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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.