Sara Blakely, founder of SPANX, turned a simple idea into a revolutionary brand by learning from her failures.
Born in 1971, Blakely lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and four kids. According to Forbes, Blakely has amassed a net worth of $1 billion. But success didn’t come easy.
Learning from Mistakes
Today, she’s known as one of most powerful business women in the world. SPANX, the brand she created on her own, is a hugely successful line of shapewear.
But long before she tasted success, Blakely faced a lot of failure. She failed the LSAT for admission to law school — twice! After that she tried to get a job at Disney World, trying out and failing to get a job playing Goofy at the world-famous theme park.
Setbacks continued and she spent the next seven years selling fax machines.
But the life lessons she received from her father helped her embrace her failures. In an interview with CNBC, she said, “My dad growing up encouraged me and my brother to fail. The gift he was giving me is that failure is (when you are) not trying versus the outcome. It’s really allowed me to be much freer in trying things and spreading my wings in life.”
Necessity Leads to Innovation
Inspiration for the SPANX brand came from Blakely’s own experience. On a hot summer day when she couldn’t find any suitable undergarment to wear under her white trousers, she cut the feet off a pair of panty hose.
Soon she realized her take on the footless panty hose could solve a problem for millions of women.
Using a show rather than tell approach, she started selling her product at department stores herself. The idea clicked and the rest is history.
For small businesses, Blakely is a great example of a sharp entrepreneur who drew from her own experience to create something simple yet innovative.