Sara Blakely, creator of Spanx, returns as a guest Shark on the show tonight.
In October of last year, she made her Tank debut and invested in Brazyn, portable foam rollers to soothe muscles.
The Clearwater, Florida native started the slimming shapewear company in 1998 at the age of 27. Now, the Atlanta-based business has grown to include 200 products, ranging from slimming apparel and swimsuits to bras, activewear and men’s undershirts. It can be found in 60 countries, with 10,000 retail stores in the U.S. alone.
In 2012, Forbes declared her the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire at 41 and she still holds that title to the day. Click here to see Forbes’ real-time estimation of her net worth.
Here is what you need to know about the woman behind the company that revolutionized the undergarment industry.
1. She Founded Spanx With $5,000 in Savings
At 27, as the Florida State grad was working as a door-to-door fax-machine saleswoman, the idea for the apparel came about as a way to eliminate the lines showing through her pants.
Her first prototype involved her cutting the feet off pantyhose and putting on the remaining hose underneath her pants. What really jump started her business was her earliest celebrity advocator, Oprah Winfrey, who in 2000, included the products in her “Favorite Things” episode.
The show called and said, ‘You have a website, right?’ And I went, ‘Uh-huh, of course.’ And they were like, ‘And you can ship and fulfill lots and lots of orders?’ And I’m like, ‘Uh-huh, of course I can…I had 2 1/2 weeks to build a website and make sure I had enough product.
2. She Met Her Husband- a Former Rapper- at a Charity Poker Game in Vegas
In 2008, she married Jesse Itzler, cofounder of Marquis Jet, the world’s largest prepaid private jet card company, which he and his partner have since sold.
He was also one of the principal investors in Zico coconut water, which he and his partners sold to The Coca-Cola Company in 2013.
A former rapper, his credits include producing the NBA’s Emmy Award-winning “I Love This Game” music campaign and the New York Knicks anthem “Go NY Go.”
When they first started dating, Itzler had difficulty explaining what Blakely did to his peers. “Watching him struggle to explain Spanx to his friends was hilarious,” she told the Telegraph. “At parties, I’d overhear him trying to talk through it, and then finally one day he said, “Guys, she’s like the Michael Jordan of undergarments,” and then all the men would get it.”
Now, Blakely gets fans showing her their Spanx all the time. “My husband is the one who benefits the most,” she told Success. “Everywhere I go with him, he gets flashed, too.”
3. She Has 4 Children Under the Age of 8
Itzler and Blakely have a 18-month-old daughter, Tepper, and three sons Lazer and twins Lincoln and Charlie. So how does she balance running a business with being a mom? “I don’t watch TV. I don’t really go out. I don’t go to events or functions, ever, really,” she told Atlanta Magazine.
In an interview with Business Insider, she dished about her parenting techniques, saying:
One of the parenting things I think is so important is not praising the child, but praising the effort. And if he does things he’s not good at, I talk to him about what he gets out of it.
4. She Signed a Pledge to Give Half Her Wealth to Charity.
Blakely became the first self-made, female billionaire to sign the Melinda and Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half her wealth to charity.
In 2006, she set up the Sara Blakely Foundation. Since its inception, it has donated millions to charities that aid underserved women. Their website explains that, “A rotating philanthropy board made up of Spanx employees helps allocate funds to various organizations and causes that support women through entrepreneurship, education and the arts.
She told the Telegraph, “I make Spanx for all different women. For me, it’s about celebrating all different shapes and sizes, and it has been from the start.”
5. She Co-Owns the Atlanta Hawks
In 2015, she became a part-owner of the NBA team with Itzler, former NBA player Grant Hill, and Rick Schnall, a partner at New York-based Clayton Dubilier & Rice Inc. The team’s principal owner is Tony Ressler.