Sara Blakely on Business Lunch with Roland Frasier

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Key Takeaways

  • Every week at dinner, Sara Blakely’s father would ask her to share one thing she failed at that week. Her father wanted her to know failure was okay and that when you take risks, you’re going to come across failure.
    • “What he was doing was just reframing our definition of failure…The only failure for me is not trying” – Sara Blakely
  • As a salesperson, Sara listened to several motivational speakers including Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, and many more
    • From listening to all these speakers, Sara learned about the value of visualizing your success and the power of positive thinking
  • What you don’t know can be your biggest asset in business
    • Sara didn’t get Spanx into Neiman Marcus by doing trade shows, she simply called them and asked if she could get 10 minutes to present her product to them   
  • How does Spanx decide what products to work on?
    • “It’s really just based on need and listening to people and hearing where I see opportunities to make something better” – Sara Blakely
  • How does Sara define success?
    • For Sara, it’s following your passion, doing something that makes you feel alive, and helping other people along the way

Intro

  • Sara Blakely (@SPANX) is an American businesswoman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. She is the founder of Spanx, an American intimate apparel company with pants and leggings, founded in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Host: Roland Frasier (@RolandFrasier)

Books Mentioned

Starting Spanx

  • Sara wanted to start her own business because she was passionate about sales and providing a helpful product to people 
    • Sara wrote in her journal that she wanted to invent a product that she could sell to millions of people that would make them feel good
  • Sara started Spanx because she couldn’t find something to wear under her white pants
    • Sara had never taken a business class or worked in fashion prior to starting Spanx
      • Sara sold fax machines for a living and worked on Spanx at night and the weekends for 2 years before officially launching the company
        • During that time, she took a week off from work to drive all around North Carolina to find a manufacturer to make her product  
  • To save money on a patent lawyer, Sara bought a book and wrote most of the patent forms herself
  • Sara’s alternative name for her company was Open Toe Dahlias
    • She originally wanted the company to be named Spanks but changed it to Spanx because she learned that made-up words are easier to copyright and protect

Spanx Takes Off

  • What you don’t know can be your biggest asset in business
    • Sara didn’t get Spanx into Neiman Marcus by doing trade shows, she simply called them and asked if she could get 10 minutes to present her product to them  
      • Sara’s first order was for 3,500 units in seven locations
  • She called up every friend she knew and mailed them a check so that they would buy a pair of Spanx and help drive more sales
    • Just as Sara was running out of money, Oprah called and said Spanx was her favorite product of the year
  • For the next two years, Sara would go into department stores such as Barneys and Bloomingdales to help sell the product to customers to make sure it was a big hit

Motivational Speakers

  • In high school, Sara listened to the How to be a No-limit Person tapes by Wayne Dyer so many times she ended up memorizing all of the lines
    • As a salesperson, Sara listened to several motivational speakers including Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, and many more
      • From listening to all these speakers, Sara learned about the value of visualizing your success and the power of positive thinking

Lessons From Her Father

  • Every week at dinner, Sara’s father would ask her to share one thing she failed at that week. Her father wanted her to know failure was okay and that when you take risks, you’re going to come across failure.
    • “What he was doing was just reframing our definition of failure…The only failure for me is not trying” – Sara Blakely
      • Today, Sara tries to teach her kids the same lesson around failure
  • What was Sara’s best failure?
    • Bombing the LSATs. Sara’s original goal was to go to law school but because she didn’t do well on the exam, so she changed career paths.

Q&A Session

  • How has Spanx’s customer acquisition channel changed over the years?
    • It’s gone from being mostly wholesale buyers to focusing on social media such as Instagram and Facebook.
  • How does Spanx maximize customer lifetime value?
    • Spanx makes durable clothing but since their items are worn daily, the customers come back to buy more products when their old ones are overworn.
    • Spanx also expanded its product line into leggings, bras, and even clothing for men.
  • How did Spanx expand internationally?
    • Sara started with countries that spoke English as their native language first, such as England, and then moved onto more foreign countries. Spanx is now in over 60 countries.
  • How does Spanx decide what products to work on?
    • “It’s really just based on need and listening to people and hearing where I see opportunities to make something better” – Sara Blakely
  • How does Sara define success?
    • For Sara, it’s following your passion, doing something that makes you feel alive, and helping other people along the way
  • What book has Sara gifted the most?
    •  How to be a No-limit Person by Wayne Dyer 
  • How does Sara spend her free time?
    • She likes to do yoga, get accupunture, and spend lots of time with her kids

Sara’s Fake Commute 

  • Although Sara lives only 5 minutes away from the Spanx headquarters, she’ll leave her house an hour early and spend that time driving around town.
    • Why? Because she comes up with her best ideas while driving.
      • “I think a lot of my next inventions and ideas in the car” – Sara Blakely
Business Lunch with Roland Frasier : , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

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