Sara Blakely is a American businesswoman, philanthropist, and founder of the popular apparel company known as Spanx. Having started the company with virtually nothing but a $5,000 initial investment, she managed to grow it into a household brand worth billions. So, considering Sara’s impressive accomplishments, we’ll be diving into how this billion dollar boss babe came to be in this Sara Blakely Success Story special.
Success leaves clues. Every success story contains a blueprint that others can learn and benefit from. It’s the reason we cover inspiring and accomplished leaders, icons, and entrepreneurs like Sara Blakely.
So, if you’re ready dig into her story to see what can be learned for the benefit of your own personal journey, then get started:
THE SARA BLAKELY STORY OF SUCCEESS
Sara Blakely was born in 1971 in Clearwater, Florida, and shared a relatively normal upbringing with her younger brother. Her father was an attorney, and her mother was an artist. And they both managed to successfully keep the family together until eventually separating when Sarah was 16 years of age.
Fortunately, during Sarah’s early upbringing, she was encouraged by her parents to explore her entrepreneurial interests. She would become known for her resourcefulness and opportunism; creating little side hustles like lemonade stands, baby-sitting, etc…
After graduating from her local public high school, Sarah attended Florida State University where she would ultimately graduate with a communications degree. Initially, she considered following in her father’s footsteps of becoming an attorney; however, after receiving dismal LSAT scores on test scores for entry into law school, she opted for another path.
As such she initially landed a job with Disney World that only last a few short months. Then, dabbled as a stand-up comedian for a while, but she would eventually find employment with a steady paycheck working for Danka, an office supply company.
Sarah would excel in sales with the company, and eventually became the company’s sales trainer. Part of her job was going door to door to sell fax-machines. And the hot southern climate would help give rise to Sarah’s unique idea.
Turning Problems Into Products
She enjoyed the firm look that panty hose offered her, but didn’t like the seams that stuck out on the foot when she would wear open-toe-sandals or shoes.
On top of this, as a frustrated consumer, she couldn’t find a product that would also allow for her to wear white pants to a party, and have nothing show underneath it (a.k.a. panty lines).
So, as a temporary fix, she cut off of the bottom of her panty hose in an attempt to solve the fashion problems she was experiencing herself.
She knew there wasn’t anything on the market that was solving the problem she was experiencing, and she was considering doing something about by creating the product herself. But she was hesitant at first, until she asked for a sign, and got one.
While watching an Oprah Winfrey episode, she heard Oprah say to her audience and her fans watching, how she’s been cutting of the ends of her panty hose for years now to get around the same problem Sarah was having.
As fate would have it, Sarah embraced Oprah’s admission as the sign she was asking for, and went all-in on her idea. Shortly after, she moved to Atlanta and took her $5,000 life savings and put it towards the creation of this new product that she, and so many other woman, including Oprah, needed.
Sara would spend the next two years researching, planning, and putting all the pieces together to bring this new product of hers to life. She researched hosiery patents, fabric types, and factories that would be on-board in helping her mass produce her products.
At first she met quite a bit of resistance to her idea. The owners of fabric factories weren’t keen on picking up her product for production. And even the patent officer she was working with thought that her idea was a dud, so much so that when Blakely brought the idea to him to be patented, he initially thought he was being set up to be pranked on candid camera.
But, regardless of the naysayers, Sarah kept moving forward on her great idea. After tons of hustle, late-nights, and dogged persistence, she eventually found a fabric factory that would work with her, she got her patent, and she found buyers in Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales’, and Sak’s to place her products for sale.
Sarah was in business and was profitable very quickly. In fact, in just her first year alone her product brought in over $4 million in revenue.
The Rest Is History
Sara’s product started to get noticed by women shoppers all over the country. And once Oprah named Spanx as one of her favorite products, Sarah finagled her a way on the Oprah’s stage for a show.
As soon as Sarah locked in her appearance on Oprah’s show, she went on to give her notice to her employer of 7 years, Danke. Sara had a hunch that her brand’s awareness and product sales would accelerate after her appearance, so she committed to her Spanx business full-time. As expected, the rest was history for Sarah Blakely and Spanx.
Sales exploded after the show, and Spanx would go on to keep growing and innovating, year after year, especially after competitors started circling in.
Just 12 years after her launch, Spanx was earning over $250 million in sales. But even more impressive, Sarah became a billionaire as well. Spanx now pulls in over $400 million in revenue per year, and has over 750 employees.
It wasn’t till recently, that Sarah sold her majority stake in the company to Blackstone. The good news is, she’s still a billionaire and one of the most highly successful business owner’s of the past two decades.
Accolades & Achievements
Here are just a few of Sara Blakely impressive accolades and achievements since launching her business:
- Named Youngest Female Self-made Billionaire by Forbes 2012.
- Named to Time’s Top 100 Influential Women.
- Attained 2nd place on reality T.V. Show ‘Rebel Billionaire’.
- Awarded $750,000 from Richard Branson for charity.
- Donated over $5,000,0000 for charities already
- Founded The Sarah Blakely Foundation.
- Committed to eventually donating half of her wealth to charity.
This list doesn’t cover everything, but it does highlight some of Sara’s biggest achievements over the past two decades.
Success Ethos | Sara Blakely Success Story
Sara Blakely’s story has illustrated a few key insights that everyone can benefit from . It’s obvious that Blakely has an innate knack for business, but, there a handful of important success characteristic’s that just about anyone can be mimicked to increase their chances of success. So, here they are:
Risk. Sara was willing to take calculated risks. She saw an opportunity, discovered, a solution, and then took the risk to test her idea in the market. Certainly, not everyone who takes risks like Blakeley will succeed. But you guarantee zero success for yourself by doing nothing.
Initiative. Once Sara committed to bringing her product to the market, she had to back it up with massive action. She hustled day and night to figure out the ins and outs of the product she was creating, how to protect it, how to manufacture it, and how to get people interested enough in the product to buy it. She didn’t let any of her shortcomings slow her down, by taking the initiative to figure out what needed to be done, and how to do the things that needed to get done.
“If you don’t let knowing how it’s done intimidate you, it’s amazing what you can do.” – Sara Blakely
Solution Oriented. As with most entrepreneurs who succeed, Sarah Blakely had a problem that she wanted to solve. And once she realized it was a problem that many other women were frustrated by as well, she pounced to provide the solution.
So, seek to solve problems because you never know when one of them will have a multi-million dollar price tag attached to it.
Related: Sara Blakely Success Quotes
There you have it, Sara Blakely’s story of success and achievement. We covered her past, how and why she came up with her billion dollar brand, and how she went about executing on the delivery of her product.
Here’s a quick recap with regards to Sara’s success. These are, in our estimation, the three success qualities you may want to emulate:
Willingness to Take Risks | Willingness to Take Initiative | Solution Oriented
That said, we hope you’ll take the insights and inspiration you’ve gathered from this success story, and use it to help you unleash your unique gifts into the world.
Till you discover what that is, and until you reach your aims,
PS – If you enjoyed this Sara Blakely story, then you may also enjoy this small collection of real life inspirational stories of success