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Sara Blakely

Founder, Spanx

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Entrepreneur Sara Blakely tells the story of how she came up with her million-dollar idea--and what it took to make it a reality.

“My life was laying the groundwork for Spanx,” Sara Blakely says. After attending Florida State University, she planned on becoming an attorney. But she failed the LSAT--twice. So she took a brief job at Disney World, then sold fax machines door-to-door. While at the office supply company, Blakely had the idea for footless pantyhose that would smooth her figure and go seamlessly under white pants. She spent the next two years developing the invention, writing her own patent and cold calling hosiery manufacturers. Finally, she got a call from a manufacturer whose daughters liked the idea.

She named the product Spanx. When she showed it to a representative of Neiman Marcus--by trying on and demonstrating the power of Spanx in the bathroom--the representative agreed to stock Spanx in seven stores. In November 2000, Oprah Winfrey named Spanx one of her favorite things--only then, when sales surged, did Blakely quit her job at the fax machine company. Blakely became the youngest self-made female billionaire, and in 2006 she launched The Sara Blakely Foundation to help women through education and entrepreneurial training. Forbes lists Blakely as the 93rd most powerful woman in the world.

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