From scratch to a billionaire is nothing short of a miracle but Sara Blakely a member of EO Atlanta has done it. Starting with $5,000 in savings she jumped into business with innovative ideas and has managed to change the face of business. Forbes called her the youngest female self made billionaire in the world. She also appeared on the Time’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ list in April this year. She has given a new shape to the shapewear industry through her revolutionary invention SPANX. She talked at length with Octane about her business and her experiences.
Her Experience at Disney World and Danka Came in Handy
Sara credits her experience of working with Disney World and Danka for giving her an understanding of the benefits of control-top pantyhose and helped her develop SPANX Footless Pantyhose. She had to be in pantyhose as it was part of dress code. And cold calling for selling fax machines for Danka taught her never to take no for an answer. She has also worked as a stand up comedienne and her comedic writing has come in handy while working on the marketing of SPANX. Sara stressed the fact that she depends more on PR and word of mouth than advertising. She hosted morning rallies with sales associates in the stores and won them over and in effect they became her sales force without being on her payroll.
The Packaging Must Stand Out
She had also focused on the packaging to make it stand out. She chose the red color which was most unusual for the hosiery industry and used cartoon illustrations of women instead of using real photographs. The slogans were also written in the casual tone but were honest. The approach was that of a girl talking to her girlfriends. She sent a lot from her first batch of prototypes to Oprah Winfrey and she put it on her list of Favorite Things in the year 2000. It helped the brand to catch the attention of celebrities and the outspoken amongst them have helped the brand along.
She Trusted Her Gut and Did it Her Way
Sara is of the opinion that it was because she was not afraid to trust her instincts that she was able to come up with a better product despite not knowing a thing about the pantyhose industry. She knew that the products in the market did not solve the problem and she followed her gut to create a better product, read books to write her own patent and located a hosiery manufacturer online to make the prototype. The name, the design, the package were all the result of her gut feel and they have all proved to be right over the years. However she emphasizes that it is important to differentiate yourself in everything you do and that’s what opens doors for success.
EO Atlanta and Advice of Her Fellow Members Was Invaluable
She realized early that one cannot be good in everything one does and it is important to cover your weakness by hiring people who are strong in those areas. Becoming a business owner and manager was almost like a shock for her as she had practically no experience of managing or business. She hired a CEO and let go of control to concentrate on areas where she was strong. And it turned out to be another smart business decision. And finally she also credited the support she has received from EO Atlanta for her success. She has been in a Forum for the last 11 years and the members have become her trusted circle of friends and their advice has been valuable to the success of her business.