I’ve been fascinated recently by stories of people living ordinary mundane lives who changed not only their life, but the lives of millions of others, by simply having the courage to take action on an idea. Virtually every major accomplishment starts with an idea. Let’s look at one which came to life right here in Clearwater. While you may have heard of Spanx, the women’s hosiery line, you may not remember how it all began.
Sara Blakely was born in Clearwater in 1971. Her father was a local trial lawyer and her mother was an artist. She attended Clearwater High School and went on to graduate from FSU with a communications degree. After two failed attempts at passing the law school admissions test, she ended up selling copiers. She went door-to-door for Danka and became a national sales trainer by age 25! Dressing professionally each day soon led to a frustration for Sara – the foot seam she had to deal with while wearing pantyhose with open toed shoes. At the same time, she liked the firmer look pantyhose gave her.
Space won’t allow the entire story. But, the point I’d like to make is she had the courage to move to Atlanta to seriously pursue developing her product idea. She spent two years and all the money she had set aside researching materials and writing her own patent application. Like many great product success stories, she was turned down by virtually every manufacturing mill she pitched, except the one who saw value in her idea.
After her company was launched, she experienced steady growth until she was named one of Oprah’s “favorite new things” and her sales exploded in 2000. It also helped that she successfully pitched Neiman Marcus, with other big retailers following, as well.
Sara is the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. In 2012, she was named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. She’s been recognized worldwide for her entrepreneurial efforts and she has established a philanthropic fund to encourage other women entrepreneurs.
Sara had the courage to believe in her idea and was willing to take action to bring it to life. Millions of women are happy she did! Anyone with an idea should study Sara Blakely’s example.