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Article: Sara Blakely, $Billionaire$ CEO

Sarah Blakely, Tri Delta | mazi + zo sorority jewelry

Sara Blakely, $Billionaire$ CEO

Sara Blakely is the genius CEO behind Spanx and a total inspiration, and we love that she credits her philanthropic mindset to her Tri Delta experience at Florida State. 

After graduating with a degree in communications, Blakely's career started in sales. One day, she was getting dressed for a party and didn't like how her pants fit. She knew control top pantyhose would smooth out her silhouette, but she was wearing sandals, so pantyhose weren't an option -- until they were. She cut off the feet from the pantyhose, and voila, the prototype of what would become Spanx's revolutionary shapewear was born. 

Blakely immediately recognized a winning idea that solved a real pain point, and she dreamed of her solution making women feel confident and empowered (Tri Delta energy!). Bringing her innovative solution to market turned out to be a challenge, and she faced skepticism from hosiery industry experts and countless rejections from potential investors. Blakely persevered, relying on her unwavering belief in the product and her own abilities. "I did not have the most experience in the industry or the most money, but I cared the most."

In 2000, she launched Spanx from her Atlanta apartment with $5,000 in savings. She struggled to find manufacturers willing to work with her, as many were skeptical of her product's potential. However, her determination and belief in her vision never wavered, and she eventually convinced a mill to produce her shapewear line. (We relate; when we started mazi + zo, the NYC jewelry industry didn’t believe that sorority members would buy fine jewelry and didn’t want to work with us!)

She wore a Spanx t-shirt everywhere and relied on her sales experience and sheer determination to get Spanx on store shelves. At a meeting with a Neiman Marcus buyer who wasn't buying, Blakely left the room and went to the bathroom to take off her Spanx for a live before/after and turned around a sale. As Spanx grew in popularity, Blakely faced another obstacle: securing a patent for her innovative design. After a lengthy legal battle, she successfully obtained a patent in 2001, protecting her intellectual property and solidifying Spanx's position in the market. When Oprah Winfrey featured Spanx on her iconic talk show in 2001, sales skyrocketed, and Blakely was on her way!

Spanx soon expanded beyond footless pantyhose to include a wide range of shapewear and undergarments designed to accentuate and support women's bodies. The billion-dollar brand is synonymous with comfort, style, and confidence, and Blakely's net worth is estimated at a staggering $1.3 billion. Her success has not only transformed the shapewear industry but has also inspired countless women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Blakely's entrepreneurial prowess caught the attention of television producers, leading to multiple appearances on the hit show "Shark Tank". Her charismatic personality and keen business acumen made her a fan favorite among viewers and fellow sharks alike. Blakely's willingness to invest in and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs showcased her commitment to paying it forward and empowering the next generation of innovators.

Blakely's philanthropic efforts are equally impressive. In 2006, she launched the Sara Blakely Foundation to help women through education and entrepreneurial training. The foundation has funded scholarships for young women in South Africa and supported the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. In 2013, Blakely became the first female billionaire to join the Giving Pledge, committing to donate at least half of her wealth to charity. Talk about leading by example!

Blakely's commitment to making a positive impact on society is a passion she says she discovered at Tri Delta. Blakely embodies the values of resilience, determination, and generosity, inspiring countless individuals to pursue their dreams and create positive change in the world. As she continues to lead Spanx into the future and champion causes close to her heart, Sara Blakely represents the best of sorority members and inspires entrepreneurs everywhere.

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