Sara Blakely

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Sara Blakely
Sara Blakely.jpg
Sara Blakely (2014)
Sara Treleaven Blakely

(1971-02-27) February 27, 1971 (age 50)
Alma materFlorida State University
Known forFounder and owner of Spanx
Minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks
Spouse(s)Jesse Itzler

Sara Treleaven Blakely[2] (born February 27, 1971) is an American businesswoman and philanthropist. She is the founder of Spanx, an American intimate apparel company with pants and leggings, founded in Atlanta, Georgia.[3] In 2012, Blakely was named in Time magazine's "Time 100" annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.[4] In 2014, she was listed as the 93rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.[5]

Early life[]

Blakely was born on February 27, 1971, in Clearwater, Florida. She is the daughter of Ellen (née Ford), an artist, and trial attorney, John Blakely.[6][7] She has a brother, artist Ford Blakely.[7] She attended Clearwater High School and graduated from Florida State University with a communication degree,[6] where she was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.[8]


Although she initially planned to become an attorney, she reconsidered after scoring very low on the Law School Admission Test; she instead accepted a job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where she worked for three months.[6] She also occasionally worked as a stand-up comedian during this period.[6]

After her short stint at Disney, Blakely accepted a job with office supply company Danka, where she sold fax machines door-to-door.[6][9] She was quite successful in sales and was promoted to national sales trainer at the age of 25.[6] Forced to wear pantyhose in the hot Floridian climate for her sales role, Blakely disliked the appearance of the seamed foot while wearing open-toed shoes but liked the way that the control-top model eliminated panty lines and made her body appear firmer.[6] For her attendance at a private party, she experimented by cutting off the feet of her pantyhose while wearing them under a new pair of slacks and found that the pantyhose continuously rolled up her legs, but she also achieved the desired result.[6][10]

At age 27, Blakely relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, and while still working at Danka, spent the next two years and US$5,000 savings (equivalent to $7,900 in 2020) researching and developing her hosiery idea.[6]

Blakely then drove to North Carolina, the location of most of America's hosiery mills, to present her idea. She was turned away by every representative; these companies were used to dealing with established companies, and did not see the value of her idea. Two weeks after arriving home from her North Carolina trip, Blakely received a call from a male mill operator based in Asheboro, North Carolina, who offered to support Blakely's concept, as he had received strong encouragement from his three daughters. Blakely further explained in 2011 that the experience of developing her idea also revealed to her that the hosiery manufacturing industry was overseen solely by men who were not using the products they were producing.[6][10]

The creation of the initial product prototype was completed over the course of a year.[citation needed]

Blakely then returned to a patent attorney to finalize her application prior to her submission to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and he agreed to assist her for a sum of $750. Following the submission of the online application, she then worked on the packaging of her product.[citation needed]

Blakely used her credit card to purchase the "Spanx" trademark on the USPTO website for $150.[10]

She managed to arrange a meeting with a representative of the Neiman Marcus Group, at which she changed into the product in the ladies restroom in the presence of the Neiman Marcus buyer to prove the benefits of her innovation.[11] Blakely's product was sold in seven Neiman Marcus stores as a result of the meeting;[10] Bloomingdales, Saks, and Bergdorf Goodman soon followed.[6] At around this time, Blakely sent a basket of products to Oprah Winfrey's television program, with a gift card that explained what she was attempting to develop.[10]

Blakely initially handled all aspects of the business, including marketing, logistics and product positioning, preferring the location of Spanx alongside shoes in retail outlets, rather than in hosiery sections;[6] however, her boyfriend at the time, a healthcare consultant, later resigned from his job and joined in the running of the nascent business.[10] Blakely was contacting friends and acquaintances, including those from her past, and asking them to seek out her products at select department stores in exchange for a check that she would send to them by mail as a token of appreciation.[10]

In November 2000, Winfrey named Spanx one of her "Favorite Things," which led to a significant rise in popularity and sales, as well as Blakely's resignation from Danka.[6] Spanx achieved $4 million in sales in its first year and $10 million in sales in its second year.[6] In 2001, Blakely signed a contract with QVC, the home shopping channel.[6]

In 2012, Blakely landed on the cover of Forbes magazine for being the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.[12]

In October 2013, Blakely explained that her ambition is to design the world's most comfortable high-heel shoe prior to retirement.[13] She was listed as the 93rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.[5]

In October 2021, the Blackstone Group acquired a majority stake of Spanx, Inc. The company was valued at 1.2 billion US-Dollar.[14] Blakely was to retain the position as Executive Chairwoman. Forbes Magazine estimated her net worth after the deal at 1.3 billion US-Dollar.[15] To celebrate the transaction, Blakely gave each of her 750 employees $10,000 in cash and let them purchase two first-class plane tickets to any destination they desired to travel to.[16]

Atlanta Hawks[]

In 2015, Blakely and her husband Jesse Itzler were part of a group led by Tony Ressler that purchased the Atlanta Hawks for $850 million.[17][18][19][20]


In 2005, Blakely attained second place as a contestant on The Rebel Billionaire,[6] a reality television series that introduced her to Richard Branson, who later supported Blakely in her endeavors as both an entrepreneur and philanthropist. She later starred as one of the judges on ABC's reality television series, American Inventor, alongside George Foreman, Pat Croce and Peter Jones.[21]

She was a guest investor on several episodes in seasons 9 and 10 of Shark Tank.[22]

She also appeared in a very brief cameo, as herself, on "Elmsley Court," episode 12 of Billions Season 3.[23]


In 2006, Blakely launched the Sara Blakely Foundation to help women through education and entrepreneurial training.[24] Richard Branson acted as a mentor to Blakely and, at the conclusion of The Rebel Billionaire, surprised Blakely with a US$750,000 check to start the Foundation.[25]

Since its launch, The Sara Blakely Foundation has funded scholarships for young women at the Community and Individual Development Association City Campus in South Africa[24] and Blakely appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006, donating US$1 million to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. In 2013 Blakely became the first female billionaire to join the "Giving Pledge," Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's pledge, whereby the world's richest people donate at least half of their wealth to charity.[26]

In 2019, Blakely paid $162,500 at an auction for the black pants worn by Olivia Newton-John in Grease; the proceeds from which benefited Newton-John's cancer treatment center in Melbourne, Australia.[27]

In 2020, Blakely pledged to give $5,000,000 to support female-run small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.[28]

Personal life[]

In 2008, Blakely married Jesse Itzler,[29] the co-founder of Marquis Jet, at the Gasparilla Inn and Club in Boca Grande, Florida, U.S.[30][31] The couple met at a Net Jet Poker Tournament, and they dated for a year prior to engagement.[32][33] The wedding was attended by actor Matt Damon and featured a surprise performance by singer Olivia Newton-John.[31][34] Together, they have four children.[35] They often speak at conferences and events together on business and lifestyle. She is a convert to Judaism.[36][37][38][39]

See also[]


  1. ^ "Power Women > #93 Sara Blakely". Archived from the original on January 10, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  2. ^ "VoterRecords". Archived from the original on April 20, 2019.
  3. ^ Wes Moss (September 2, 2008). Starting From Scratch: Secrets from 22 Ordinary People Who Made the Entrepreneurial Leap. Kaplan Publishing. pp. 77–86. ISBN 978-1-4277-9828-2. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  4. ^ Couric, Katie (April 18, 2012). "The 100 Most Influential People in the World". Time. Archived from the original on August 13, 2012. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women". Forbes. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019. Retrieved June 26, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Forbes: "How Sara Blakely of Spanx Turned $5,000 into $1 billion" by Clare O'Connor Archived 2017-10-15 at the Wayback Machine March 14, 2012
  7. ^ a b My Bay City: "Billionaire Spanx Founder Sara Blakely Has Bay City Connection" by Dave Rogers Archived 2017-11-07 at the Wayback Machine March 20, 2012 | "Sara's mother is Ellen Ford, the only child of Charles Kelton and Morrow Weber Ford, of Bay City. Ellen married attorney John Blakely after her graduation from the University of Michigan. She and John Blakely, who are divorced, also have a son, Ford Blakely. Ford Blakely is an entrepreneur in California "
  8. ^ Sanders, Triston V. (September 1, 2007). "Behind the Seams". Tallahassee Magazine. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  9. ^ "Sara Blakely Dared To Ask, "Why Not?"". January 20, 2012. Archived from the original on April 10, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Spanx Founder Sara Blakely Dared to Ask, 'Why Not?'" (Video upload). Inc. Monsueto Ventures. December 1, 2011. Archived from the original on July 22, 2014. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  11. ^ ABC News: "Spanx Founder Reveals How to Build a Billion-Dollar Business" By MELIA PATRIA Archived 2020-08-29 at the Wayback Machine November 29, 2012
  12. ^ O'Connor, Clare. "Spanx Inventor Sara Blakely On Hustling Her Way To A Billion-Dollar Business". Forbes. Archived from the original on March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  13. ^ Carla Caldwell (February 13, 2014). "Spanx CEO steps down". Atlanta Business Chronicle. American City Business Journals. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  14. ^ "Blackstone buys majority stake in SPANX, Inc". Blackstone press releases. Retrieved November 14, 2021.
  15. ^ "Sara Blakely real time net worth". Forbers. Retrieved November 14, 2021.
  16. ^ Burke, Minyvonne. NBC News Retrieved November 14, 2021. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "Sara Blakely". Archived from the original on January 10, 2018.
  18. ^ "NBA unanimously approves sale of Atlanta Hawks" (Press release). National Basketball Association. June 24, 2015. Archived from the original on June 27, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  19. ^ "Hawks finalizing sale with billionaire Antony Ressler". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Archived from the original on April 24, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  20. ^ NBA: "Group Led By Tony Ressler Completes Purchase of Atlanta Hawks" Archived 2017-07-02 at the Wayback Machine June 25, 2015 | "Other investors include seven-time NBA All-Star Grant Hill, who will serve as Vice Chair of the Board, Townsquare Media Chair and CEO Steven Price, Clayton Dubilier & Rice partner Rick Schnall, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely and Marquis Jet co-founder Jesse Itzler, who are married"
  21. ^ "Sara's Story". SPANX, Inc. 2014. Archived from the original on July 12, 2014. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  22. ^ "Sara Blakely | Shark Tank". Archived from the original on November 11, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  23. ^ "'Billions' Recap Reality Index: Season 3, Episode 12 ("Elmsley Count")". June 12, 2018. Archived from the original on July 13, 2020. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Renee Martin; Don Martin (April 5, 2011). The Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Share Their Entrepreneurial Strategies for Success. Vanguard. pp. 154–167. ISBN 978-1-59315-637-4. Archived from the original on June 27, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  25. ^ Richard Branson. "Sara Blakely - making a real difference". Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  26. ^ Forbes:"Spanx Mogul Sara Blakely Becomes First Female Billionaire To Join Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge" by Clare O'Connor Archived 2017-11-11 at the Wayback Machine May 7, 2013
  27. ^ "Olivia Newton-John's iconic 'Grease' costume is sold — to Spanx founder Sara Blakely!". Archived from the original on November 6, 2019. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  28. ^ "Sara Blakely Is Giving $5 Million To Support Female-Run Small Businesses". Archived from the original on April 4, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  29. ^ Eldredge, Richard L. (July 30, 2008). "Spanx CEO books resort for wedding". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  30. ^ Atlanta Weddings (Atlanta Magazine): Spanx inventor Sarah Blakely on her wedding day" by Vikki Locke Archived 2013-04-18 at the Wayback Machine October 18, 2008
  31. ^ a b Eldredge, Richard L. (October 20, 2008). "Entrepreneurs get married over weekend". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  32. ^ "Jesse Itzler Net Worth: The Rapper Turned $220M Businessman & Author". Capitalism. June 24, 2019. Archived from the original on June 24, 2019. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  33. ^ "Example: End-of-Semester Poker Tournament", Game Theory Through Examples, The Mathematical Association of America, 2014, pp. 268–276, doi:10.5948/9781614441151.039, ISBN 9781614441151
  34. ^ "Caught in the Act!" Archived 2012-10-18 at the Wayback Machine October 23, 2008
  35. ^ The Wall Street Journal (New York): "A Day in the Life of Spanx's Founder Sara Blakely" by Christopher Ross Archived 2014-10-22 at the Wayback Machine August 14, 2014
  36. ^ Forbes Israel: Jewish Billionaires – Profile of Sara Blakely Archived 2013-04-25 at the Wayback Machine April 14, 2013 (in Hebrew)
  37. ^ Atlanta Jewish Times: "Grady Honors New Moms" Vol. XCI No. 46, November 25, 2016
  38. ^ Jewish Women's Archive: "Sara Blakely" Archived 2016-11-11 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 4 November 2017.
  39. ^ Singer, Jenny (July 12, 2018). "These Are America's Richest Self-Made Jewish Women". Jewish Daily Forward. Archived from the original on December 25, 2019.


  • L'Ambition, ou l'épopée de soi, Vincent Cespedes, Paris, Flammarion, 2013, p. 263-273.

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