Extraordinary Woman – Sara Blakely
Described by Oprah Winfrey as one of her favorite products of 2000, Spanx has become synonymous with women’s fashion. Designed by Clearwater Beach native Sara Blakely, this mogul turned mom transformed the girdle and has no plans of stopping any time soon.
The world’s youngest self-made female billionaire is moving into retail, opening standalone stores. With her mother and grandmother by her side, Ms. Blakely cut the ribbon to her sixth store at International Plaza and Bay Street in Tampa last month, bringing it all back home.
Even though the inventor and founder of the ubiquitous shapewear company now calls Atlanta home, with her husband and son, Florida still holds a special place in her heart.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
My own butt was my inspiration for starting Spanx. I needed the perfect undergarment to wear under white pants. When I couldn’t find what I needed, I turned my frustration into inspiration and Spanx was born. Now Spanx has more than 200 products across more than four brands and we are excited to open Spanx retail stores, including one right here in Tampa.
What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
My husband and I are both creative thinkers so whether it is a professional dilemma or a personal challenge, we try to find solutions with a sense of humor and out-of-the-box answers. We are each other’s best support system. Most of all, we have fun together!
What is your biggest fear?
Heights! I competed on Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial show, The Rebel Billionaire, solving business challenges around the world while having to conquer my fear of heights. At one point, I climbed the side of a hot air balloon at 8,000 feet in the air and had tea on top of the balloon.
What advice would you give to other women?
Your inner voice is your most powerful tool so trust your gut. A lot of people ask me how I’m able to rely on that feeling so strongly. I think it comes from confidence and practice. It’s a muscle that everyone has to flex to get stronger.
What is your proudest moment?
The launch of the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation is one of my proudest moments! I’ve always known that I wanted to help women in a bigger way, and I am so proud to share the success of Spanx with women around the world. The Sara Blakely Foundation is dedicated to helping women globally and locally through education and entrepreneurship.By finding the future female entrepreneurs and leaders of the world and giving them the leg-up they need to succeed, the whole world will benefit.
What is your biggest achievement?
Besides getting married and becoming a mom, my biggest achievement has been giving over $20 million away to help others.
What makes you happy?
Whether it’s being in a park in Atlanta or on the beach in Clearwater Beach, being in nature with my family always makes me happy.
How do you relax and take time for yourself?
I listen to music and treat myself to a long, hot bath every night.
What kind of message would you like to give women in this community?
Find the opportunity in the everyday. I truly believe that most Americans have at least one million-dollar idea in their life, but most of us are so distracted and so quick to disregard our own creative instinct that we either dismiss it or don’t even see its potential.
What else would you like to share with our readers about being a mom, your work?
My motto is, “Think, prioritize, delegate what you can, and let it go.” I’ve found that I’m more effective when I compartmentalize my day. I have a mom section and a work section to each day. As a result, I’m more present, less scattered and more effective.
How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?
It is always great to be able to read about experiences other mothers have had, advice, tips and information on what to expect. For example, how hard breastfeeding is! Everyone focuses on the birth, but breastfeeding was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I didn’t sleep through the night for seven months.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in the Tampa Bay area?
No matter where we are, we love to swim. Our favorite spots in Clearwater are the beach and the Sandpearl Resort. We always squeeze in a trip to Frenchy’s, too. As a mom, I like to be spontaneous so we make an adventure out of every outing.
Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?
I admire Oprah because she has achieved such great success and continues to share her good fortune with others by giving back. It was a dream come true that she chose Spanx as one of her “Favorite Things.”