There’s a story I want to tell you; a reminder to roll with the punches and maintain a positive attitude no matter the circumstances. It is the story of a business owner who listened to customer feedback, knew when to listen to advice, and became one of the most successful female entrepreneurs of the 21st century. For those of you who have already launched a business, keep thinking positive. You may become the next Sara Blakley who is the founder, owner, and inventor of SPANX hosiery and Assets body wear.
In 1998, Sara Blakely wanted to launch her company to manufacture SPANX pantyhose. She had more than a difficult time getting others to believe in her idea. After all, why would any woman want footless pantyhose that also got rid of the underwear lines when wearing slacks or jeans?
Sara Kept Her Focus to Reach Her Vision
It didn’t help Sara’s credibility that she had never taken a business course. Although Sara was a sales trainer by day and a standup comedian by night, she stayed true to her self. Lawyers in Georgia simply brushed off her idea as crazy when she talked to them about a trademark and patent. In fact, some of them thought she was part of the television comedy, Candid Camera. However, Sara didn’t let this hold her back. She was determined to learn all she could about trademarks and patents.
Sara kept costs down by writing the patent herself. She found a lawyer who helped her write the claims. Sara’s mother sketched the original product drawing for the SPANX patent. Sara was the model which, was another way to cut costs. The patent was approved and she trademarked the name SPANX online. Sara needed to find a mill to help make the SPANX samples. She researched hosiery manufacturers over the internet. Sara Blakely then took a week off from work and drove to North Carolina from Georgia determined to find a hosiery manufacturer to work with her. They all thought her idea would not work. When they found out she was working for herself and handling the financing, they turned her down.
Sara Blakely’s Road to Success
Sara kept working on ways to get a prototype made. Two weeks after she was in North Carolina meeting with mill owners, one of them called her to say he would give her a chance. Why? Because his daughters thought the SPANX pantyhose idea was worth it. The prototype took one year to complete because Sara wanted women to find it comfortable to wear every day.
Sara’s journey into entrepreneurship journey was not easy, but she never wavered. She believed in herself and her idea. Her can-do attitude was infectious and her friends got behind her to help get SPANX into major retail stores. Once stores were selling SPANX, customer feedback was key to the success of Sara’s business. Because she listened to them with an open mind, customer suggestions led to the invention of two of Sara’s top sellers. Today, Sara has more than 100 SPANX styles sold all over the world.
Sara and The Rebel Billionaire, Richard Branson’s reality show.
In 2004, Sara took off three months from her business to become a contestant on Richard Branson’s reality TV show, The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best. There were 16 contestants who wanted to prove to the founder of Virgin Worldwide, Richard Branson, they could run his business. Sara Blakely came in second and she won $750,000 to create the Sara Blakely Foundation to support and empower women to start their own businesses.
Sara Blakely became a young millionaire from a crazy idea and keeping an upbeat, positive attitude. However, she combined her positive attitude with humility, accepting guidance, determination, perseverance and yes, talent. You can too.