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Sara Blakely: Undergarment Royalty

Do you ever wish you could come up with an ingenious idea and make millions? Most everybody does at some point, but we tend to tell ourselves that it can’t or won’t happen. The truth is, however, that it can. As rare as it may seem, it really does happen. Florida State University (FSU) alumnus Sara Blakely is proof of that.

It’s no question that inventions often come from the weirdest places, but who would have thought that visible panty lines and uncomfortable thongs would provide someone with inspiration—especially Blakely, who spent her time at FSU enjoying the Tri-Delta sisterhood while studying to be a lawyer.

The Beginning

Blakely had a pair of white pants that she was immensely frustrated with. She could not figure out what undergarment to wear with them that would help the pants lie smooth, and she didn’t figure it out until she was getting ready for a party two years later. Her quick fix: she cut the feet off of her control top panty hose. Voilá! That is how she started a billion dollar company.

The Challenges

By the time graduation rolled around for her at FSU, Blakely had not taken a single business course, something that she says made the already challenging process of creating a business even more so.

“Working as a sales trainer by day and performing stand-up comedy at night (after graduation), I didn’t know the first thing about the pantyhose industry except that I dreaded wearing most pantyhose,” says Blakely. “Also, I had never taken a business class which made the process even more challenging. As a result, I had only one source to operate from…my gut.”

And what great gut instinct she has!

The Success

After she obtained a patent and trademarked the name Spanx, Blakely was rejected countless times. That is until two daughters convinced their dad that the idea of Spanx wasn’t so crazy after all. With a perfected and comfortable prototype, Blakely traveled to Dallas to meet with the buyer for Neiman Marcus where a personal demonstration (in the bathroom) of the product landed it in stores. Soon Saks, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom were carrying Spanx, too. Blakely self-advertised and now her company is worth billions.

“Nearly six years after starting Spanx, I was still pinching myself when I thought about how far we had come!” says Blakely. “Spanx has become a Hollywood secret and a red-carpet must for celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow to Oprah. We are still a small company of women, obsessed with inventing and improving comfortable undergarments.”

The Spanx brand now has more than 100 styles, and you can also find Blakely’s Assets brand in Target stores, which is a line that was made to give undergarment choices to women everywhere.

Her success allows her endless possibilities of fun, but she particularly enjoys wearing wigs! When she is bored of being blonde, she chooses to wear one of her 10 wigs (all different colors and styles). The fun hobby came about when she wanted to dye her hair black, and her mom suggested wigs!

The Point

People interested in entrepreneurship are often told that they have to be willing to take big risks. They’re not lying. Spanx was possible because Blakely invested her $5,000 savings into a fledgling idea that she believed in. It really paid off. In March of 2012, Sara Blakely was named the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire by Forbes magazine, and she was featured as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. Your fellow Nole did it, and you can, too!

To find out more about Sara Blakely and Spanx, visit www.spanx.com



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