Sara Blakely is the founder and owner of Spanx, Inc., a $1 billion company that revolutionized the undergarment industry and made Blakely, at 41, the world's youngest female billionaire.
Frustrated with VPL (visible panty lines) and uncomfortable thongs, Blakely invented footless pantyhose, using her $5,000 life-savings to develop and patent the product. In 2000, she founded Spanx and started cold-calling. Her first buy was from Neiman Marcus. Saks, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Macy's, and others quickly followed. Then, Spanx was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show as one of "Oprah's Favorite Things." Sales soared, reaching $4 million the first year, with one product. Today, Spanx has more than 200 products sold in over 11,500 stores — from Lord & Taylor to Target — in 50 countries and online, with annual net sales of over $250 million and a 20% profit margin. Now, Spanx is reshaping retail with its first company stores in the United States. Blakely has no investors and owns 100% of the company.
As a runner-up on Richard Branson's reality show, Rebel Billionaire, Blakely received $750,000 to pursue her dream of starting a foundation to empower women. Since launching the Sara Blakely Foundation in 2006, she has contributed over $17 million to causes that support women through the Foundation and Spanx, Inc.
"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." — Sara Blakely