- Creative Solution-izer
Sara Blakely turned a problem into a solution; she went from being a salesperson for a fax machine distributor to being the world’s youngest self-made BILLIONaire. In her mid-20’s, while working in hot and humid Florida, she was annoyed at having to wear pantyhose under her professional clothing, especially with toeless shoes. One morning she cut the feet off a pair of pantyhose to be more comfortable, and voila, the idea for Spanx was born.
She used a textbook inside a bookstore to learn how to patent her product, designed her logo on a home computer, and read books on marketing. At age 27 she used her $5000 savings to set up production and distribution, which took about two years. At age 29, the first year her Spanx business was in operation, she had $4 million in sales; the second year, she had $10 million in sales. Despite having problems getting initial outlets, Spanx undergarments were a hit from the start. Of course skilled execution of a business idea is important, but surely this is one of those new product ideas that probably thousands of people had but only one brought to market.
Her advice to people with dreams? “Believe in your idea, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to fail. It took me two years from the time I had the idea for Spanx until the time I had a product in hand ready to sell into stores. I must have heard the word “no” a thousand times. If you believe in your idea 100%, don’t let anyone stop you! Not being afraid to fail is a key part of the success of Spanx.” In other words, her secret to success is to go through failure!
Not only can you admire her for turning a frustration with pantyhose into her own billion-dollar business, you can like her as a person for how she encourages other people to follow their dreams and helps other hopeful entrepreneurs (she created the Sara Blakely Foundation to teach skills to entrepreneurial women.)