Lessons From Sara Blakely’s Success Story
Written by Sneha Agrawal
Sara says that, “I never dreamed that visible panty lines and uncomfortable thongs would inspire me to become an inventor”. Usually, dreamers and entrepreneurs have a passion in their heart for a particular idea. Sara Blakely was the one who had a knack for law degree and wanted to become a lawyer at first. She sat for LSAT and did not make through it. She never dreamed that after a few years, she would start her own brand, that too catering to one of her dreaded nightmares. She must have gone through a lot of thought change process in order to do what she did and achieve what she never imagined. Sara is now a proud owner of the famous undergarment brand SPANX, and is a young self-made billionaire with a net worth of $1.05 billion.
Sara started her career with Walt Disney World but soon shifted to sales with a company named Danka. She had the job of selling fax machine door-to-door and was quite successful at that. Soon, at the age of 25, she became national sales trainer at Danka. This was the time when she was supposed to wear pantyhose in hot climate, that to the one that showed seam lines at the foot area. She hated the fact that she was supposed to wear these uncomfortable pantyhose with open toed shoes. She hated those pantyhose, at that moment, so much that she cut them from the bottom. It obviously did not look that gracious, but that ignited an idea in Sara’s brain. She thought that she can reform these pantyhose and make it more stylish and comfortable. She thought she can make a great shape wear out of it. Sara then relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. and she worked there with Danka for two years. She saved $5000 out of her job and at kept developing on her idea of pantyhose meanwhile.
Success stories are never like a smooth sailing story, they are always full of road blocks and hurdles, and Sara’s story is no exception. Sara underwent a lot of troubles, especially because she never had any past experience in this field. All she had was her gut feeling, and she did rely on it heavily for all her decisions. Initially, Sara had to get patent rights for her idea and because of cash crunch she ended up writing her own patent, with the help of a law-book. She had to go to every hosiery mill and representative in North Carolina to sell her idea of pantyhose. She got rejection from every place except one who was forced by his two daughters to take Sara’s idea.
Blakely also found out a few loopholes that prevailed in this garment segment, at that point in time. She exploited those loopholes immensely and made her product shine. She introduced a lot of small but noticeable innovations, right from product packaging to the product brand name. She settled for the name SPANX because the name was funny and worth remembering. Because of lack of funds, Sara drove from store to store for one whole year and conduct SPANX rally to educate people on her product.
She made a lot of crazy decision, just because her gut said her to do it. Like this one, when she entered a reality show for three months, leaving SPANX behind. She met Richards Branson in that show, who later helped her out with her business and philanthropic goals.
Sara did SPANX for all those women who wanted comfort with style. She did lot many philanthropic works like donating $1 million to Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. She became the first woman billionaire to pledge half of her wealth for charity purposes, by joining Giving Pledge.
Sara is one among the rare who do not fear venturing into the unknown. One of her favorite give away to rest of the world is, “Don’t let what you don’t know scare you, because it can become your greatest asset.” And if you do things without knowing how they have always been done, you’re guaranteed to do them differently.
This article was originally published on inspiring nuggets in 2016