Sara Blakely Started Spanx With $5,000, Is Now On Forbes’ World Billionaires List

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Forbes Magazine has released their yearly list of the World’s Billionaires, over 1000 individuals who have done extremely well for themselves (putting it mildly). New to the list this year is Spanx founder Sara Blakely. The woman who started her bodyshaper business with just $5,000 in savings now ranks up there with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. And by the look of the Academy Awards this year, something tells me she’s got nowhere to go but up. 

For Forbes’ 25th year compiling the list, they’ve ranked 1,226 billionaires, a new record. Together, their worth equals $4.6 trillion.  At 41, Blakely is the youngest, self-made billionaire on the list.

Now here’s something that really struck me about her story. “Blakely owns 100% of the private company, has zero debt, has never taken outside investment and hasn’t spent a nickel on advertising,” according to Forbes. That’s, well that’s huge. “Today Spanx is to slimming undergarments what Kleenex is to tissues: a brand that stands for the category. It nets an estimated 20% on revenue just south of $250 million. In recent months four Wall Street investment banks separately valued Spanx at an average $1 billion, a sum Forbes corroborated with the help of industry analysts.”

Having never formally advertised the product, Spanx became hugely popular thanks to testimonials from celebrities. “In her first year Blakely shilled her new invention from a folding table in the foyer of Neiman Marcus, with a giant before-and-after photo of her derriere in cream slacks and bikini briefs underneath in one shot (an embarrassingly obvious Maginot Line) and $30 Spanx Power Panties (et voilà! no more line) in the other,” writes Forbes. But it hasn’t always been easy for the entrepreneur who suffers from anxiety. Though she says an early go at stand-up comedy helped her. “Every time I went onstage I was so terrified I almost threw up,” she said. “I learned why they call it the greenroom.”

“She is part of a tiny, elite club of American women worth ten figures on their own, including Oprah Winfrey and Meg Whitman,” writes Forbes. “The company is now run by a team of 125, only 16 of them men. It sells 200 products in 11,500 department stores, boutiques and online shops in 40 countries. Distributors worldwide clamor to get on the stockist list.” CEO Laurie Ann Goldman says they’re just warming up.

Blakely has always been business savvy it would seem. “[She] started her first business in 1990, a kids’ club at the Clearwater Beach Hilton, charging $8 a child for a few hours of babysitting while moms and dads tanned. She was just out of high school, had no experience, no CPR training — and no insurance,” writes Forbes. “She got away with it for three summers before trying to steal business from rival hotels’ summer programs.”

“I’ve always had that gratitude that I had the opportunity to pursue my potential,” she said on CBS. “So I think my story says that, when women are given the chance and the opportunity, that we can achieve a lot. We deliver. We can make the world a better place, one butt at a time.”

Read more of Blakely’s incredible story in Forbes’ profile of her.

(via ABA Journal)

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Jill Pantozzi
Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."