Entrepreneur’s Journal #11 – Become A Billionaire By Asking “Why Not?”
**This blog was written by the founder of DJ Connection Tulsa Wedding DJ Service, the U.S. Entrepreneur of the Year, the President / Founder of the Bridal Association, Author and Tulsa Motivational Speaker – Clay Clark
Today Sara Blakely is a billionaire. Just 10 years ago she was selling fax machines and cold-calling for a living. From the time she originally had the idea until she “made it big” was nearly 2 years. She spent nearly all of her savings and all of her extra time developing the idea. So she had a product, the packaging and the motivation to begin selling her Spanx product, but she didn’t have any buyers. So she did the next thing that seemed obvious to her. She got on the phone and began cold-calling Neiman Marcus. She didn’t call Neiman Marcus once or twice, she just kept calling them until they finally answered. Finally when the woman answered the phone she passionately explained that she had a great product that was going to revolutionize the women’s clothing industry. The woman explained to her that if she was willing to fly herself from Atlanta to Dallas, she would give her 10 minutes to present her ideas and her product.
So she bought her ticket and began packing for her trip. She packed her prototype and a color print marketing piece into her red backpack and left for Dallas. Once she got in front of the woman who had the power to determine her destiny she began shaking because she was so nervous. She felt like the presentation wasn’t going so well, so interrupted herself and told the woman that she needed to follow her into the bathroom so that she could give her a demonstration. She then went into the bathroom stall and changed into the Spanx. When she came out the woman at Neiman Marcus was amazed at how different she looked. The Neiman Marcus rep was impressed. She said, “You know I’m impressed I’m going to give you a shot. I’m going to put your product into 7 stores.”
Sara Blakely then called the company that was producing her Spanx prototypes. She told them that she needed more Spanx prototypes, and they told her that she wasn’t going to be able to get all the products she needed for the stores because the machines that produced all crotches of the Spanx were already being used to produce another order of products for another company. Undeterred, but a little frazzled Sara pressed on. She Fedex’d the crotches in from all over the country and from all around the world to produce enough of the products for the 7 Neiman Marcus stores. Through the process of cold-calling companies throughout the country she ended up finding a 80 year old man who could produce enough crotches to fulfill the orders.
Once the products were placed into the stores, she began calling her friends, family and people who vaguely knew her. She asked them to go into the Neiman Marcus stores and to request the Spanx products to create the hype needed to get the products moving. She literally paid her friends and family to buy the products. Right about the time that she began running out of money and out of friends, the Oprah Winfrey show called. She had sent Oprah a gift basket months ago and apparently Oprah had been wearing them everyday since then.
Oprah named them “Her Favorite Product of the Year.” They sent a crew to Atlanta to film her and her product at the their corporate headquarters. They said that they wanted to film her conducting a staff meeting as well. Because Sara’s apartment served as her “office” and because she had no staff, she did the next logical thing that came to her mind. She called Connie, who she had met at Mail Boxes, Etc. and said, “Can you come to my apartment in 5 minutes and act like you work for me?” Sara then called all of her other friends and asked them if they would come as well, and that was the “staff-meeting” that they filmed for the Oprah Winfrey show.
It took nearly 2 years for her to get this “idea” into the Neiman Marcus show and now she was on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” The orders began flowing in. Her boyfriend at the time then quit his job and he helped her fulfill the orders.
How Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, took $5,000 and an idea for footless pantyhose, and turned it into a multi-million dollar women’s undergarment business.