Sara Blakely is a self-made lady. She invented Spanx. I will be quoting a lot of material direct from the Spanx website for ultra-clarity.
She first got the idea for Spanx from an expensive pair of white pants she bought that she never quite liked the look of. How could she wear these cream-colored, $98 pants in a flattering way? Eureka! Footless pantyhose! She began investigating pantyhose patents in the library at Georgia Tech, then got in touch with some lawyers who dismissed her.
“To keep costs down, I wrote the patent myself and later found a lawyer who helped write the claims. My patent was approved and I successfully trademarked the name SPANX online! The original product drawing for the SPANX patent was sketched by my mom, an artist.”
The next step was to find someone to make the Spanx. She heard “NO” a lot. She didn’t have capital, financial nor social. She had to take time off from work to look for these manufacturers. Finally, her tenacity paid off:
“I received a call from a mill owner who said he ‘decided to help make my crazy idea.’ When asked why he had the change of heart, he said, ‘I have two daughters.’ Turns out they didn’t think the idea was crazy at all. The prototype took a year to perfect because as someone who wanted to wear the product every day I was obsessed with comfort.”
Now, what to call these clingy, undergarment thingies?
“I knew that Kodak and Coca-Cola were the two most recognized names in the world, and they both have a predominant “K” sound in them. Also, from doing stand-up comedy, it is a known secret that the “K” sound makes people laugh. So for good luck, I wanted my product’s name to have the “K” sound in it, and SPANKS hit me like a lightning bolt. I immediately knew it was perfect! At the last minute I changed the “KS” to an “X” after doing research that made-up words do better for products than real words (and are easier to trademark). Spanx is edgy, fun, extremely catchy, and for a moment it makes your mind wander (admit it). Plus it’s all about making women’s butts look better, so why not?”
Why not an x? Edgy butts! GRRRRL POWER! Ass girdles for all!
Spanx is worth $1 billion, and Ms. Blakely is currently the youngest self-made female billionaire. She’s also signed up to join the Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Giving Pledge. Besides signing the pledge, Ms. Blakely has started two campaigns using her Spanx dollars. First, is her Spanx Leg Up Campaign. This is where women, with an existing product and business, can compete for the following:
- A feature in the Spanx catalog
- A feature on spanx.com
- Multiple features on the Spanx facebook page and Spanx blog,
The Rear View
- Lucky Red Backpack (the same kind Ms. Blakely used to start Spanx)
- Opportunity to have a private chat with Ms. Blakely to ask their most pressing entrepreneurial questions
The other charitable organization related to Spanx is the Sara Blakely Foundation, which as you can see by clicking the link, is a work in progress. The general vision so far is thus:
“I pledge to invest in women because I believe it offers one of the greatest returns on investment. I am committed to the belief that we would all be in a much better place if half the human race (women) were empowered to prosper, invent, be educated, start their own businesses, run for office — essentially be given the chance to soar!”