6 Entrepreneurship lessons from billionaire Sara Blakely

I love hearing the backstory to how successful businesses are started from scratch and turned into uber-successful enterprises.  Sara Blakely is the founder and principal owner of Spanx, a company which changed the game in women’s hosiery, and made her a billionaire in the process.

Sara’s taken her show on the road and now speaks at multiple events regarding her struggle to build the company. After listening to her story here are five key takeaways I got from her story that all us aspiring entrepreneurs should keep in mind as we’re building our own billion-dollar baby. Watch the video at the bottom of this post:

  1. Build half a product, not a half-assed product. Blakely’s original product is essentially a footless pantyhose. It’s a stripped-down version of an existing product, she just made it fit extremely well without rolling up.  It’s simpler to make a great product when you simplify. Cut back on features, not on quality.
  2. No need to quit your day job just yet.  She designed, found manufacturers, and shipped her products after coming home from her 9-to-5 job every day.  She made sure to test the viability of her business first before she made any rash decisions and bet the whole farm.  Nothing wrong with taking risks, but if you’re more risk averse you can still become an entrepreneur.
  3. Don’t underestimate charisma and the power of your story.  It’s obvious by Sara’s presentation that she is a polished salesperson and knows how to charm people.  I’m sure she put all of her communication skills to good use when she was just starting out, even her looks.  It’s easier to sell when you’re well-liked and can put a smile on people’s faces.
  4. Enter a market by being different.  She points out in the video that she made her product’s packaging startling on purpose.  Until that point all hosiery items came in dull peachy colors. She made her packaging bright so prospective customers would understand that this isn’t your average pantyhose.
  5. Breaking some rules is part of the job.  One of the interesting anecdotes in her talk is how she would show up to department stores and move her Spanx shelf from the crowded hosiery aisle to the front of the store, right by the registers where prime selling space is.  The store employees would approach her and she would lie to them and say she was sent under direct orders from the store managers.
  6. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be great.  Sara was not a trained product designer, she had never owned her own business, she didn’t even have office space.  The first steps of building a business is a great product idea and the will to make it happen.  You don’t need to look to others to validate that you are an entrepreneur.  Sara did all of this without any outside investment, no one backing her up.

Check out the video below to see Blakely tell her story. 

6 Comments

  1. While I admire her tenacity, I would sum up her product in one word, “predatory.” Yes, Sara Blakely is obviously intelligent as she preys on a woman’s self-image and body image.Still, she has made a l lot of money. So, scruples probably don’t matter.

  2. wsforchist atleast her products works ! there are so many product out there made for women that sucks ! sarah is a momen i am happy that she made a product with the intentions to make us look good not like those other pruducts,she is a women her self she knows what it like to buy something thinking its going to help and find out later at a party that it make you look like a total idiot, i know by experience it happend to me !

    • Hello Sue, Thank you for your reply to my comment. Yes. I agree that there are a lot of products out that that women pay good money for, and then they don’t work. I am glad to hear that you had good luck with Sarah’s Spanx. I just thought that she made some dubious claims in her video, and I never appreciate high pressure tactics. Thanks again, and have a blessed New Year!

  3. wsforchrist you know what is funny about her story? that she didn,t go to qvc to promoto her products,what qvc does that no one knows is that they will promoto your products if they like it but then you got to give them 60% of the grose income and you get 40 i mean some entrepreneurs may think its a good deal but i think that kind of deal is stealling, i mean you come up with a great idea you spend money and time to make your idea and then suddenly some tv show want to get more money then you just becouse they help you promoto your products, what the hell ! i got i great idea and product but i dont think i am going to qvc for help..do you maybe know a good home shopping tv show other then qvc that can help?

    • Hello Sue. Good luck with your product. I do not know of an outlet for a good product. I am curious about what product you have invented. Perhaps someone who reads your comment will be able to help you!

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