Sarah Blakely on Selling Spanx

There’s a fantastic video on Inc.com about the creator of Spanx, Sarah Blakely. It’s a phenomenal video for budding entrepreneurs because it highlights a number of things that affect people starting a new business:

  1. Learning – Sarah didn’t know anything about starting businesses or about the fashion industry, yet she made a revolutionary new product because she was willing to learn whatever it took.
  2. Selling — Blakely is also a fantastic public speaker. Her background before Spanx was in sales, and you can see that so much of her story is about selling her idea and product, first to create it in the first place, then to convince stores to sell it, and finally to get more people buying it.
  3. Solve your own problem. When you find something that’s a problem for you, ask yourself if it might be an issue for other people.
  4. Eating your own dog food. This disturbing expression means that you should use what you make. Spanx was created because there was an unfulfilled need, and Blakely points out that a lot of the problems were because the manufacturers of hosiery and underwear were predominantly men, who didn’t use their own products and had little appreciation for the problems with them.
  5. Opportunities for female entrepreneurs. Women can obviously start any business they want, but there are special opportunities in industries where the products are made by men but sold primarily to women. The competitive advantage of actually knowing and using the product (eg. “eating your own dog food“) can be enormously profitable.
  6. Stick to It, and Adapt — Virtually every entrepreneur’s story includes a lot of scary moments, and times when it seemed like every option had been tried and nothing had worked.
  7. The Lean Startup. It’s become a buzzword, but once upon a time that’s how almost all businesses were started: with little more than ideas, dreams, and a lot of hard work. The idea of burning millions of dollars in the hopes of attaining profitability is what’s new. The Spanx story is a perfect example of starting out with next to nothing and building a company, using ingenuity, bargaining, and salesmanship.

Check out the video below: