Video Transcript

00:10 Sara Blakely: And Spanx was actually operated for 18 months, for a year-and-a-half, out of that one bedroom in my two-bedroom apartment in Atlanta. My next person to join the team was this girl, Jodie. I gave her one of my prototypes and we went for a walk to get a bagel and literally, the entire walk she told me how great the Spanx were. And by the end of the walk, I looked at her, and I go, "Do you want to be my head of PR?"

00:36 Blakely: She's like, "Well, I don't really know anything about PR." I go, "I don't either, but I've been ripping out magazines and calling people and circling names in newspapers, and calling radio stations and it's been working but I need more help, and if you love the product, then I'm sure you can do it just as great as I can," and she came onboard and started helping me make calls, and I just wanna mention that Spanx is 11, almost 12 years old and we have still never formally advertised.

01:00 Blakely: So, this is a 100% word-of-mouth brand and we've kept PR in-house since day one, and I invested in PR since day one. I mean other than the person that was helping me fulfill and get the orders out and sort of run the initial logistics of everything, my first hire was a PR person internally. And then, right after her, I needed an assistant. I was running in a million directions, and I hired this girl, Jadidia, and she was an interior designer who got tired of what she was doing. So, she came onboard as my assistant, and she worked for me for two weeks as my assistant. And I looked at her, I came into the apartment one day, and I said, "Would you be my head of product development?"

01:45 Blakely: And she looked at me, and she goes, "I have no idea. I know nothing about pantyhose or shapers". I go, "Great, neither do I. You're hired!" And she became my head of product development and is still, 11 years later, the main head of product development for Spanx. And because she had never done it before, she is so good at thinking outside of the box. And that's what's allowed us to create these products, the Shaper, the Power Panty with no leg-band, but it stays down, it doesn't roll up.

02:13 Blakely: Jadidia and I, just through brainstorming and challenging the hosiery mill, to think differently and think so different than they had been doing it, all of these Spanx items were created. So, that's basically the nuts and bolts of the initial part of my team and then I decided I gotta hit the road and promote this. So, I did, and I cold-called Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomies, Bergdorf, Nordstrom, the same way I had done Neiman's. I cold-called QVC and I literally looked at my little team in my apartment and I said, "I'll see you later."

02:45 Blakely: And for the next two years, I basically lived on the road. And what I can tell you is that a lot of entrepreneurs make a very... This is a very critical time in your success journey. You think when you get the big order that that's the moment, and that's just the moment you gotta work extra hard because that is the make-it or break-it moment. A lot of people make the mistake and go, "I landed Neiman's", and then sit back. There was no way I was gonna sit back. I had to ensure my own success.

03:13 Blakely: And if I hadn't done that, even as great as Spanx is, I truly believe Spanx would have gone to the department store, sat in the back corner of the hosiery department and probably lasted about six months and then been shipped back to me eventually. So, I hit the ground running and for two years, I went around the country and I stood in every department store that sold Spanx, and I would go in the morning and I did what was called a "morning rally". Before the store opened I would get everybody from every department in a meeting and I would explain to them what Spanx was, and I would sample people that worked there.

03:46 Blakely: I'd lift up my pant-leg, turn and shake my backside, and then I would stand in the store. Well, as a business owner, you realize very quickly what your problems are, and wherever your biggest challenges are oftentimes your biggest opportunities. Well, very quickly I identified that one of my biggest challenges was to get this great invention that I had, that was being called hosiery out of the hosiery department, because the woman that was gonna buy Spanx wasn't going into the hosiery department.

04:15 Blakely: It was revolutionary. It was different. But that's the only place in the store they would put me. So, I took matters into my own hands and I ended up going to Target and buying little silver stands in the office aisle and I would sneak around Neiman Marcus and when no one was looking or kind of no one was looking, I would set them at every cash register in the store with Spanx in them, and literally everyone else just thought someone else had approved it.

04:45 Blakely: So, I just kept doing it from store to store to store across the country, and you know, Neiman's is so impeccably visually designed. I mean the fact that I had Target stands all over there at every register is hilarious at this point. And at one point I even got so extreme about it was I got one pocket, I didn't even get a row in the hosiery department. They said, "Sara, we're gonna give you a chance and as you can see, there's like 1,000 pockets that all make rows of different brand's hosiery." There's like Donna Karan and Wolford and Calvin Klein, all these people, I had one pocket, and usually the pocket would be like right down here in the corner.

05:19 Blakely: So, at the Neiman Marcus in Atlanta, they had put my pocket at least in a place that I thought was visual from the escalator, coming up and down, and one day, they had moved my pocket. So, I was devastated, "I gotta do something about this. Now people really aren't gonna see it from there", and I actually pulled my car up at Neiman's and had a Lucite tube, tube clear bin that fit pantyhose in it, under my arm. And I went running into the store and when no one was looking, I took it and duct taped the whole stand to the top of the register, and threw Spanx in it, and then ran out of the store.

05:55 Blakely: And I got a call the next day from an associate that I had befriended and she is like, "Sara, we need to talk." I said, "What's the problem?" She is like, "You are on the surveillance video."

06:12 Blakely: "Okay, okay." So, I ended up talking to that store manager. He is like, "You can get arrested for this". I'm like, "I'm so sorry, but this is why and you moved my pocket and I only have this one shot, and you can't see it now from that... " He is like, "I'll move the pocket back." So, he moved the pocket back to where people could see but that was the kind of stuff I was doing. And I also realized, on these two years of being out on the road all day, everyday, I was building my own sales force. And the sales force was free. I didn't employ any of them because every morning I did a rally and I can tell you by the time I left that department store at the end of the day, I stood there from nine in the morning until six at night, in the entrance of the store, not in the Hosiery Department where they told me to stand.

06:53 Blakely: I was always like, "Okay, I got it. I know I'm supposed to be in the Hosiery Department", and I would get closer and closer to the entrance and lift up my pant-leg and show my backside and say, "This is what it will do for you", and I was selling them like crazy, but I also was building a sales force 'cause these sales associates got so excited and inspired and the ladies that would sell couture dresses on the third floor were like, "Let me grab a handful of these and put them up here. They're actually helping to sell my dresses." And I didn't realize I was doing that but that's exactly what happened. So, I got it out of the Hosiery Department. I was building my own sales force.

07:23 Blakely: And then my next problem and big challenge was, "What's my next idea?"