Sara Blakely (2014)
February 27, 1971 |
Clearwater, Florida, United States
|Alma mater||Florida State University|
|Known for||Founder and owner of Spanx
Minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks
|Net worth||US$1billion (September 2013)|
My dad encouraged us to fail. Growing up, he would ask us what we failed at that week. If we didn't have something, he would be disappointed. It changed my mindset at an early age that failure is not the outcome, failure is not trying. Don't be afraid to fail.
My saddlebags are why Spanx exist! Now that I have a baby I also have a muffin top.
What I most identify with is effortless fashion, looking as if someone's not put a lot of effort into their look.
I grew up in a house where my father encouraged my brother and me to fail. I specifically remember coming home and saying, 'Dad, Dad, I tried out for this or that and I was horrible,' and he would high-five me and say, 'Way to go.'
I'll mix a lot of things. I'll wear a Temperley dress with flip flops, or I might be in head-to-toe Gucci and have on a ring that I got from a gumball machine for 50 cents.
I have this system where if I buy three or four new things, I give away three or four things. Sometimes, it's a very painful system, but shopping is even better when you know that someone else who needs it will be getting. Keep the clothing karma going, I say.
Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' is my go-to song to pump myself up if I'm having a tough time or if I get really nervous right before a speech.
The word 'Spanx' was funny. It made people laugh. No one ever forgot it.
I didn't like the way it looked in white trousers, and I couldn't find anything to work underneath them.
I cut the feet off of a pair of panty hose and it allowed me to wear a pair of great strappy sandals. I didn't see lines but the hose rolled up at my feet – and that's how Spanx born.
I cut the feet out of my control top pantyhose to wear under these white pants and that was the ah-ha moment that started Spanx. My own butt was my own inspiration!
Don't be intimidated by what you don't know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.
I was trying to convince all these men to try to make a product that they didn't even wear! Or if they did wear them, they were not admitting it! There was the problem right there. No wonder their hosiery was so uncomfortable.
I'd never worked in fashion or retail. I just needed an undergarment that didn't exist.
In the next decade, I see Spanx going worldwide. Everywhere. No butt left behind. It's going to be all over the world and it's going to be an aspirational brand that transcends categories. There's so many things we can improve upon and make better.
It's important to be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you become memorable.
I took a Fear of Flying class, and I always missed the class, because I was always flying.
I started thinking about joy. Everything in our society is so purposeful. Let's bring joy back to the experience.
The thought of my mortality – I think about it a lot. I find it motivating. It can be any time that your number's up.
I've always leaned toward a feminine, funky style, even in business settings. I used to paint my nails blue in 1993, before it was mainstream.
I couldn't figure out what to wear under my clothes. The body shapers were too thick at the time.
When I'm bored or tired of being blonde, I'll throw on a wig. It's a lot less of a permanent way to change your look, and I have about 10 – all different colors, shapes, bobs, long hair, short, feathered.
I think very early on in life we all learn what we're good at and what we're not good at, and we stay where it's safe.
I think failure is nothing more than life's way of nudging you that you are off course. My attitude to failure is not attached to outcome, but in not trying. It is liberating. Most people attach failure to something not working out or how people perceive you. This way, it is about answering to yourself.
I got a call from the Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah had chosen Spanx as one of her favorite products in 2000. I had boxes of product in my apartment and I had two weeks notice that she was going to say she loved it on TV and I had no shipping department.
I'd get kicked out of buildings all day long, people would rip up my business card in my face. It's a humbling business to be in. But I knew I could sell and I knew I wanted to sell something I had created. I cut the feet out of those pantyhose and I knew I was on to something. This was it.
The thing about fashion – it's like ducks going quack, quack quack. It's being dictated from above, and it just makes me want to rebel against it.
When I was 7, I came up with the idea of 'charm socks.' My mom would take me to buy bags of plastic charms, we would sew them on frilly white socks, and I sold them at school.
Everything about my journey to get Spanx off the ground entailed me having to be a salesperson – from going to the hosiery mills to get a prototype made to calling Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. I had to position myself to get five minutes in the door with buyers.
When I cut the feet out of my pantyhose that one time, I saw it as my sign. I had been visualizing being self employed prior to this happening. It was my mental preparation meeting the opportunity in that moment.
I shopped for body shapers for the first time in my life and I was horrified. They were thick – it was like wearing workout clothes and they all had a leg band on one side that showed through the pants.
I've always had that gratitude that I had the opportunity to pursue my potential. So I think my story says that, when women are given the chance and the opportunity, that we can achieve a lot. We deliver. We can make the world a better place, one butt at a time.
We don't have the luxury of time. We spend more because of how we live, but it's important to be with our family and friends.
I'm just like so many women – I was frustrated, I had these white pants that I had spent a lot of money on, and you get home and you think, 'What am I really supposed to wear under this?' So it was a frustrated consumer moment.
Within the first year of launching my company, Spanx, I decided to go over to England and cold-call Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Selfridges the same way I had cold-called Neiman Marcus, Saks, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale's here in the United States.
I cut the feet out of control top pantyhose one night, threw them on under my white pants and realized that the toning and shaping was perfect and that the hosiery material is thin enough that I could make shape wear out of it.
Don't solicit feedback on your product, idea or your business just for validation purposes. You want to tell the people who can help move your idea forward, but if you're just looking to your friend, co-worker, husband or wife for validation, be careful. It can stop a lot of multimillion-dollar ideas in their tracks in the beginning.
I failed the LSAT. Basically, if I had not failed, I'd have been a lawyer and there would be no Spanx. I think failure is nothing more than life's way of nudging you that you are off course. My attitude to failure is not attached to outcome, but in not trying. It is liberating.
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.
I think my story says that, when women are given the chance and the opportunity, that we can achieve a lot. We deliver.
I always joke and say I want to invent a comfortable stiletto and then retire.
My training of cold-calling and everyone under the sun telling me no, and my keeping going, was a huge part of the first two years of Spanx.
My husband is such a healthy eater. Except when it comes to sweets. He never consumes anything except fruit until noon. And then from noon on he might have some brown rice and some tofu, and then, come eight or nine at night, he orders three mud-pie double-chocolate pieces of cake and eats all three of them.
I made a conscious decision not to tell anyone in my life. Now I tell people – don't tell anyone your idea until you have invested enough of yourself in it that you are not going to turn back. When a person has an idea at that conception moment it is the most vulnerable – one negative comment could knock you off course.
My first account was Neiman Marcus. I cold-called them just like I had cold-called businesses when I was selling fax machines for seven years.