One meeting with a Neiman Marcus buyer was the gateway to becoming a self-made billionaire for Sara Blakely. Her disruptive line, Spanx, changed the way women from all over the world would dress. It all started with a pair of white pants and a little bit of frustration that led Blakely to cutting off the bottom of her hosiery. Today, you will find Spanx at Macy’s, Nordstrom and even their own retail store. MillionaireMatch got the scoop on how Blakely created a brand for all women.
Blakely worked for a company selling fax machines. Her days were filled with cold calling and in-person appointments. Day after day it was the same. One day, she realized she was in the wrong “movie” and that this couldn’t be her life forever. Blakely, who is big on visualization, made a huge decision that day. She decided that she would create a product that would be for millions of people to use, and that she would wait for the universe to present that idea. “I like providing people with something they didn’t know they needed, and changing their life,” Blakely said in an interview. “I pay attention to what things haven’t evolved and why,” she added. After purchasing a book from Amazon on how to create your own patent, Blakely got to work. The first prototype was held together by duck tape and paper clips.
A trip to North Carolina to find a manufacturer seemed to be a door closed shut. Blakely pitched her idea of Spanx realizing that one of the challenges was that she was pitching to men. Everyone said ‘no’. Two weeks later, she received a call from a man named Sam Kaplan who was encouraged by his daughters to make Blakely’s “crazy idea”. She then found herself in a pitch meeting with a buyer for Neiman Marcus who couldn’t quite grasp the need for this product. Blakely took the buyer, a woman, into the bathroom and showed her exactly how Spanx works. She got the deal and Spanx was in stores everywhere.
In her journey, Blakely has a few key things she feels made her successful and can help other entrepreneurs. “You gotta differentiate yourself. I always ask myself how am I different? Why am I different?” There wasn’t a product quite like Spanx, and it took the world by storm. When asked, very quickly explain the problem and why you are the best option. Blakely also says, “Soon as you can afford to hire your weaknesses, do it.” Two of her first hires included Head of Public Relations and Head of Product. Even though both hires came with no experience for the job, Blakely had a gut feeling they could do it.
When excited about a new venture or business, you may want to tell everyone you know. Many would advise hanging onto the idea a little longer. “The reason I’m not still selling fax machines is because I didn’t tell anyone for a whole year,” Blakely said. You don’t want the doubt from family and friends to kill dream before you take solid steps. The infancy stage of an idea is delicate. Once you are solid on your idea, got a foot in the door and generating money there is still work to do. Neiman Marcus first put Spanx in the store, Blakely made it her job to educate the staff and anyone who would listen about her product. “I feel like if I didn’t go to the stores to make this happen on the ground level, then I feel like my product, as great as it is, would have been shipped to the store and shipped back to me,” she expressed. She traveled from store to store for two years making sure her product was known.
Hard work, consistency and dedication is what made Sara Blakely a self-made success. As she says, “Failure wasn’t the outcome. Failure was not trying.”