This is the startup story of Billionaire Entrepreneur Sara Blakely. Blakely, the founder of SPANX, started her empire at 27 with only $5,000 from personal savings. This is her 15 year journey.

Spanx Stats:

  • Founder of SPANX:  Sara Blakely
  • Age at Founding: 27
  • When: 1998
  • Industry: Fashion & Apparel
  • Annual Revenue: $250MM
  • # of Employees: 100
  • Famous For: Undergarments

How Spanx Got Started

 Blakely was a salesperson, selling fax machines door to door when she came up with the idea for Spanx. The idea came from cutting the feet off of pantyhose, and wearing them out. 

Below is an early picture of Blakely getting ready to ship product to early customers..
Sara-Blakely-Spanx-Early Days

Startup Capital:

Blakely used her personal savings of $5,000 to start Spanx. She bootstrapped the growth of the company on sales of her product, quickly locking up large purchase orders.

Follow on Funding:

None.  Sara Blakely owns 100% of the company and has self funded the company since the beginning.

Years to Profitablity:  

Spanx was profitable in it’s first year of business with total revenue of $4,000,000.

Startup Milestones for SPANX:

1998: Sara Blakely starts SPANX while selling fax machines with $5,000 in savings. 
1999: Spanx’s first year revenue tops $4,000,000. 
1999: Blakely gets her product distrubted into Neiman Marcus.
2000: Oprah names SPANX her favorite product of the year and sales take off. Sales hit $10,000,000 in revenue. 
2001: SPANX is featured on QVC and sells over 8,000 units in under six minutes.
2013: Sara Blakely becomes a billionaire. 

Sara Blakely Startup Advice

 “Differentiate yourself – why are you different?”

“It’s important to be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you become memorable.”

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

“Don’t solicit feedback on your product, idea or your business just for validation purposes. You want to tell the people who can help move your idea forward, but if you’re just looking to your friend, co-worker, husband or wife for validation, be careful. It can stop a lot of multimillion-dollar ideas in their tracks in the beginning.”

Watch a video on the top 5 pieces of startup advice from Sara Blakely below:

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