Sara Blakely: From the sales of fax machines to the youngest female billionaire

Having failed the law school entrance exam twice and selling fax machines for seven years, how did Sara Blakely become the youngest female billionaire?

Sara Blakely: From the sales of fax machines to the youngest female billionaire

Sara Blakely by Marla Aufmuth from Getty Images

01 An idea born from the embarrassment of wearing white pants

I do not know read this article and sisters do not have the experience – want to wear Mei beautiful white pants to go out, put on a look in the mirror and found that across the white pants and even underwear looming edge color, so he had to put on jeans out ……what? Did you find out after you went out? Well, then you are better. :)

The entrepreneur who wrote today turned the embarrassment of wearing white pants into a wonderful business opportunity 20 years ago, and finally made himself the “Queen of Underwear”. Sara Blakely, the founder of the Spanx brand, was named the youngest female billionaire by Forbes.

Sara Blakely was born in Florida, USA in 1971. Her academic performance is not very good. She once wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer, but she had no choice but to give up the law school entrance exam twice. After graduating from college, she first worked for a few months in Disneyland in Orlando, and then worked as a fax machine salesman for 7 years.

What does fax machine sales do? Blakely goes out early and returns late every day. From 8 am to 5 pm, he walks the streets and alleys, knocking on doors and selling fax machines from house to house.

This is not an easy job. It is commonplace for customers to open the door and see that she closes the door immediately. She often sees others tearing off the business card she handed out by herself, and on several occasions she was expelled from the office building by the police.

In the fifth year of this job, one night, Blakely was going to a private party. She wanted to pair her top with a pair of nice white pants and a pair of nice sandals.

When she put on the white pants, she was embarrassed to find that the edges of the panties under the white pants were clearly visible. So she had to cut off the leg of a pair of nude pantyhose and put it inside the white pants to avoid embarrassment. When she saw the effect of wearing this pantyhose without legs in white pants, she realized that she had found a good opportunity.

02 From fax machine sales to “underwear queen”

In the first year after the idea came up, she did not resign immediately. Instead, she continued to sell the fax machine for two years, saving money and thinking about her pantyhose idea.

She also didn’t tell any family or friends of her thoughts, except for the person in charge of the factory and the lawyer. She said that the reason for not telling her relatives and friends is that she hopes that she can figure out whether this idea is feasible, and she does not want to let the opinions of the people around her influence her.

She spent the evenings and weekends carefully studying the design of leggings and existing patents. She also found a book on how to register a patent. She applied for a patent for her design and registered the Spanx company and trademark. .

Holding the design samples, she called knitwear manufacturers one by one to seek cooperation, but the factories refused her. She learned that many knitwear factories are located in North Carolina, so she drove to North Carolina to meet with factory representatives. The factory representatives couldn’t see the prospects of her socks without trousers, and no one was willing to cooperate, so she had no choice but to return.

Two weeks after returning home from North Carolina, a factory she had visited called her and expressed willingness to cooperate with her because the owner’s daughter thought Blakely’s idea was promising, which changed the factory owner’s view. .

It took Blakely a year to finalize the cooperation from the beginning to produce a satisfactory product prototype.

Since factory employees are mostly male, they do not understand the pain points of women wearing leggings. They will only put the produced leggings on the plastic humanoid mold to see if the size is correct, but don’t know if it’s comfortable to wear on the body, whether the socks will slide after walking for a long time, and whether the material of the waist elastic band is stiff… …So Blakely personally checked, and kept communicating with the factory until a satisfactory sample was made.

After finalizing the samples, Blakely called the major shopping malls to seek cooperation, and hoped to personally show them this new product that “can help your mall sell more women’s clothing”. After all the setbacks, she was able to meet with a representative of Neiman Marcus (a high-end department store in the United States).

During the meeting, she personally showed the female representatives the effect of wearing and not wearing Spanx leggings in white pants in the women’s locker room. The female mall representatives saw the value of Spanx products and allowed her to be in Spanx is available in Neiman Marcus stores.

Sara Blakely: From the sales of fax machines to the youngest female billionaire

Left: Normal panty effect; Right: Spanx effect

For many people, being able to enter a high-end shopping mall seems to have crossed the finish line and headed for success. But for Blakely, the real entrepreneurship has just begun.

She personally went to these seven shopping malls to introduce Spanx products and teach sales methods, even if the shop assistants were not employed by her. Sometimes she also sells in person in the store, communicates with customers, and sees if customers still have problems that have not been resolved.

Later, when other department stores saw Spanx’s outstanding sales performance at Neiman Marcus, they also invited Spanx to settle in. By the end of 1999, that is, at the end of the first year of Spanx’s birth, Spanx’s sales reached four million US dollars.

At the same time, Blakely began to make efforts in brand public relations and marketing, for example, to give free products to “net celebrities”. One of the most successful “Internet celebrity marketing” is that Blakely sent a basket of products to Oprah Winfrey and wrote a card to tell the story of his founding of Spanx.

In October 2000, 29-year-old Blakely resigned from the fax machine sales job. It has been two years since she had the idea to start Spanx. She has become accustomed to very little sleep, and has not let her colleagues know about her sideline.

In November 2000, two weeks after Blakely resigned, Oprah Winfrey said in her TV show that Spanx was one of her favorite products of the year 2000. Sales of Spanx soared immediately, and several major shopping malls sold out. By the end of 2000, Spanx had sold 10 million U.S. dollars.

Later, with the mission of “providing better products for women”, the persistence in product quality, and the proficiency in sales and marketing, Spanx continued to develop under the leadership of Sara Blakely. In 2013, Sara Blakely joined the ranks of billionaires.

Sara Blakely: From the sales of fax machines to the youngest female billionaire

In 2000, Oprah Winfrey recommended Spanx in a TV show

03 What can we learn from

The story of this founder is not new at all. The experience of doing mall retail 20 years ago seems to be outdated in the e-commerce era, but what deserves our attention is the eternal things.

1. Have the courage to try and embrace failure

Sara Blakely attributed her success to her dad, because his dad encouraged the children to fail. When she was young, her father would ask several children in the family: “Did you have any failures this week?” If not, her father would be a little disappointed.

The reason why Blakely’s father encourages failure is that he wants his children to be brave enough to try new things. He believes that the biggest failure is not to try what he wants to do, rather than failing to achieve the expected results after trying. Sara also mentioned many times in the interview that every failure is an opportunity to learn new things or hone character. “If I didn’t fail the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) twice, then there would be no Spanx.”

2. Keep thinking, keep recording

The idea of ​​wanting to start a business and do something has always existed in Blakely’s mind before she founded Spanx, but she thought about what to do for a long time.

She is accustomed to thinking about solutions when encountering problems, writing all her thoughts in a notebook, and then looking back at her past thoughts from time to time. When reviewing her notes, she will consider how long it will take for this matter to be completed, how high the cost is, what resources are needed to complete this matter, whether she can find these resources, how big the potential market is, and whether there are already similar ones. Product, can I do better than similar products…

3. Sell the problem you want to solve, not the product

After you find the product you want to make, tell a story and sell the problem you want to solve instead of selling the product directly. Tell your customers what is the problem you want to solve, how your product will solve the problem, and why your product can solve the problem better than other products.

If you want to sell the problem you want to solve, you also need to understand who you are communicating with. People can be divided into four types of communication styles—Director, Socializer, Thinker, and Relator. Each type of person is accustomed to different ways of communication.

In the process of communicating with people, you will find that it is easy for you to reach agreement with a certain type of person, because you are of the same kind. But if you want to make your sales more effective, you need to learn how other types of people communicate and communicate with them in the way they are used to.

Sara Blakely: From the sales of fax machines to the youngest female billionaire

Sara Blakely in the early days of entrepreneurship and pending orders

Reference materials:

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