How Sara Blakely, Spanx Mogul, Became The Youngest Woman On Forbes' Billionaires List
By Cavan Sieczkowski | March 9, 2012 6:22 AM EST
At just 41-years-old, Sara Blakely is the youngest woman to make Forbes Magazine Billionaire List. She ranks 1,153 of 1,226 on the list with a company that is valued by many Wall Street analysts at $1 billion. What is this company, might you ask?
Blakely owns 100 percent of Spanx, the clothing company that specializes in slimming, shaping undergarments for women. The Atlanta-based firm has 125 employees, just 16 of whom are male, and claims an estimated 20 percent of revenue of the "shapewear" market, just under $250 million, reported FOX News. Spanx sells 200 products in 11,500 department stores, boutiques and online in 40 countries, according to Forbes.
How did she build her empire?
Sara Blakely made her fortune when, at just 27-years-old, she had the genius idea to create undergarments that did something more than just rise up and bunch in the worst of places. As a sales girl with just $5,000 in the bank and was extremely frustrated over the limited options for female undergarments, particularly pantyhose. The only choice was the drab, dated pair that only proved to offend the female figure rather than complement it.
"I cut the feet off my pantyhose and wore them underneath," she told Forbes. "But they rolled up my legs all night. I remember thinking, 'I've got to figure out how to make this.' I'd never worked in fashion or retail. I just needed an undergarment that didn't exist."
From there, Sarah Blakely then developed Spanx, a piece of clothing so simple and so necessary that it would eventually change the world of womenswear.
When she first started, though, Blakely had little money to her name. She wore the same cream pants every day for three years because all of her money was in Spanx and she needed to be the promotion. She pushed herself working a 9-to-5 sales job and doing stand-up comedy at night all while trying to make the benefit of Spanx a reality for other American women.
Finally, in 2000 Sara Blakely's dream became a reality and she landed Spanx in U.S. department stores Neiman Marcus and Sakd Fifth Avenue.
Every woman has owned at least one pair of Spanx in her lifetime; it has become a wardrobe staple. And why shouldn't it be?! Everyone from soccer moms to Hollywood A-listers swoon over the body-shaping attire. Many even opt for them on the red carpet to keep everything tucked into their designer dresses.
Oscar-nominee and star of "The Help" Octavia Spencer told Ellen that she always reinforces her red carpet attire with Spanx. Sometimes, she wears multiple pairs at once! "I was not a Girl Scout, but I try to be very, very prepared," she told Ellen DeGeneres Wednesday. "I triple-Spank. Which is not good. Spanx really, really work, but you don't need to overdo it."
In 2010, Spanx started making undergarments for men. The line for men are designed to enhance pectorals and minimize guts. Though actor George Clooney likes to take a more outdoorsy approach. "What I do, because I get chilly, I like to wear long johns. The full one with the trap door in the back," Clooney joked at the Golden Globes.
Other celebrities prominent celebrities have gushed over the body-shaping undergarments. Oprah named Spanx one of her "Favorite Things" during her talk show run and the popularity of the brand skyrocketed. "I love Spanx. I've given up panties. I wear Spanx every single day!" said Winfrey.
Katherine Heigl admitted that she wore Spanx to the 2008 Oscars as well as under her wedding dress. Gwyneth Paltrow told StyleBistro that all the Hollywood girls wear them. "There are these great things called Spanx, and they just squeeze you in. It's terrific! That's how all the Hollywood girls do it!" At the 2007 Golden Globe Awards, Emily Blunt said, "I'm wearing a full body SPANX - I love it!"
Though she has not admitted to wearing them, Kim Kardashian has been photographed multiple times with her Spanx peeking out from under a dress. Other curvy starlets who have worn them include Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Beyonce and Katy Perry.
Now, Sara Blakely is sitting pretty atop a billion dollar fortune.
"I have to pinch myself," Blakely told Forbes. "Five grand," she said, thinking back to when she first began. "Good investment."
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