Women Entrepreneur Profiles: Sara Blakely

There is no way, with all the buzz going around, I could not include Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx and self-made billionaire on the list of women entrepreneur profiles this month. And in the event you have no clue who Blakely is, I suggest you click here to read the article written about the youngest American woman to join the billionaire list at age 41.

I’m not going to rehash what you can already read for yourself but I do want to share three lessons I took from Sara’s inspiring story.

Patience, Planning & Persistence Pay Off
Sara started her business while she was working a full time job. She spent every free minute she had researching, designing and testing prototypes to find the answer to the irritating problem most women suffer from–uncomfortable pantyhose. She didn’t just quit her job and start pursuing her business without a plan. In fact, she researched for two years before she even launched her product.

First-time women entrepreneurs usually are so excited by their idea they want to quit their job immediately and start working on their business full time. This is extremely risky, especially if you do not have any savings to hold you over while you are growing. It takes time and patience to do your research, test things out and eventually create a consistently profitable business. So, even though it may feel as if it is taking you forever, be patient and make sure you are financially ready and can put your full confidence in your business before you launch it full time.

No is Never Final
Throughout her life, Sara has learned that “no” is just a two-letter word. When she started working for Danka, an office supply company, her job was to cold call and sell fax machines. She says “I had business cards ripped up in my face because I was soliciting.” She’d also been escorted out of buildings. But she didn’t let that stop her from becoming Danka’s national sales trainer.

When she was cold calling hosiery mills looking for someone to produce her invention, she was told no, repeatedly. That certainly didn’t stop her from just showing up at the warehouses.

I love that she never took no as the final answer. When one door closed she went around to check the back door, if that one didn’t open you can bet your booty she was going to come through the window.

The next time you hear no–after you have your fit–get back in the game and think of another way to pitch the idea or other avenues to get what you are after. And if you can’t think of one, then get your friends together and have them help you brainstorm.

Perfection is Paralysis
Sara didn’t wait for things to be perfect, she did the best she could with what she had. When she was notified that Oprah was going to feature Spanx on her Favorite Things Show, she was also warned to make sure her website was up-to-date for the numerous orders sure to ensue. Well, she didn’t have a website so instead of stressing and hiring a big time designer, she scanned the Spanx package and used that as her website. That’s it!

How many of you would have been okay with that? Oh heck no! You would be and probably are stressing over your website now and are waiting for it to be perfect before you even tell anyone about your business.

But it doesn’t have to look perfect. Your clients and customers, unless you are a designer, don’t care about the aesthetics. They care that what you have to offer can help solve their problem. I’ve seen many sites that are plain and the business is doing amazing. So, if you are waiting for the perfect look or stressing over colors, quit it. Start with what you got right now. You can and you most likely will change it later on.

This is what I’ve learned and I’d love to know what lessons you took away from Sara’s feature on Forbes.com?

About ChaChanna

  • SWFentrepreneur

    This is very nice but for me, reading things like this make me feel like great, some super successful woman who would never be interested in doing a joint venture/partnering up with me, as you had recommended.  And after reading the post, I feel just as isolated as before I read it.  I would prefer to see a profile of a beginning entrepreneur in the local New Haven County, CT area.  Maybe she could describe the kind of partnering she’d be interested in.  I have attempted many times to partner up with locals but to no success.  Either i meet people who are very negative, others who have no time to partner up or others who just want to pressure me into buying their MLM vitamins or financial products.  I even attended the Purple Marketing event down at the New Haven Public Library and attempted to strike up a conversation with a woman entrepreneur caterer who seemed to barely want to talk and instead wanted to hurry out the door at the end of the event.  Just an example of what i am experiencing and how frustrating I find it.  Anyhow, please feature local entrepreneurs in the profiles and please offer events that will help connect people in person.  I for one am so isolated and lacking in any kind of support or interaction with my peers/colleagues that I am about to give up even though i am very good at what i do.

    • ChaChanna

      It does seem frustrating to want to pair up and then get turned down all the time. But, I wouldn’t give up your business or attempting to partner up. And it’s easy to want to give up when you don’t feel you have support. What I suggest is that you join or visit a chamber of commerce, visit Meetup.com to find networking groups or even visit a BNI chapter (bnict.com, to find a chapter in your area). What online forums can you join that speak to your audience or hold many of your peers in your industry, also what organizations exist based on your industry? That is how you will find people who you can bounce ideas off of and can give you feedback. 

      You got to continue to get out there and let people know you and your product/serve you are so good at. If you’re interested I’d be happy to spend 30 minutes with you on the phone to brainstorm some ideas for you to get out there and not feel so isolated. 

      Thank you for your suggestions for more profiles and also doing events. I will definitely consider them.