Before she became the billionaire founder of shape wear company Spanx, Sara Blakely failed a lot. She didn't make it as a stand-up comedian. She couldn't become a lawyer like her dad because she failed the LSAT — twice.
After she ruled out law school due to a low LSAT score, Blakely got a job at Disney herding tourists into a ride at Epcot. She quit that job. She then sold fax-machines door to door for Danka, cold-called hundreds of people a day, and in the process learned the fundamentals of how to eventually grow her own business.
At age 27, Blakely relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, and while still working at Danka, spent the next two years and $5,000 savings researching and developing her hosiery idea. Upon inquiring, she found that there were no female patent lawyers operating in the entire state of Georgia. Unwilling to spend the $3,000-$5,000 quoted in legal fees, she instead wrote her own patent after purchasing a textbook from Barnes & Noble.
Blakely then drove to North Carolina, the location of most of America's hosiery mills, to present her idea. She was turned away by every representative, however; used to dealing with established companies, they did not see the value of her idea. Two weeks after arriving home from her North Carolina trip, Blakely received a call from a male mill operator based in Asheboro, North Carolina, who offered to support Blakely's concept, as he had received strong encouragement from his two daughters. Blakely further explained in 2011 that the experience of developing her idea also revealed to her that the hosiery manufacturing industry was overseen solely by men who were not using the products they were producing.
Spanx has quickly grown to be the household name in hosiery with celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba jumping on the bandwagon. TIME even named Blakely one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
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