Sara Blakely – Human-Centered Leadership

Blakely is America’s youngest self-made female billionaire with her privately held company estimated to have earned over $250 million in annual revenues and net profit margins estimated at 20 percent.

The origin story of Spanx is that Blakely was going to a party and didn’t want panty lines to show through her white pants, so she cut the feet off pantyhose and later patented the idea. While she possessed little knowledge about fashion or retail, in 2000 Blakely, at age twenty-seven, began her shapewear and legging company, investing her life savings of $5,000.

In 2013, Blakely became the first female billionaire to join The Giving Pledge, the campaign founded by Melinda and Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, which has the mega-wealthy pledge to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

Today, this mother of four young children continues to be an advocate for women through her Sara Blakely Foundation, which supports women in education and entrepreneurship.

''Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.'' – Sara Blakely

Blakely did not enter the world of entrepreneurship through a clearly defined path of business know-how or fashion merchandising. In fact, as a twenty-seven-year-old Disney amusement park ride operator turned fax-machine saleswoman, Blakely’s life before inventing Spanx was a lesson in determination and imagination. Her life after Spanx entered the mass market, however, is another story: one that would remind young women everywhere to take risks, remain true to oneself.

Behind every event of failure is an opportunity or teaching — or, as Blakely puts it, “a chance to build your character.” Spanx would not have survived if she did not fail the LSAT.

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Global Excellence Assembly Awards

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