Founder & CEO of SPANX, Innovative Entrepreneur, Women Empowerment Speaker, and Philanthropist
Sara Blakely wanted footless bodyshaping pantyhose to wear with her cream-colored pants and open-toed shoes, but she couldn’t find them anywhere. Frustrated consumer turned entrepreneur, Sara took $5,000 in savings and began her adventure in the $2 billion male-dominated hosiery industry.
Two years later, with her first pair of patented footless pantyhose in hand, Blakely cold-called and landed the top retail stores across the country. Selling over 50,000 pair in its first three months from the back of her apartment, Sara Blakely’s SPANX revitalized an industry in a 10-year slump. Her SPANX footless pantyhose even captured the attention of Oprah and landed on Oprah’s “Favorite Things” list.
Obsessed with creating comfortable, slimming garments that minimizes figure flaws, Sara reinvented shapewear with innovative designs and smart features and won the hearts of fashion-loving women, from Oprah Winfrey to Gwyneth Paltrow. Spanx has developed and launched more than 60 styles – with names like Bra-llelujah, Two Timin’ Tights, Power Panties, Slim-Cognito, and Topless Socks – all designed to be innovative, comfortable, slimming, and stylish.
Remaining self-funded and profitable ever since Blakely used her own savings to start the company, Spanx continues to show increasing profits, celebrating more than $100 million in retail sales in 2006. Spanx are sold in America’s finest upscale stores and boutiques in the U.S., including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Parisian, as well as upscale boutiques and retailers in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
If you haven’t seen Sara Blakely flashing her SPANX on QVC, you may have seen her jumping off of a cliff or sharing tea with Richard Branson 10,000 feet in the sky. Sara appeared weekly on Fox, setting daring world-records, meeting Nelson Mandela, and leading successful business challenges as a cast member on The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best. As the first runner-up on the show, Sara received a $750,000 check from Branson to pursue her dream to start a foundation to empower women.
As the leader of the shapewear revolution, Sara wanted to find a way to share her slimming secrets with even more women, and that’s when Target came knocking. With the launch of ASSETS by Sara Blakely, a new brand exclusive to Target, the shapewear revolution will reach new heights. Sara is thrilled to give better underwear options to women everywhere – and to give back. A portion of each ASSETS purchase will go to The Sara Blakely Foundation, which is dedicated to empowering and supporting women around the world.
Sara’s story and Spanx products have been featured on everything from The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, Forbes, E!, and Glamour – to Vogue, People, InStyle, New York Times, Vanity Fair, WWD and USA Today. Sara has been named Ernst & Young’s Southeast Regional Entrepreneur of the Year and Georgia’s “Woman of the Year.”
The Giving Pledge
Sara is the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire. As the old adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility. She relishes in the opportunity to impact others through her philanthropic work as well as her speaking engagements. Sara believes it is her calling to help women and the next generation of entrepreneurs. She also uses her influence to make the world a better place. In 2013, she became the first woman to sign The Giving Pledge.
Outside of Spanx, Sara is also part owner of the Atlanta Hawks. She has made appearances on several TV shows including as an investor on Shark Tank and later as a judge on ABC’s reality show American Inventor. She is married to Marquis Jet co-founder Jesse Itzler and they have 4 children. Sara and Jesse often make speaking appearances together to discuss business and lifestyle topics. Sara is a native of Clearwater, Florida, and a graduate of Florida State University.
Finding Your Leg Up: Inventing the Career of Your Dreams
Sara Blakely, Spanx founder, shares with audiences several key concepts she believes helped her company become what it is today—market leader with $400 million in annual sales. Blakely talks about how failure comes from staying in your comfort zone rather than stretching yourself. She also talks about how not knowing your marketplace or even the product you are developing can have its positives. She knew nothing about patenting a product, manufacturing, marketing or product development. But she pursued her idea, researched and learned what she needed to know, hired others who knew what else she needed to know, and was committed to her mission. Blakely says that just like you shouldn’t take “no” for an answer from anyone else, you shouldn’t take “no” for an answer from yourself. Her inspiring story concludes with motivation for those with big dreams: “Believe in your idea, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to fail.”
Frustrated Consumer Turned Entrepreneur: Revolutionizing an Industry
Sara Blakely is the founder and CEO of SPANX, Inc. The dynamic women’s brand has revolutionized an industry and changed the way women around the world get dressed. Spanx is known for inventing smarter, more comfortable, must- haves for women including bras, leggings, activewear, undies, Arm Tights™, and of course their famous shapewear which creates the perfect, smooth canvas under clothes! Sara was selected as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world and has been featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine. In this fireside chat, Sara will talk about her story turning her $5,000 USD life savings into a company that disrupted a $2 billion industry.