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Did you know that the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, actually did stand-up comedy for two years when she was just starting out?
Even now, this incredibly successful American business woman and philanthropist believes that stand-up comedy is so important for customer relations that she makes all of her employees take a stand-up class!
She also encourages her employees to take debating and speaking classes.
Blakely says that nothing helps you think faster on your stocking-less feet than stand-up comedy.
I agree! Once you’ve gone a couple rounds with hecklers in the peanut gallery at the comedy clubs, you can probably sell anything.
Remember when salespeople used to sell encyclopedias door -to -door? Maybe I’m dating myself with this reference. Hello, is this on??
But get this, Sara Blakely actually sold fax machines door-to-door!
How challenging would that be but that’ exactly how this young Floridian entrepreneur started out in her twenties.
In fact, in the late 1990’s, Blakely did so well selling fax machines that by the age of 25, she graduated to the position of national sales trainer.
Blakely said she hated wearing pantyhose as she was walking all day in Florida’s hot climate.
She also hated the appearance of a seamed foot while wearing open- toed shoes. (You mean that’s not a style? I better stop doing that.) But she did like the way the control top eliminated panty lines and held all the junk in. So, once when she was invited to a private party, she cut the feet out of her pantyhose when she was getting ready. The pantyhose initially rolled up but, through trial and error with a lot of pantyhose, she developed a prototype that she could wear under her slacks. Tada! The rest is history.
Those first ‘footless’ pantyhose eventually walked Blakely into Time Magazine’s ‘Top 100 Most Influential People of 2012’. In 2014, she was listed as one the top 100 most influential women in the world by Forbes magazine.
Blakley’s creation Spanx – ‘America’s intimate apparel company with pants and leggings’-was recently valued at 1.2 billion dollars after being purchased by the investment group Blackstone. Blackstone acquired a major stake while retaining Blakely as Executive Chairwoman.
In turn, Blakely celebrated the milestone by giving each of her 750 employees (mostly women) $10,000 dollars cash and two first class plane tickets to any destination in the world.
Now that is a true Boss Lady!
Not only is Blakely funny, brilliant and determined, but she has a heart of gold.
Blakely has always believed in empowering women.
In 2006, she launched The Sara Blakely Foundation to help women through education and entrepreneurial training. She got a little bit of assistance from her mentor Richard Branson. Blakely had once appeared on Branson’s reality show, The Rebel Billionaire. Branson wrote Blakely a cheque for $750,000 to start the foundation. How much do you love these two entrepreneurs?
The foundation has also funded all sorts of scholarships for young women around the globe. Blakely also donated 1 million dollars to Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls in Africa.
In 2013, Blakely was the first female billionaire to join Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s The Giving Pledge, a group that billionaires commit to, to give away half of their wealth to charity.
And that’s not all. Remember those iconic leather pants that Olivia Newton-John’s character, Sandy, wore at the end of Grease with John Travolta?
Guess who bought them at an auction for over $162,000? Sara Blakely!
The money went towards Olivia Newton-John’s cancer treatment centre in Melbourne Australia.
In appreciation, Newton-John later sang at Blakely’s wedding.
Recently, during the height of the pandemic, Blakely donated 5 million dollars to support female – run small businesses particularly hard hit by COVID.
Sara Blakely: funny, generous, a visionary and an apparel powerhouse. To think it all started off with a little bit of stand-up comedy!
Until next time folks, laugh long and prosper!