Sara Blakely, the founder and creator of Spanx, a popular shape wear brand, at the age of 41 is the youngest woman to make the Forbes billionaire list without the assistance of a husband or an inheritance. Spanx is a product that emerged in 2000 when Blakely grew tired of wearing bulky body shapers and turned the control top portion of pantyhose into something she could wear comfortably under sheer clothes. Today, the company doesn’t even need to advertise, as every A-list celebrity swears Spanx is a must-have accessory on the red carpet.
Sara’s story is a true American entrepreneurial fairytale. A young woman, tired of the corporate rat race, after failing the law school entrance exam, invents a product that takes off and makes her a billionaire. Sara decided she needed something to wear under clothes that otherwise didn’t exist in the marketplace. She cut the feet off some pantyhose, invested an initial $5,000, and took her product around to manufacturers until she found one that would make the product the way she wanted. After self-financing for years, and shipping samples to Oprah’s stylist, she now sells in 11,500 stores worldwide. When Harpo Productions called to tell her that Oprah was going to tell her audience about Spanx, Sara didn’t even have a website up yet.
Today Blakely owns 100% of the company she founded, and it is worth an estimated $1,000,000,000. For the first time in 12 years, Sarah is considering taking the company public in order to secure capital for international growth. She, like many company founders, was initially against the idea of bringing in outside investors. Of course, very few can get to $1 billion without outside capital. Wonder what would have happened if I had failed the LSAT?