Sara Blakely - Judge
Sara Blakely wanted footless body shaping pantyhose to wear with her cream-colored pants and open-toed shoes, but she couldn't find them anywhere. Frustrated consumer turned entrepreneur, she took $5,000 in savings, invented and patented footless pantyhose and began her adventure in the $2 billion male-dominated hosiery industry.
Two years later, with her first pair of SPANX in hand, Blakely cold-called and landed the top retail stores across the country. Selling over 50,000 pair in its first three months from the back of her apartment, Blakely's SPANX revitalized an industry in a 10-year slump. Her SPANX footless pantyhose even captured the attention of Oprah Winfrey and landed on Oprah's Favorite Things list.
Obsessed with creating comfortable, slimming garments that minimize figure flaws, Blakely reinvented shapewear with innovative designs and smart features and won the hearts of fashion-loving women, from Oprah to Beyonce and Gwyneth Paltrow. SPANX has developed and launched more than 100 styles -- with names like Bra-llelujah, Hide & Sleek, Power Panties, Slim-Cognito and Topless Socks -- all designed to be innovative, comfortable, slimming and stylish.
If you haven't seen Blakely flashing her SPANX on QVC, you may have seen her jumping off a cliff or sharing tea with Richard Branson 10,000 feet in the sky. She appeared weekly on Fox, setting daring world-records, meeting Nelson Mandela and leading successful business challenges as a cast member on The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best. As the first runner-up on the show, she received a $750,000 check from Branson to pursue her dream to start a foundation to empower women on a global scale. She launched The Sara Blakely Foundation in 2006 in Atlanta, with the first annual Give a Damn party, featuring a VIP dinner with Richard Branson and performances by Jewel and Collective Soul. The fundraiser raised $600,000 and provided college scholarships for 278 young women in South Africa.
Remaining self-funded and profitable ever since Blakely used her own savings to start the company, SPANX continues to show incredible growth, celebrating more than $150 million in retail sales in 2006. SPANX are sold in America's finest upscale stores and boutiques in the U.S., including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and Parisian, as well as upscale boutiques and retailers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
As the leader of the shapewear revolution, Blakely wanted to find a way to share her slimming secrets with even more women, and that's when Target came knocking. With the launch of ASSETS by Sara Blakely, a new brand exclusive to Target, the shapewear revolution will reach new heights. Blakely is thrilled to give better underwear options to women everywhere - and to give back. A portion of each SPANX and ASSETS purchase goes to The Sara Blakely Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting and empowering women around the world. Visit Sara Blakely Foundation for more information on the foundation.
Blakely's story and SPANX products have been featured on everything from The Oprah Winfrey Show, TODAY, Forbes, E! and Glamour to Vogue, People, InStyle, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, WWD and USA Today. She has been named Ernst & Young's Southeast Regional Entrepreneur of the Year and Georgia's Woman of the Year. She is a native of Clearwater, Florida, and a graduate of Florida State University.