THE STORY

Sara Blakely had become immune to rejection. She bombed as a stand-up comedian. She failed to become a lawyer—twice. Disney World even told her she was too short to play Goofy. So when one day she had a business idea, she went for it. They could only reject her, right?

For years, she sold fax machines door-to-door, forced to wear pantyhose. They made her body look firmer, but the foot showed through her sandals. And boy was it hot in Florida! So she cut off the foot part and imagined an undergarment that sucked in her lumps and bumps. Spanx, she would call them.

She put aside her $5000 savings and spent nights and weekends making prototypes. Then off she drove to North Carolina where after more rejection, a manufacturer took a chance on her. Right away, she began shipping orders.

Advertising? Too expensive. Instead, she relied on branding. Memorable packaging with her blonde, cartoon alter ego. Product names like Bra-llelujah and shapewear showing a bride trying to contain her rear end in a wedding dress.

Women began talking. One in particular: Oprah Winfrey. In 2000, she mentioned Spanx on TV and, well, the rest is history. Hollywood wore Spanx under their Oscar dresses and Blakely had to make sure Kim Kardashian had enough to get her through the week!

At 41, she became the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. She built an empire with no debt or outside investment. Oh, and she still hasn’t spent a dime on advertising.

Sara Blakely.

 

OLD BUT GOLD

Nowadays, seeking outside investments and spending countless amounts on advertising have become the norm for startups. If you’re building something new, remember that raising huge sums from investors may not be necessary. Depending on what you’re building, you might be able to grow organically—“the old way”. Some options to consider could be finding initial clients that believe in you, using some savings or love money, crowdfunding, having a side job until things take off, and so on.

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© Story by Tarek Issa.

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