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BOOK SARA BLAKELY
SPEAKING FEE RANGE*
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Book Sara Blakely
- Sara Blakely went from a door-to-door fax machine salesperson to founder of the billion-dollar Spanx company, and along the way, she learned some valuable lessons about developing a product, starting a business, and shaping an industry.
- Never planning to start a business, Blakely showed the world how a good idea, persistence and determination are sometimes the only things necessary to change “business as usual” and gain a leg up.
- Blakely’s story about starting Spanx is inspiring, funny, relatable and chock full of great lessons for anyone who has a dream, aspires to start their own business, or has a great idea.
Sara Blakely has always been a problem solver. While getting ready for a party, she didn’t have the right undergarment to wear with white pants, so she cut the feet off her control top pantyhose, and from that, a new kind of shapewear was born. Spanx is now a billion dollar business focused on solving wardrobe issues and helping women feel great about themselves.
In 2012, Blakely was named the world’s youngest, self-made female billionaire by Forbes Magazine and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. In 2014, she was listed as the 93rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. Spanx is now found in more than 50 countries, and continues to “shape” what women wear by launching bra, underwear, jeans, pants and active wear lines. In 2010, Spanx introduced a line of supportive undergarments for men.
Born and raised in Clearwater, Florida, Blakely graduated from Florida State University with a communications degree. She planned to become an attorney, but instead, started her career with Danka selling fax machines door-to-door. She was quite successful and was promoted to national sales trainer by the time she was 25. Required to wear pantyhose in her sales role, Blakely disliked the seamed foot with open-toed shoes, but she liked how the control-top eliminated seams and lines and made everything look smooth and firm. All of this gave her an idea.
Blakely spent the next two years and $5,000 of her savings researching and developing her hosiery idea. Always one to take on a new challenge, she wrote her own patent for the product, and then visited with hosiery mills to present her idea. Not a single mill—all run by men, she noted—saw the value of her idea. Eventually, she found traction with one, whose daughters convinced him it was a good idea.
In 2000, Oprah Winfrey crowned Spanx one of her "favorite products,” which led to significant sales. Blakely left her full-time job at Danka to run Spanx, which had $4 million in sales its first year and $10 million in sales the next year. The following year, Blakely partnered with QVC, the home shopping channel, and sold 8,000 pairs of Spanx in the first six minutes on air. Today, Spanx leads the shapewear industry, with more than $400 million in annual sales.
In 2006, Blakely launched the Sara Blakely Foundation, dedicated to helping women globally and locally through education and entrepreneurship. Through her appearance on the TV show The Rebel Billionaire, Blakely met Richard Branson, who gave her $750,000 to start her foundation.
The Sara Blakely Foundation has funded hundreds of scholarships for young women in South Africa. In 2013, Blakely became the first female billionaire to take the "Giving Pledge” to give away at least half of her wealth to charity. Blakely is married and has four children.
Sara Blakely is the youngest self-made female billionaire in the U.S. In her keynotes, she tells audiences about her amazing journey from launching a start-up with $5,000 to running Spanx, the market leader in the shapewear and hosiery industry. She shares how she has changed an industry, long dominated by men, from painful and ill-fitting undergarments to breathable second skins with varying degrees of compression.
Blakely tells her story with humor and passion, and talks about her dedication to helping women feel and look their best.
Suggested Speaking Topics:
- Public Relations
- Women-owned businesses
- Facing hurdles when starting your own business
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.”