ask, ‘What did you guys fail at this week?’ If we had nothing to tell him, he’d be disappointed,” she said. “He knew that many people become paralyzed by the fear of failure. My father wanted us to try everything and feel free to push the envelope. His attitude taught me to define failure as not trying something I want to do instead of not achieving the right outcome.“
Behind every event of failure is an opportunity or teaching — or, as Blakely puts it, “a chance to build your character.” Spanx would not have survived if she did not fail the LSAT.
“Everybody has a multimillion-dollar idea inside them,” says Blakely. “Edison said, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.’ The same holds true for innovation, invention, and entrepreneurship” Blakely believes.
Successful Years of SPANX:
1998: Sara Blakely begins SPANX while selling fax machines with $5,000 in savings.
1999: Spanx’s first-year income exceeds $4,000,000.
1999: Blakely gets her product distributed to Neiman Marcus.
2000: Oprah honors SPANX as her favorite product of the year, and sales take off. Sales touched $10,000,000 in revenue.
2001: SPANX is featured on QVC and sells over 8,000 units in under six minutes.
2013: Sara Blakely becomes a billionaire.
- It took 14 years for Sara Blakely to become a billionaire. Success does not arrive overnight.
- Sara Blakely concentrated on the best position and partnerships for her product. Neiman Marcus approved her product and started the floodgates for success.
- Sara Blakely may have created influencer marketing when she sent Oprah a gift basket with a prototype and a note asking her to try on some SPANX.
Sara Blakely Advices to New Business Owner
- Differentiate yourself – why are you different?” Sara Blakely
- “It’s important to be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you become memorable.” Sara Blakely
- “Don’t solicit feedback on your product, idea or your business just for validation purposes. You want to tell the people who can help move your idea forward, but if you’re just looking to your friend, co-worker, husband or wife for validation, be careful. It can stop a lot of multimillion-dollar ideas in their tracks in the beginning.” Sara Blakely
- “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
Facts You Did Not Know About Sara Blakely
Here are some facts about Sara Blakely you like to know
1. She Was a Participant on ‘The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best’
This reality show was broadcasted on Fox and was based on Richard Branson estimating challenges for 16 billionaires to see who was best-suited to take over as president of Virgin. The show was in various country each episode. Sara Blakely got second in the competition, with Shawn Nelson winning the series.
2. She Was a Judge on ‘American Inventors’
Another television program in which Sara Blakely appeared was ‘American Inventors’. She was a judge on the show along with Peter Jones, Pat Croce, and George Foreman. This show starred inventors who were awarded money to enhance their invention and compete to win the grand finale prize.
3. She Personally Inquired Her Invention
When she first made models of her invention, she personally examined the products to ensure they fit for design and convenience. The first prototype was a set of pantyhose with the feet removed. She wore them under a pair of slacks to a party. She noticed that they frequently rolled up her leg. Despite this, this pair of pantyhose is still at the Spank headquarters.
4. She Wrote Her Own Patent
Blakely spent $5000 of her savings promoting her idea before she decided to get a patent. She tried to find a female patent lawyer in Georgia only to find that there were none. She got quotes from lawyers who trained in patents and found that it could cost up to $5000. Reluctant to spend this, she got a book about patents from Barnes & Noble and wrote her own patent.
5. She Failed the Law School Entrance Exam
Blakely attended Clearwater High School and then Florida State University, where she got a degree in communications. While at university, she was a member of the Delta Delta Delta organization. She had then intended to become an attorney. However, her Law School Admission Test score was very low, and she failed to win a place.
6. She Sold Photocopiers for Seven Years
After leaving university, she temporarily worked at Disney and also did a job as a stand-up comedian. She then got a job selling office supplies, such as fax machines and photocopiers. She was a successful salesperson and, by the age of 25, she was raised to a national sales trainer.
7. She Established the ‘Sara Blakely Foundation’
She established the Sara Blakely Foundation in 2006. This was something she had desired to do before she even established Spanx. It is a non-profit organization that supports women through entrepreneurial education and training. When Blakely played in ‘The Rebel Billionaire’, Richard Branson presented her a check for $750,000 to help begin the Sara Blakely Foundation.
8. She is a Minority Owner of the Atlanta Hawks
Although Blakely’s central business interest is Spanx, she is also a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks. This is a basketball team associated in Atlanta that plays in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Home games take place at the Philips Arena.
9. She is Married to Jessie Itzler
Sara Blakely has been married to Jessie Itzler since 2008. He is the co-founder of Marquis Jet. The couple celebrated their marriages at the Gasparilla Inn and Club in Boca Grande, Florida. Olivia Newton-John sang at the wedding, and Matt Damon was one of the guests.
10. She Has Four Children
Blakely and Itzler have four children together. Their first son, Lazer Blake, was born in 2009. In June 2014, Blakely gave birth to twin boys, Charlie and Lincoln. They then had a daughter named Tepper in 2016. From the beginning to today, Sara has never stopped working.
Her constant work ethic seems almost inhuman at times, but we believe this work ethic has served all of her achievements. She welcomes the reality that achieving fame is not going to be a walk in the park, and it is going to take time, sacrifice, and a never-ending race. It began from the advice that her dad gave her at a young age.
That persistence was directed to selling fax machines door to door for six years, being turned down by many manufacturers, using her apartment as a shipping warehouse, and it has not stopped there. She keeps her foot on the gas pedal and keeps driving Spanx forward. Sara Blakely is one of the inspirations for the women who are struggling in her career.