Blakely at the 2013 Time 100 Gala
February 21, 1971 |
Clearwater, Florida, United States
|Alma mater||Florida State University|
|Known for||Founder of Spanx|
|Net worth||US$ 1 billion (September 2013)|
Sara Blakely (born February 21, 1971) is an American businesswoman and founder of Spanx, a multi-million dollar undergarment company. She is the world's youngest self-made female billionaire. In 2012, she was named in Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world assembled by Time.
Early life and education
Blakely was born on February 21, 1971, in Clearwater, Florida, the daughter of a trial attorney and an artist. She attended Clearwater High School and graduated from Florida State University with a degree in communications. She was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority. Her plan to become an attorney was altered after twice doing poorly on the LSAT and she instead took a job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida where she worked for three months. She also worked as a stand-up comedian from time to time.
After her short stint at Disney, Blakely accepted a job with Danka, an office supply company, where she sold fax machines door-to-door. She was quite successful in sales and was promoted to national sales trainer at the age of 25. Having been forced to wear pantyhose in the hot Florida climate, Blakeley disliked the appearance of the seamed foot while wearing open-toed shoes but liked the fact that the control-top eliminated panty lines and made the body appear firmer. She experimented by cutting off the feet of her pantyhose while wearing them under a new pair of slacks; unfortunately the experiment was not successful as the pantyhose continuously rolled up her legs (the original pants are now enshrined at Spanx headquarters).
At age 27, she moved to Atlanta, and while still working at Danka, spent the next two years and $5,000 she had set aside in her savings researching hosiery patents and visiting craft stores to find the right material for her product. Eventually coming upon a solution, she wrote her own patent from a Barnes & Noble textbook and incorporated her company under the name Spanx. Turned away by numerous mills who did not see the value of her idea, she eventually found a hosiery factory in Asheboro, North Carolina, which was willing to make her product. She successfully pitched her idea to Neiman-Marcus by personally taking the buyer to the ladies restroom to show her the benefits of Spanx in person. Bloomingdales, Saks, and Bergdorf Goodman soon followed. She handled all aspects of the business from marketing, logistics, and product positioning (preferring that Spanx be sold alongside shoes rather than in hosiery). In November 2000, Oprah Winfrey named Spanx her favorite product of the year and sales took off; soon after Blakely resigned from Danka. Spanx had $4 million in sales in its first year and $10 million in sales in its second year. In 2001, she signed a contract with QVC, the home shopping channel, where she sold 8,000 pairs in the first six minutes.
In 2005, Blakely came in second in as a contestant on The Rebel Billionaire, and she later starred as one of the judges on ABC's reality television series, American Inventor. She also guest-starred on Free Radio in January 2008.
Sara Blakely had been setting aside a portion of Spanx profits since the company started in 2000. In 2006, Blakely launched the Sara Blakely Foundation to help women through education and entrepreneurial training. Richard Branson was a guest and helped her celebrate the launch. Since its launch, The Sara Blakely Foundation has funded scholarships for young women at Community and Individual Development Association City Campus in South Africa. Blakely appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006 and donated $1 million to Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy. In 2013 Blakely joined the Giving Pledge, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s pledge for the world’s richest people to give at least half their wealth to charity. She is the first female billionaire to join.
In 2008, Blakely married former American rapper Jesse Itzler. The couple was married at the Gasparilla Inn and Club in Boca Grande, Florida. The wedding was attended by actor Matt Damon and featured a surprise performance by singer Olivia Newton-John. In 2009, they had a son.
- Forbes; The World's Billionaires – Sara Blakely September 2013
- Wes Moss (2 September 2008). Starting From Scratch: Secrets from 22 Ordinary People Who Made the Entrepreneurial Leap. Kaplan Publishing. pp. 77–86. ISBN 978-1-4277-9828-2. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
- Couric, Katie (18 April 2012). "The 100 Most Influential People in the World". Time. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- Daily Mail: "All Spanx to Sara: Meet Sara Blakely, the woman we have to thank for trimming our tums and boosting our bottoms" By Jane Mulkerrins April 6, 2013
- Forbes: "How Sara Blakely of Spanx Turned $5,000 into $1 billion" by Clare O'Connor March 14, 2012
- Sanders, Triston V. (September 1, 2007). "Behind the Seams". Tallahassee Magazine. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
- "Sara Blakely Dared To Ask, "Why Not?"". Inc.com. January 20, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
- ABC News: "Spanx Founder Reveals How to Build a Billion-Dollar Business" By MELIA PATRIA November 29, 2012
- Renee Martin; Don Martin (5 April 2011). The Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Share Their Entrepreneurial Strategies for Success. Vanguard. pp. 154–167. ISBN 978-1-59315-637-4. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
- Forbes:"Spanx Mogul Sara Blakely Becomes First Female Billionaire To Join Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge" by Clare O'Connor may 7, 2013
- Eldredge, Richard L. (July 30, 2008). "Spanx CEO books resort for wedding". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Atlanta Weddings (Atlanta Magazine): Spanx inventor Sarah Blakely on her wedding day" by Vikki Locke October 18, 2008
- Eldredge, Richard L. (October 20, 2008). "Entrepreneurs get married over weekend". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- People.com: "Caught in the Act!" October 23, 2008
- The Observer (London): "Sara Blakely: a woman with a great grasp of figures" by Zoe Wood March 10, 2012