$5K to Unicorn-Spanx’s Sarah Blakely
From $5000 to Unicorn- Spanx lady Sara Blakely serves as an inspiration to entrepreneur minds. Not only for women but also for men. She is the youngest self-made woman who turned her business from $5000 into a unicorn.
Sarah Blakely, a mother of four, is an American businesswoman and philanthropist. Sarah is the founder and owner of Spanx, based in Georgia, which sells its products in more than 50 countries. The most inspiring thing about her is that she didn’t grow her company in the usual way with VC Backer and co-founders, and she did everything on her own.
She is a woman who lives with the dream of paving the way for the success of other women. She is also making a mark by doing a lot of philanthropic work.
In 2012, Blakely was listed in Times Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. In 2014, she was named by Forbes as the 93rd most powerful woman globally.
On February 27, 1971, Sarah Blakely was born in Clearwater, Florida. She was raised by her artist mother, Ellan, and trial attorney John Blakely. Her brother Ford is also an artist. Of course, the artistic germs are in her family’s blood.
She graduated from Clearwater High School in 1989 and then earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida State University. During her university days, she was also a member of Delta Delta Delta Sovereignty. She wanted to be a lawyer and took the LSAT exam twice but failed.
Sarah Blakely’s Career and her journey
She wanted to be a lawyer but couldn’t because she was destined for something much bigger than she had dreamed of. Initially, her resume was nothing more than a part-time job at Walt Disney World. Later, she worked for Danka’s office supply company, where she had to work as a salesperson and sold home fax machines.
She was pretty successful as a salesperson and ranked up to national sales coach at 25. The pants she had to wear during this period as a salesperson, she disliked their appearance and level of comfort. Then she came up with the idea of shapewear garments and made a splendid entry into the business world. She founded a brand called Spanx, which makes comfortable women’s undergarments, leggings, swimwear, and maternity wear.
From $5000 to Unicorn-Spanx Lady Sarah Blakely
Sarah believes in working quietly, but the only noise she wants to be heard is her success. While still working at Danka, she worked day and night and saved 5000$. Spanx started as a one-woman show. She worked hard and spent days and nights searching for the fabric’s type, pattern, and design. Blakely used her 5,000$ savings to market her invention. Blakely then moved to North Carolina, where most American textile factories are located. Initially, many rejected her ideas, but then she finally found a factory that was willing to support Blakely’s concept.
Blakely initially handled all business issues herself, including product designing, marketing, logistics, and product positioning. She chose retail stores instead of department stores for the Spanx location.
Another unique point of Blakley’s successful journey was that she did not invest in advertising. Instead, she traveled all over the United States, meeting with the board of stores such as Neiman Marcus. As a regular PR package, she sent a basket of products to Oprah Winfrey’s TV show with a gift card stating what she was trying to make.
Winfrey’s mention of Sarah’s product gave a hit to her business. The year 2000 was a turning point for her business. It was a big kick for Spanx when Winfrey called Spanx her “favorite” and featured Spanx in her TV show. Spanx earned $4 million from sales in the first year and $10 million in the second. This growth never stopped and continued to grow.
Blakely’s company has zero debt and owns 100% owns her company. This 41-year-old youngest billionaire woman never spent a nickel on advertising and outside investment or any help from her husband or an inheritance.
Spanx founder Sara has also been involved in the professional basketball business. Blakley was the minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks, a professional basketball team based in Atlanta. In 2015, Blakely and her husband, Jesse Itzler, were part of a group led by Tony Wrestler, which acquired the Atlanta Hawks for $850 million.
Blakeley’s deal with Blackstone
Blakely kept Spanx close for years and refused to accept any external funding. But by the end of 2021, Blakely has agreed to sell a majority stake in Shapeware company to Blackstone. Firm Blackstone bought most of Blakely in Spinx for 1.2 billion, including Blakely’s other assets, including a small stake in the NBA Atlanta Hawks. The sales of shapewear dropped in 2020 because of the pandemic.
According to market research firm NPD Group, shapewear sales fell 24% year-over-year in July 2020.
But after selling the majority of Spanx to Blackstone, winner Blakely is once again a billionaire. Spanx lady is now the executive chairperson of the company, and she still has the same passion for Spanx. Sarah penned her feelings for Spanx on Instagram.
Sara Blakley is that rare breed of human who gives her wings to others to fly. She has the instinct to help others, especially women. In 2006, Blakely started the Sara Blakely Foundation to help women through education and enterprising training.
The Sarah Buckley Foundation has provided scholarships for young women at the Community and Individual Development Association City Campus in South Africa. She also donated $1 million to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in 2006.
She has the one more honor of being part of the “Giving Pledge,” a pledge by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, in which the world’s wealthiest people donate at least half of their wealth to charity. In 2020, during the disastrous covid time, she pledged to give $5,000,000 to support female-run small businesses.
Spanx lady is an inspiration and motivation to many women who have big dreams inside them. This world needs more women like Sara Blakley.
Authored by Afsheen Khan
Edited by Yara Fakhoury
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