Sara Blakely

Sara Blakely is the founder of Spanx. She is one of TIME'S 100 Most Influential People and the 91st Most Powerful Women on the 2015 Forbes list. At the age of 50, she has a net worth of about $1.2 billion, as of January 2022. A self-made entrepreneur, her mantra of business revolves around 3 main principles: belief, do and show. For her, it was imperative to believe in herself, and it is a universal fact that people with novel ideas rarely have anyone else to believe in them and so it becomes their duty to believe in themselves. 

The world doesn’t remember her as a failed law aspirant or a greenhorn stand up comic. For as long as Blakely could remember, she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a trial attorney. She debated in high school and continued in college, where she also majored in legal communications. Eventually, when the time came for Blakely to take the LSAT, she bombed. Devastated yet determined, she signed up for an LSAT prep course, studied her “a-- off” (in her own words), took the test again...and then did one point worse. The struggle is almost always forgotten by the overarching canopy of great success. Sara Blakely’s idea, which would later revolutionize the fashion industry entirely, had a very humble beginning. 

Like most entrepreneurial experiments, her idea began with the discomfort of the current trend in clothing, specifically of hosiery. She sold fax machines door-to-door and had saved up her money to buy an expensive pair of white pants. She wanted a seamless look under said pants so she put on a pair of pantyhose and cut the feet off. That was the 'a-ha' moment of her expedition and she could quickly tell this should be made available for all women. And like most entrepreneurial experiments, initially, it was frowned upon by the industry until one person decided to support it. At 27, she moved to Georgia, Atlanta, and soon, she presented her idea in the hosiery mills of North Carolina. She couldn’t get a positive response there. But one person, influenced by their daughter's opinion, finally supported “Spanx”. Little did they know, at the time, that this would become one of the leading manufacturers of garments in the entire United States.  This was because of her belief that the idea worked.

It's also important to do your homework! It is imperative to be aware of what’s happening around you. Entrepreneurship is not a magic trick, there are no spells to cast. It is plain and simple “Do your goddamn job”. And lastly, show. Your product should be appealing. In her words “The word 'Spanx' was funny. It made people laugh. No one ever forgot it”. As the American TV show Mad Men once put it, “Everybody else’s tobacco is poisonous. Lucky Stride’s...is toasted”. Authenticity is still one of the major factors espoused in Blakely's business. It all begins with a simple and plain idea that's so evident, so insightful and is screaming in your face to be implemented. 

Since the beginning, Sara has said that her greatest mission in creating Spanx, put simply, is to elevate the status of women. But whether her garments, themselves, uplift anything more than butt cheeks and back fat is a matter of debate. Though touted by the likes of Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow, detractors have dubbed her shapewear a modern-day girdle, a vestige of a patriarchal demand that women conform to a particular, ideal shape. But Blakely brushes any such criticism aside, stating her mission was for her clothes to make women feel comfortable and confident.

Her best advice to anyone out there is to “learn to fail”. She stated, “Growing up, my dad would always encourage me to fail. He used to ask me and my brother growing up at the dinner table what we had failed at this week. If I came home and said, 'Dad, I tried out for this and I failed', he would high-five me. All he was doing was reframing my definition of failure growing up. He did the same thing for my brother and now we’re both business owners and we’re both inventors."

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