He is already the CEO of Spanx, a multi-million dollar brand that started with a pair of nylon socks in his living room, but is always looking for ways to invent something new.
The opinions expressed by employees are personal.
Women's underwear has been revolutionary ground for a long time: burned bras, girdles thrown in the trash … But when Sara Blakely , a 27-year-old woman who sold faxes, discovered that she was earning less than her male counterpart in the same job, He was inspired to cut a pair of pantyhose to invent what would give the panties power (and whoever wore them) and launch their own business.
Twelve years later this entrepreneur arrived in Forbes as the youngest billionaire woman (by her own means) in the world. You already know the story: Sara's company started with $ 5,000 dollars and now it is to underwear what Kleenex is to disposable scarves. Oprah baptized her as her “favorite object” and her invention has been used without regret by many celebrities, from JLo to Reese Witherspoon. He even managed to sneak into MoMa. Sara, who was named a Distinguished last month by Babson College's Academy, continues to work and find new ways to share her wisdom.
ENTREPRENEUR: What's new in Spanx? Tag Spanx? Spanx for dogs? Something that is being created?
Sara Blakely (SB): There are three things that are being worked on at the moment that are specific inventions that I can't talk about. But I am very excited for our new leggins. And the denim we just launched.
EN: You have done this for 18 years. Do you have any other venturing up your sleeve?
SB: Never say never. I have a book of ideas. At the moment it has 99 pages, a single space, and has a lot of ideas that have nothing to do with Spanx. But what I am working on is a new digital platform for my knowledge, because several times a day they ask me for 15 minutes of my time. And the question is always the same: How did you start Spanx? The reality is that it all started long before I cut my feet to my socks … it started since I started working on myself at 16. So the digital platform is in beta mode at the moment.
EN: Can you share some of what you have learned as you have grown your company to have almost 200 employees?
SB: Analyzing the last 10 years, my greatest learning has been to fire people quickly. It is something difficult to do. The other two lessons that make me stronger and more remarkable are: hire your weaknesses and stay in your lane.
EN: How is it to stay in your lane?
SB: It's about waking up every day with a What am I good at? How am I contributing to the world? I identified from the beginning what my contributions to Spanx should be: invent, promote, sell. So if I find myself spending too much time sitting with lawyers or accountants, a radar is turned on. And I wonder if this is happening by not having the right people, or not having hired the right talent. So I motivate people to delegate and hire people to do things that you don't do well. And realize that awareness of what are my strengths and weaknesses? It comes when you are silent with yourself and are listening, paying attention.
EN: On Facebook you posted about once you sent someone a shoe with a note that said “I just wanted to put my foot in the door.” It was very funny. What other things have you done like this?
SB: Speaking of the topic of shoes, one day I went to work (as a fax saleswoman) and I realized that I was wearing a black heel and a navy blue heel. And instead of saying “My God, I have to go change” I thought: “You know what? I will bring them all day. ” And it was a very good way to open doors. People didn't take me out of their offices because I arrived and said “Yes, this happened to me today.” What you have to learn here is to be willing to laugh at yourself. That makes you human and that is the best way to connect with people.
EN: You and many other entrepreneurs have said that you must be willing to make mistakes.
SB: Yes. And I am also a firm believer that we should not disconnect from our inner child. The simple fact of asking “Why? OK, but why? ”So when I started, I realized that they put a small elastic on all the waists that I no longer needed to go because the fibers had evolved enough. When I asked the reason they told me “It's the only way to keep the clothes up.” And he said, “And have you tried differently?” No. “So how do you know?” We just know . So he said: “Let's see.” And there is an art in this, because you need these people, but it's also about inspiring others to think differently. Ask why it can lead you to make incredible discoveries.
EN: How is your business style different from your husband's? (Jesse Itzler, co-founder of Marquis Jet)
SB: What happens with Jesse, and that is something I love about him, is that one day he has an idea on a blackboard and a month later he already exists. You feel more comfortable going and starting and letting everything be a relaxation at the beginning. And I am a little more careful.
EN: And he uses Spanx?
SB: Yes, love our line of men's underwear. Run on them.
EN: And that line is growing?
SB: We have a whole cult that follows our line of men. The men's inner shirt has not changed since 1918. So we added a little Lycra to make it better. Some things evolve rapidly and others need you to observe and think: This has been the case for 50 years . And those are the things you have to pay attention to.
EN: You have four children, how do you manage maternity while running your business?
SB: I don't do my nails anymore, I basically paint them myself. I spend the whole weekend with my family and I get very involved in the mornings and evenings with them. In the office I have many things on my way, one minute I have a lawyer telling me something, the next I am reviewing products and the next one my son's teacher is calling me. Something I did that was super useful was to share things. So now I have a specific time each week for people who need my time or my money. I have a specific time to check my email once or twice a week. On Tuesdays I almost always see marketing and brand. On Thursdays I check products. On Wednesdays I have meetings with all the directors. It is not a bulletproof method, but at least it worked for me.
EN: Any advice on the issue of motherhood for other women founders?
SB: The moment I became a mom, it was as if someone turned up the volume on my self-criticism. I had my baby and it was like, what's going on? It has taken me several years but I have learned not to let it get out of control. I hear this voice: The other moms did remember this event, and our son is the only one who went to school with something different. You are very bad, you are a mess, you are overwhelmed. I start to go in this black hole and then I stop and immediately tell myself good things about myself: You know what? You're doing it right. You have four healthy children … It's something like putting negative thoughts back and this has helped me a lot.
EN: Did you consider any other name for Spanx?
SB: I was about to call it Open Toe Delilahs ( laughs ).
EN: It can't be! Open Toe Delilahs? Sara, what was that about? Sounds like sandals.
SB: I don't know! I dont know! But surely you wouldn't be interviewing me at this time if I had put Open Toe Delilahs on my company.