Travels from Georgia, USA
Sara Blakely's speaking fee falls within range: $0 to $75,000
Starting out with just $5000 in savings, Sara Blakely, entrepreneur and designer, is now one of the most famous names in the 2 billion-dollar hosiery industry, an arena traditionally dominated by men. Her adventure began when she found that she could not find slimming footless pantyhose to wear with open toed shoes. This lack resulted in her inventing SPANX, now one of the most famous names in the industry. In her first three months of operation, Sara sold 50,000 pairs of SPANX while working from her apartment. SPANX are now available in more than 60 styles and are worn by everyone from Oprah Winfrey (who put them on her “Favorite Things” list) to Kim Kardashian.
Never having taken any further funding beyond her own initial $5000, SPANX now enjoys over $100 million of retail sales every year and are found in the finest boutiques in America, such as Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Parisian, and around the world.
Sara appeared weekly on Fox TV as a cast member on The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best. On the show she undertook daredevil world record attempts, met Nelson Mandela and led a number of successful business challenges. Finishing the show as first runner-up, she received a $750,000 check to help her launch the Sara Blakely Foundation, which exists to empower and support women worldwide. Further funding for the Foundation comes from the sale of ASSETS, a brand Sara created exclusively for Target to ensure that her slimming products are available for women everywhere. Sara also supports other charities, having made a $1 million donation to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.
The amazing story of SPANX and Sara has caught the imagination of the media; she has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, Forbes, E! and Glamour, and been featured in Vogue, People, InStyle, New York Times, Vanity Fair and USA Today, amongst many others. She has been named Ernst & Young’s Southeast Regional Entrepreneur of the Year and Georgia’s “Woman of the Year.”
Creator and Founder of Spanx
Sara Blakely wanted footless bodyshaping pantyhose to wear with her cream-colored pants and open-toed shoes, but she couldn′t find them anywhere. Frustrated consumer turned entrepreneur, Sara took $5,000 in savings and began her adventure in the $2 billion male-dominated hosiery industry.
Two years later, with her first pair of patented footless pantyhose in hand, Blakely cold-called and landed the top retail stores across the country. Selling over 50,000 pair in its first three months from the back of her apartment, Sara Blakely’s SPANX revitalized an industry in a 10-year slump. Her SPANX footless pantyhose even captured the attention of Oprah and landed on Oprah’s “Favorite Things” list.
Obsessed with creating comfortable, slimming garments that minimizes figure flaws, Sara reinvented shapewear with innovative designs and smart features and won the hearts of fashion-loving women, from Oprah Winfrey to Gwyneth Paltrow. Spanx has developed and launched more than 60 styles – with names like Bra-llelujah, Two Timin’ Tights, Power Panties, Slim-Cognito, and Topless Socks – all designed to be innovative, comfortable, slimming, and stylish.
Remaining self-funded and profitable ever since Blakely used her own savings to start the company, Spanx continues to show increasing profits, celebrating more than $100 million in retail sales in 2006. Spanx are sold in America’s finest upscale stores and boutiques in the U.S., including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Parisian, as well as upscale boutiques and retailers in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
If you haven’t seen Sara Blakely flashing her SPANX on QVC, you may have seen her jumping off of a cliff or sharing tea with Richard Branson 10,000 feet in the sky. Sara appeared weekly on Fox, setting daring world-records, meeting Nelson Mandela, and leading successful business challenges as a cast member on The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best. As the first runner-up on the show, Sara received a $750,000 check from Branson to pursue her dream to start a foundation to empower women.
As the leader of the shapewear revolution, Sara wanted to find a way to share her slimming secrets with even more women, and that’s when Target came knocking. With the launch of ASSETS by Sara Blakely, a new brand exclusive to Target, the shapewear revolution will reach new heights. Sara is thrilled to give better underwear options to women everywhere – and to give back. A portion of each ASSETS purchase will go to The Sara Blakely Foundation, which is dedicated to empowering and supporting women around the world.
In February 2007, Sara donated $1 million to The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.
Sara’s story and Spanx products have been featured on everything from The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, Forbes, E!, and Glamour – to Vogue, People, InStyle, New York Times, Vanity Fair, WWD and USA Today. Sara has been named Ernst & Young’s Southeast Regional Entrepreneur of the Year and Georgia’s “Woman of the Year.” Sara is a native of Clearwater, Florida, and a graduate of Florida State University.
Sara Blakely tells the story of her amazing success with her product SPANX. She not only explains the process that led her to invent the product, but shares some of her marketing ideas and secrets with her audience. She says, “I knew that if I got that shelf space I needed to make it stand out, to say I'm here, I'm new, pick me out. I had no money to advertise, so I chose red, which was extremely unconventional, nobody had ever used red in the hosiery or shapewear space, and I did something nobody else ever done either, I put three cartoon looking women on the box… I wanted it to feel like kind of a present to myself."
Remembering her early days of success, she says, “I literally ran the business out of my apartment for a year and a half, and of course after a few months the next thing I decided to do was I said, I'm going to Europe. So I grab my lucky red backpack, get on the plane, I made cold calls to Harrods, Harvey Nicks and Selfridge's, I got to be on the BBC and the guy who was interviewing me said tell us what SPANX can do for women in the UK. So I said, it's all about the fanny, it smooths the fanny, it lifts and separates the fanny… and all the color went out of his face. I didn't realize that in England fanny means vagina…"
Detailing the incredible progress the company has made, she says, “We've gone from 1 to over 100 employees, from a single footless pantyhose we're in swim, in bras that are amazing–they're called Brallejulah, they're amazing–we've done so many amazing things with SPANX, it's exceeded my wildest dreams."
Sara Blakely knows what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur, having taken her $5000 investment and leveraged it into a company turning over hundreds of millions of dollars every year. She can speak to you of the hurdles involved in starting your own business, the challenges facing women in a male dominated business world, entrepreneurship, fashion and public relations.
Suggested Speaking Topics:
Finding Your Leg Up: Inventing the Career of your Dreams
Sara Blakely, Spanx founder, shares with audiences several key concepts she believes helped her company become what it is today—market leader with $400 million in annual sales.
Blakely talks about how failure comes from staying in your comfort zone rather than stretching yourself. She also talks about how not knowing your marketplace or even the product you are developing can have its positives. She knew nothing about patenting a product, manufacturing, marketing or product development. But she pursued her idea, researched and learned what she needed to know, hired others who knew what else she needed to know, and was committed to her mission.
Blakely says that just like you shouldn’t take “no” for an answer from anyone else, you shouldn’t take “no” for an answer from yourself. Her inspiring story concludes with motivation for those with big dreams: “Believe in your idea, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to fail.”
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