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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Sara Blakely: Founder of Spanx and a Startup Financing Role Model

Spanx, Inc. is a US-based underwear manufacturer, concentrating on designing underpants and legwarmers. The company was set up in Atlanta, Georgia. Spanx’s products are currently available in over 50 nations of the world.

Spanx mostly makes sheer tights or pantyhose and other varieties of undergarments for ladies. However, since 2010, it has started manufacturing undergarments for men also. The company offers specialized products in foundation garments or shapewear aimed at making people look slimmer. 

Spanx: The Journey Begins

Spanx was founded by Sara Treleaven Blakely in February 2000. She is a US-based businessperson, philanthropist, and impresario. The company is an undergarment manufacturer with leggings and shorts. The headquarters of Spanx is located in Atlanta, Georgia. 

At first, Sara wanted to be a lawyer. However, she rethought her decision once she performed poorly on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). As an alternative, she took up employment at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. She continued there for three months. On certain occasions, Sara did the job of a standup comedian throughout this stint. 

After completing her bachelor’s from FSU (Florida State University), Sara got a job with Danka, a local stationery firm for selling fax machines house-to-house. Within a short period, she did quite well and as a recognition of her good performance, Sara was elevated to the position of countrywide sales coach when she was just 25 years old. Sara had to put on pantyhose in the warm weather of Florida due to her marketing responsibility. She detested the look of the lined foot at the time she put on open-toed footwear. However, she preferred how the control-top pattern did away with underpants streaks and made her appearance look stronger. To visit a private occasion, she experimented. She severed the bases of her legwear at the time of putting them on below a fresh pair of pants. Sara saw that the legwear constantly bundled up her legs. However, she also attained the anticipated outcome. 

At 27 years of age, Sara shifted to Atlanta, Georgia. At that time, she was still employed with Danka. After spending the following two years there, she made a savings of $5,000. She invested those savings for exploring and designing a hosiery concept principally without anybody’s help. The generation of the preliminary product pattern took almost 12 months and Sara, Sara’s friends, and her mother were all part of it. They individually tried out the attires. At that point, it was quite creative since the hosiery manufacturing sector did not trial products with individuals. Avid exploration by Blakely disclosed that the sector had earlier been making use of equal-sized girdles for every hosiery item for lowering expenses and a rubber string was put into the girdle.

To develop her product, Blakely made various girdles to fit various-sized customers. Ultimately, Sara completed her application for the patent with a patent lawyer before she complied with the USPTO (the United States Patent and Trademark Office). The lawyer also consented to aid her with an amount of $750. Once she made the application, Sara subsequently endeavored on the packaging of her merchandise. She picked the red color since she thought red represented bold. At that time, other brands used grey, white, or beige for packaging.   

While looking for a brand name for the product line, Sara got initially baffled. The idea generation process for an apt title took her almost 18 months. She realized that Kodak and Coca-Cola were two of the most popular brand names across the world and both of them had a powerful “k” noise. Ultimately, the brand name Spanx came to her mind. Subsequently, she utilized her credit card for buying the “Spanx” hallmark at $150 on the official website of the USPTO.

Official Launch

In 2000, the brand Spanx officially was launched by Sara from her suite. At that time, she handled all customer communications and marketing on her own. However, she was lucky in that her boyfriend quit his job and joined her in operating the emerging commercial venture.

Sara had a consultation with a Neiman Marcus Group representative and she was able to convince him to buy her products. As a consequence, seven outlets of the Neiman Marcus Group began merchandizing her products. Shortly, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, and Bloomingdales followed suit.

In November 2000, Spanx was labeled a “favorite” by talk show host Oprah Winfrey. As an outcome, the company achieved substantial popularity and revenue. Keeping this in mind, Sara said goodbye to Danka. The company attained revenue of $4 million in the initial year and $10 million in just the 2nd year of its operation. Sara inked a deal with a popular home shopping channel called QVC in 2001.

Post-2000 Scenario    

Blakely’s boyfriend turned into the COO or Chief Operating Officer of the company after the foundation. In 2001, they met Laurie Ann Goldman, an employee of Coca-Cola, who was searching for a Spanx item. They hired her as the Chief Executive Officer of Spanx the very next year.  

In 2014 February, in an article published in the Fortune Magazine, Colleen Leahey recognized Laurie as one of the principal catalysts behind the exponential expansion of Spanx.

During the first six months of 2014, Sara put his whole effort into developing the oldest standalone retail outlets in the plazas beside the Atlantic coast. Besides, she included denim to a growing product line of Spanx to strengthen the “fall” variety in March 2014.  

In 2014 February, Laurie Ann Goldman quit the firm after an extensive term of more than a decade.     

In June 2014, Sara’s profile was published in Forbes magazine and it stated that despite being a startup, Spanx produced yearly revenue worth more than $250 million and net profit gains projected at 20%. This is quite a remarkable achievement for a private entity or startup. There were conjectures regarding a probable IPO (Initial Public Offering) after the departure of Goldman. 

Jan Singer, an erstwhile employee of Nike, took over as CEO of Spanx in July 2014. 

Why we should consider Sara Blakely as a startup financing role model 

In the beginning phases of Spanx, Sara looked over all the facets of her nascent business such as logistics, sales, and placement of products which is normally quite difficult for an ordinary woman to perform. She was in constant touch with her acquaintances and friends, soliciting them to look for her products at particular chain stores instead of a check that she would give them via post as a souvenir of gratitude.    

In 2012, Forbes magazine featured Sara Blakely on its cover for being the most youthful self-supported woman tycoon in the world. In the very next year, Forbes listed her as the 93rd most influential lady in the world. 

She self-financed Spanx, which is quite essential for startup enthusiasts to find out that it can happen. According to Elyse Kaye, the CEO and Founder of Bloom Bras, Sara’s stubbornness and determination to keep on to her dreams is unbelievable. 

According to Georgia McKinney, the founder of Flight Fillow, LLC, Sara is a role model since she began her private venture with just $5,000 as her fund. It was just a side business in her Atlanta suite at the time she was doing a job somewhere else. With her sincere dedication, it turned into a billion-dollar business and the entire credit goes to her.


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Kiara Dawson
Kiara Dawson comes from an Engineering background, with a specialization in Information Technology. She has a keen interest and expertise in Web Development, Data Analytics, and Research. She trusts in the process of growth through knowledge and hard work.

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