Sara Blakely – The SPANX Wonderwoman

Sara Blakely is the one who saved all women.  She is the one who invented ‘Spanx’, which became the eponym for the perfect female slimming undergarment. She randomly designed SPANX by cutting the feet off a pantyhose to wear an undetectable garment under her jeans. Blakely realised that this would be a blessing for not just her but all women. 

The Story of Sara Blakely

For Sara Blakely, her journey started when she was just 25 years of age she was selling fax machines door to door. She realised that living with her mother and being pushed out of office complexes is not supposed to be her life story. Blakely listed her strengths and realised she has a talent for sales. That day, Blakely wrote in her journal that she needs to invent a product and sell it to millions of people and make their lives easier and better. Two years later, we had SPANX.

She started this from her apartment in the year 2000 after researching for two years. She wrote the patent herself and researched for the correct yarns and made hundreds of prototypes before launching SPANX. Blakely invested $5000 from her own savings and earned one hundred million dollars by 2006 from retail. This body shaping solution was her ticket to her billion dollar legacy. 

In the beginning, all departments were managed all by herself be it marketing, logistics or product positioning. When the manufacturers did not respond to her on calls, Blakely drove to their offices in North Carolina. When she had no one to manage her marketing and sales, she used to visit stores and model the products herself. 

Embracing Failure at SPANX

As a child, Blakely was taught to embrace failure. Every night, her father asked her what she failed at, and if she did not have anything he would be disappointed. This manifested the courage inside her to try new things which she realised later in her entrepreneurial journey. 

She has dealt with the fear of failure at SPANX by incorporating something called the ‘Oops Meetings.’ They celebrate failure by attaching different songs to the particular mistake or the oops they made. These meetings help her and her team to go beyond their failures and come up with solutions. Moreover, Blakely goes to people and asks them: how would you do this job if nobody had taught you to do it? Basically, she gets people in her company off of their ‘auto – pilot’ modes. To create significant change and to have potential breakthroughs, Blakely deems it absolutely necessary to turn off ‘auto – pilot’ mode even for herself. 

Sara Blakely’s Rules for Success

Evan Carmichael has combined Blakely’s rules of success from her speeches and interviews. Sara Blakely was able to make $4 million dollars in sales in the first year by staying true to her story. Here is what she has to say when it comes to success: 

BOSTON, MA – DECEMBER 08: Spanx founder Sara Blakely speaks onstage during the Massachusetts Conference for Women at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center on December 8, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women)

1- Trust your gut

It  is significant to realise your potential and have faith in the idea you have drafted. Blakey says it is necessary to believe in yourself and then be prepared for the opportunities coming your way. 

2- Differentiate yourself

The simple exercise prescribed by Blakely is to explain why your product is better than everything else in 30 seconds. Basically, be able to describe the need and benefits of your product. 

3- Embrace failure

She wanted to become a lawyer and failed the LSATS. Blakely describes failure as “Life’s way of nudging you and letting you know you are a little bit off course. If she had not failed, there would be no SPANX. 

4- Visualize

Elaborate what success is for you. How much do you want to be able to earn? Where do you see yourself living? What is your definition of success? She says her snapshot of success was to be self employed, be an inventor and create a business which could be funded without her presence. 

5- Be honest

Make your story your strength. A lot of companies try to present themselves bigger than reality. Blakely chose the other way and was always proud to be the girl with the red bag from a small apartment. 

6-  Embrace not knowing

Be disruptive in your operations. If you do not know how to run something, do not back off. Instead Blakely says it is better to embrace your lack of information and let your mind guide you. 

7- Write down your goals

Blakely follows a Harvard study here which stated that the graduates who had written their goals down had more worth financially twenty years later than the ones who had not. She has always listed down her goals and we can say it definitely worked out for her. 

8- Hire your weaknesses

Hire as soon as you can afford it. Delegate the tasks you do not enjoy doing and let them fill in your weaknesses while you work on your strengths. 

9- Think outside of the box

She said, “the way it’s always been done is not necessarily the way it should be done.” For instance, people ask her how she got her products in the top stores? Blakely simply called the stores while the known practice in the industry was to attend trade shows to attract brands. 

10- Think big

Her motto is – “No butt left behind.” SPANX went into designing products for men and even selling worldwide. So, never limit yourself and go beyond your imagination!

The life story of this entrepreneur is nothing less than an inspiration for all of us who think of ideas daily but are afraid to act on them. So, believe in yourself and let your gut derive you. Maybe the next billionaire amongst us.

Sakina Nayani