Sara Blakely before Inventing SPANX
Sara Blakely’s plans to follow in her father’s footsteps and enter the field of law came to screeching halt toward the end of her stint at Florida State University when she twice failed the LSAT’s (Law School Admission Test.) Even while her success as the founder and CEO of SPANX has earned her the title of the world’s youngest self-made billionaire woman, Sara Blakely is quick to admit that she was terrible at taking test.
Thanks to her father’s mentorship when she was a teen, Sara was able to able to accept her failure to pass the LSAT’s as a stepping stone to greater success later in life. Her father had been careful to instill in her and her brother at a young age, that if you were not failing at some things in life, that meant you were not trying.
Not quite sure what to do next, Sara drove to Disneyworld in Orlando and auditioned for the part of Goofy. Sara experienced another failure when she was informed that she was one inch shy of the 5’8” height requirement for the Goofy role. Sara humbly took a job as a ride attendant and greeter at the World of Motions and Horizon ride. More than once she would bump into old friends from high school or college waiting in line for her ride. It was an awkward experience that Sara would use as motivation to continue seeking success.
Sara Blakely the fax machine salesperson
After three months at Disneyworld, Sara Blakely took a job back in Tampa Florida for Danka Business Systems as a fax machine sales person. Sara often found it tough to meet the $20,000 a month in gross sales she was supposed to generate. Repeated rejections and telephone hang ups were another very humbling experience for Sara, but she stuck with it for seven long years. Sara became so successful that she was promoted to the position of national sales trainer at the age of 25.
In retrospect Sara believes her years at Danka gave her the necessary skills, determination and mental toughness that she would later pour into the building of her SPANX empire.
Sara Blakely as a Stand- up Comedian
During her time working for Danka in fax machine sales, Sara took a minor foray into the world of stand-up comedy. Having a degree in communications was a plus when taking to the stage to make people laugh. But it was not all fun and laughs for Sara. According to Sara every time she walked out onstage she was so terrified she almost threw up.
While comedy would not be the arena that would make Sara Blakely rich and famous, it did play a role in the naming of her company. As Sara explains; it is a bit of a communications secret that the “K” sound is in many ways its own super hero. The “k” sound tends to make people laugh, and it has positive effects on sales. Even the fax machine company she worked for Danka had the “k” sound in its name as does companies such as Coca-Cola.
When it came time later to put a name with her footless panty hose invention, Sara fell back on her communications and comedy experience and knew that it had to have the “k” sound in the name. Initially her new product line was to be called “SPANKS” but just before launching she changed the “k” to “x” and never looked back.
Sara Blakely seeds of success
At the age of 27 Sara made the move from Florida to Atlanta Georgia but continued working for Danka. It was while living and working in Atlanta that Sara began to take action on an idea that had been in the back of her mind for a while. The product and company that was about to take world of women’s fashion by storm was about to be born.
Other articles in the Sara Blakely series: